North Carolina-Stonybrook Steeplechase-May 23


 

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-May 23

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

The last several days I have been making daily drives to Moore County and Southern Pines, NC for professional gatherings. I marvel at the homes I drive past and of the stately horse farms. Southern Pines and Pinehurst NC reminds me of the part of New Jersey where my mom’s family grew up in. That little borough is called Far Hills NJ and it’s existence is closely tied to the equine industry.

In fact this October Far Hills will host the 96th Running of the Far Hills Race Meeting on October 15, 2016. It is considered the premier steeplechase race in the country. As a newborn I lived right across US 202 from Moorland Farms the site of the race.

North Carolina has its own version of the Far Hills Race Meeting and this past April the 65th edition of The Stoneybrook Steeplechase took place.

Stoneybrook’s rich history can be traced back to the dream of an Irishman, Michael “Mickey” G. Walsh. After immigrating to the United States in 1925 at the age of 18, Walsh began competing in the English equestrian events of “hunting” and “jumping” and by the 1930’s was winning top honors as both a rider and trainer. He relocated to Southern Pines, NC in 1939 where he earned another outstanding equestrian reputation as a trainer of steeplechase and timber horses.

Stoneybrook was born in the late 1940’s when Walsh bought his own riding and training stable. He created the first Stoneybrook racetrack where the annual event of the Stoneybrook Steeplechase was first enjoyed.

Following Walsh’s death in 1993, the prized Stoneybrook land was sold for equine land development, and the racetrack closed in 1996. However, Mickey’s dream lived on through a group of local horse enthusiasts who formed a nonprofit charitable foundation, giving rise to the Carolina Horse Park.

Images from Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, NC

The Foundation’s original purpose continues today: To promote land preservation for horses and to promote equestrian education, training and competition.

The Stoneybrook Steeplechase was revived in 2001 with the 50th running of the race.

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