Saugerties horse shows restart, with restrictions

State health officials slapped the Horses In The Sun facility in Saugerties with a cease-and-desist order Tuesday, forcing changes to the first event at HITS since the pandemic-induced shutdown in March. Events scheduled for July 1 and 2 are taking place with cap of 25 competitors each, while events slated for July 3-5 have been cancelled. 

“We are not competing Sunday through Thursday,” said Francesca Mazella when reached at the HITS office Wednesday. Come Monday bigger classes will be run, she said, and the previously announced schedule will resume next Wednesday, July 8. The hunter-jumper competitions that had been scheduled for June were cancelled, and in an interview published last week, CEO Tom Struzzieri spoke about how the closure ripples through the economy to impact many other people including groomers, crew members, and horse traders. 

A tone of exasperation was detectable in Mazella’s voice when she spoke about the order warning that moving forward with this week’s event, called the Vermont Summer Special, as planned could result in a fine of $1,000 a day. The letter sent also reportedly threatened court action to compel compliance. “We got all the approvals we were meant to,” she said. “I do not know what happened.” However, she was confident that the situation had been resolved and the new schedule would stick. 


Struzzieri voluntarily cancelled the events for July 3-5, according to remarks made by Saugerties Town Supervisor Fred Costello quoted in local media reports.  

Per Costello, the order initially called for a full stop, but state health officials agreed to allow the event to take place in a reduced form, with no more than 25 competitors at a time. 

Shows at the facility will take place without spectators as a response to the coronavirus which continues to spread worldwide. Struzzieri is juggling requirements for a number of facilities throughout the country, with the Vermont Summer Special being arranged because the facility he’s contracted to buy in Manchester, Vermont, is operating under strict quarantine rules for out-of-state competitors. In contrast the Lamplight, in Chicago, has seen shows in June, albeit under conditions including mandatory face coverings and a thorough cleaning regimen. 

The reopening of HITS has not been without controversy, as it mirrors the national debate around striking the right balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods. HITS is a significant economic driver in the area, and in a normal year draws thousands of out-of-state visitors to Saugerties. 

The Great American Summer Series, of which the Vermont Summer Special is part, includes events scheduled through Aug. 9. The cease-and-desist order does not cover those later events. CEO Struzzieri was not in the office, and did not respond to a request for comment by press time. 

There are 6 comments

  1. Mari

    Will vendors be allowed at the reopening?
    Interested to see what precautions will be put in place to protect vendors and their customers, if they are allowed to be at shows.

  2. Nancy

    HITS opening concerns during this pandemic is about the continuous coming and going of competitors from other states coming into our COUNTY and VILLAGE.. Different competitions have people from different states.
    HITS is planning shows from July 6 to August 9. These people are owners trainers local help etc. They will be shopping in our grocery stores, eating in our restaurant and No Proof of Quarantine of these people coming into Saugerties. Our numbers in the County are going up! What is the point of signing Laws if they are not being implemented. Our governor stated that people from states with high COVID-19 Numbers would have to quarantine for 14 days. Who is responsible to implement this law in Saugerties or anywhere in Ulster County?

  3. Carmen

    Disgusting – our kids barely passed with virtual learning and school’s up in the air for fall. I have an adult son who had to wait four months till it was safe to see a specialist in the city. We just started to open and our numbers went down because we took it seriously. If our numbers go back up for temporary greed then what are people like you gonna do when everything closes back up again. Get over yourself. Think of others and not just your ego.

  4. Thomas

    There were cars, trucks, horse trailers and RVs with license plates from Florida, Texas and California on Monday July 6, but not 14 days prior.
    So much for Gov. Cuomo’s executive order about quarantine.
    And the HEALTH DEPT. approved this violation?

  5. An essential citizen against the opening of the nonessential HITS

    This is utterly ludicrous! This should be shut down! What is wrong with you all, greed has made you inhumane in your decision making process. Write down all the names that allowed it, so we have a complete defendants list of all these ignorant, heartless, uncaring perpetrators for the class action, for after these virus carrying “visitors” infect the innocent (plaintiff’s) of town and county. If something as unessential as this can open and endanger the public, then how can the government keep anyone from reopening? If I had any business or venue, that is being forced to be closed due too the pandemic, I surly would be looking into legal action against the powers that be, that would allow this, the most dangerous, and again, most unessential of venues from happening, and yet blocking others, not unlike schools, restaurants, and any other far more essential, than this joke.

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