By Jan Westmark
Andrew Philbrick, who splits his time between Princeton, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida, founded the Princeton Show Jumping show series more than three decades ago. The show has grown and is still going strong. “I had been running a show at my farm, Hunter Farms, for many, many years,” Andrew said. “One ring, mostly jumpers. We loved it, but we were always sold out. I had this dream to find a bigger property to expand. A 100-acre property very close by became available and I jumped at the chance.”
There’s much more to Andrew than running horse shows—he was a top rider for the United States and still coaches and teaches lessons. Looking back on his favorite memories, Andrew listed some highlights: “Riding in the Nations Cup in Rome with my friends Mark, McLain, and George; riding in the Grand Prix in Madison Square Garden; winning the puissance in Madrid and receiving the trophy from the King of Spain; coaching at the World Games; having my horse jump clean in the Grand Prix of Aachen.”
Andrew said he will always remember these moments due to the fabulous horses and people in his life. “I have to say, every day I go to the ring, I am happy and feel privileged for the opportunity to spend part of my life doing exactly what I love. It doesn’t matter if I’m coaching 1.00m or 1.60m, I love every bit of it. I still regularly flat and trail ride horses. Every once in a blue moon I will jump a bit, but I mostly leave that to the crack riders on my staff.”
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Portland, Maine. There were almost no sport horses there, but a 9th-grade girlfriend and a misplaced Irish grandfather got me on a horse when I was 15 years old.
How did your horse career start?
It started with a few local Maine horse shows dominated by saddle seat and Western. A trip to the Myopia Hunt Club Labor Day Classic to ride and then to The National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden in November to watch changed my life.
What’s your favorite thing about running the shows?
Stress, stress, stress. We strive to really do it right. I have to say, when the Grand Prix is over and there is no more tension to get it right, that is my favorite time.
What was your favorite showing experience and why?
Back in the dark ages, I did ride in the USA Olympic Team Trials. It was very nerve-wracking. I coached at five World Cup Finals, which was much less stressful. Perhaps my favorite experience, having been started by an Irishman, was showing on the U.S. Team in Dublin. My first coach said you would only make it as a rider if you showed at The Royal Dublin Society Horse Show. Riding in that huge ring for the Grand Prix of Dublin, in the pouring rain, competing against 72 other riders, with four faults at the second-to-the-last jump felt like a benchmark. My first coach had passed away at that point, but I knew he was there and he was proud of me.
Any favorite horse experiences over the years?
As an owner, Moritz was the horse of a lifetime. Ribbons in the Grand Prix of Aachen, The Million at Spruce Meadows, three World Cup Finals, winning the Nations Cup at The National Horse Show. As a rider, I remember Madison, an auction horse with two screws in his knee, who went on to win classes everywhere. Snaffle bit, no martingale, dead brave and fast as lightning! As a trainer, my first big win was the leadline at Devon. Every bit was enriching and fun! And it’s still fun every day I get to teach and train!
Have you had a funny horse moment that still makes you laugh?
I attempted to jump the world puissance record in Europe one year. I made it over the world record height—the only problem was my horse did not. The rest is still a bit fuzzy.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the horse world?
The opportunity to meet like-minded people and wonderful horses. The opportunity to travel to magical places like Cairo, Gothenburg, Rome, and back would have never happened if I was not in the horse world.
If you weren’t involved with the horse world, what career do you think you would have picked?
I was dragged into the theater as a 6-year-old and stayed very busy acting right through college in Saratoga. It was possible for me to pursue that path, but auditioning in New York was way too humiliating. My parents wanted me to go to law school. That seemed like a lifetime of handling other people’s problems. In fact, I ended up managing horse shows, which often feels very similar…I wonder how much they pay lawyers?
If you had a week off, what would you do?
Ride my bike, kitesurf and lay on the beach
Who inspires you?
My 15-year-old son, Alexander. He is thoughtful, smart and creative. Alex inspires me to stay in shape so I can be around long enough to see what magic he will make!
What talents do you feel you have?
Optimism and perseverance
Do you have a personal motto or catchphrase?
Many! Straightness counts (only when it comes to riding). Don’t walk to one. If you pull on the reins, your horse will close his eyes!
What’s your favorite item of clothing to wear?
A vintage bike jersey
What three items can usually be found in your refrigerator?
Too many condiments, a protein shake, and Cherry Garcia
What’s your favorite meal?
I’m a kid from Maine: Lobster!
What would be the best gift in the world?
A real 1.65m Grand Prix horse, sound and 9 years old
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to know the stock market in advance, so I could have that 1.65m Grand Prix horse!
What’s something everyone should try at least once?
Kitesurfing is not for everyone, but the feeling of sailing, wakeboarding, surfing and water skiing without a boat is hard to describe.
How would you like people to remember you?
I’m far too young to think about that.