Gladstone, N.J. – Nov. 26, 2018 – Can’t figure out what to buy that special someone for the holidays or their birthday? How about naming a stall with a beautiful permanent bronze stall plaque in honor of their favorite horse at the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation’s historic Hamilton Farm stable.
It does not have to be a horse that was on a U.S. team, or one who set hoof on the Foundation’s grounds in Gladstone, New Jersey. Mounts who simply make their owners happy or take them on trail rides are candidates for the honor if the person who loves them wants to make sure they are remembered in a big way.
Naming a stall after a favorite horse is available for a tax-deductible charitable gift of $100,000 for the top floor of the building and $50,000 for the lower floor, payable over a multi-year period. Out of the 27 upper-level stalls, 13 remain available.
The money goes for far more than just a bronze plaque. While the donation pays tribute to a single horse, at the same time, it goes toward the Foundation’s important mission of supporting the U.S. team. That involves funding competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of the country’s elite and developing horses and athletes for international competition, in partnership with the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
Among the horses celebrated with plaques are Olympic medal eventers Giltedge and Prince Panache, Olympic double-gold medal show jumper Touch of Class and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals winner Brentina, who also led the way to medals at the Olympics and World Equestrian Games for the United States.
As part of the organization’s current fundraising campaign, the Foundation held a small ceremony this month for the addition of the Weeks family’s retired grand prix show jumper, Madison, to the ranks of special horses whose names are on the plaques.
The Weeks brought the 22-year-old mare down from Connecticut to munch hay in the stall that bears her name, have a carrot or two and reunite with Kent Farrington, the rider who took her to grand prix fame.
“It’s a wonderful way for people to honor and celebrate special horses in their lives and be a part of the team at the same time,” explained Bonnie Jenkins, the USET Foundation executive director.
Speaking about Madison, the Foundation’s major gifts officer, Jim Wolf, said, “To have this horse included is highly appropriate and just speaks to the stature of this naming rights opportunity. It’s wonderful the Weeks family is doing this. They’ve been so important to the sport in this country and to our fundraising efforts at the USET Foundation. This stable is such hallowed ground, it does speak to how special this whole facility is.”
Olivia Weeks is also thrilled that Madison is being recognized. “It’s a real honor for her to have, but I think it is a great thing to raise money for the USET Foundation. It means a lot to us as a family because of the history of the building and the sport. Now she has a little piece of that history,” Weeks said.
Her husband, Bill Weeks, vice president of the USET Foundation Board of Trustees, feels a connection with the stable from which the U.S. fielded so many medal-winning teams. He recalled bringing daughters Whitney and Alexa there for the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East.
“I love the building and history. The first time I came here, I was kind of in awe of the facility,” said Weeks, who noticed when he walked around the stable that horses had been honored with stall plaques. He wanted to do that as a tribute to Madison and Farrington.
Madison, he pointed out, was not bought as a grand prix horse, but rather, to do the junior jumpers. Yet it turned out that was only her starting point.
“Every day, she showed us she could do more all the way up until competing at the highest level representing the U.S. It’s amazing how high she went with Kent,” he said.
Farrington remembers the mare as “a trier, a real fighter in the ring.” Their many triumphs included the grand prix at the Devon Horse Show and then topping the President’s Cup at the Washington International Horse Show, where he also was leading jumper rider during his first time in the professional ranks there. He ended 2005 by winning the American Grand Prix Association Trainer of the Year title, while Madison won the AGA Horse of the Year honors.
Alexa Weeks Pessoa loved the idea of having a stall named in Madison’s honor. She accompanied her parents and the mare to Gladstone.
“She definitely deserves the recognition, because she was such a special horse for both Kent and I,” Pessoa said.
Farrington, who made sure to get a selfie with Madison, feels the same. He flew up to New Jersey and back to Florida in one day, because he wanted to be on hand when Madison was honored. He is still grateful to Madison, and to the Weeks family for their support.
“I started with my own business when I was 21. It was a lot to take on at such a young age,” he explained. Madison assured his breakthrough to the big time.
“I had an amazing horse, who could win and really put me on the map. Her intelligence was probably her strongest attribute,” he recalled.
“When you taught her something, she retained it. She knew the job, she figured out the sport, like a lot of the great horses.”