Walnridge Farm of Cream Ridge, NJ, one of the state's oldest farms, is the 2012 New Jersey Standardbred Breeder of the Year. The Breeders Committee of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey has selected the Meirs family's Walnridge Farm to be among the honorees at the 56th Annual New Jersey Breeders Awards Luncheon at 1 p.m. on January 27, 2013 at Charley's Other Brother in Eastampton Township, NJ.
"My grandfather [David Meirs], who was born in 1879, had a farm and loved standardbreds,” said Dr. Richard S. Meirs, 56, general manager of Walnridge Farm Inc. and director of the Walnridge Equine Clinic PC. "When Route 537 was a dirt road, he'd travel up it to watch the races at Freehold. After the first day of pari-mutuel gambling [in 1941] he never went back.
"He was a Quaker purist,” Meirs noted. "People would race for cigars and just for fun on farm tracks. It was the sport of that time.
"My father [David Meirs II, VMD], Steve Dey, Charlie Smith and Anthony Abbatiello were fundamental in starting the New Jersey Sire Stakes program and the construction of the Meadowlands Racetrack,” he added. "It was early in the 1970s when open space was important and the state was encouraging the preservation of green pastures. Our first stallion was Peerswick, a horse from New Zealand. We paid $1,000 for him in 1973. We still have his stall plaque. He was the first horse to pace in two minutes in New Jersey.”
The Walns, the origins of the Walnridge name, were English Quakers who arrived in Philadelphia in 1682, according to farm history. Their farm in Upper Freehold Township, now part of the Monmouth County Park System, was acquired in 1774. In 1830, Nicholas Waln purchased the property near Hornerstown for his son Richard, and this became Walnridge Farm.
The merger of the Waln and Meirs families took place in 1861 when Elizabeth Waln married John Meirs and Walnridge became their farm.
Dr. David A. Meirs II inherited the farm in 1952 while he was a student at the Veterinary School of the University of Pennsylvania. It was in 1965 that Dr. Meirs established the Walnridge Equine Clinic.
"Niatross, Beach Towel and Direct Scooter were three superstar stallions that came through here,” Rich Meirs explained. "Direct Scooter was near and dear to my father's heart. He was such a vivid outcross. It was so radical that no one expected him to be profitable and productive. But the family has been extremely good, especially his son, Matt's Scooter; his grandson, Mach Three and his great-grandson, Somebeachsomewhere.
"We currently have 25 broodmares in the family or farm-owned, and all 350 acres are farmland preserved,” he said.
Dancinwiththestarzzz, He's Gorgeous, Federal Flex and Hes A Demon are among those foals recently born and raised at Walnridge.
Dr. David Meirs II, 83, retired from veterinary practice but is still involved with farm activities and "keeps an eye on me,” noted his son. "My father is my biggest advocate and supporter.”
In 1982, Richard Meirs earned his VMD at the University of Pennsylvania and returned to the family clinic. He and his wife, Sherri, have three children. Hailey, nearly 21, is a special education major at Coastal Carolina University; Casey, 27, has her own broodmare, and Cory, 24, is in his final pre-vet year at the University of Vermont.
"This farm will stay in our family,” said Rich Meirs. "We are dedicated to New Jersey and hope to keep good things happening here.”
For tickets to the awards luncheon [$35 per person], contact the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Markets & Development, Horse Industry, PO Box 330, Trenton, NJ 08625 or call at 609-984-4389. Reservations must be made before January 17. (Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey)