Department of Agriculture | OWNER OF ANIMAL SUPPLY STORES NAMED 50th NJ HORSE PERSON OF THE YEAR skip to main content skip to main navigation
Photo of Al Murray, Rick Wills and Assemblyman Ron Dancer - Click to enlarge

For Immediate Release: January 29, 2007
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 292-8896

(TRENTON) – A love for horses and a desire to start a business from scratch resulted in a thriving four-store animal supply business for Rick Wills, owner of Ricks Saddle Shop, and now have earned him the title of 2006 Horseperson of the Year.

Wills was presented with the 2006 Governor’s Trophy last night at the 50th Annual New Jersey Breeder’s Dinner in Freehold, which celebrates the state’s best in the equine field.

“Rick Wills has done so much for the equine industry in New Jersey, providing the necessary support to help keep the industry strong,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus.  “He is deserving of this award for his generosity and commitment to educating both those in the industry and in the community about the importance of horses and other animals.”

What began in an old beauty salon in Englishtown blossomed into four stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: two stores in Englishtown, Ricks Heritage in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and the new Ricks Saddle Shop in Cream Ridge. 

Wills began his career first driving a route for the Coca Cola Company in Asbury Park and eventually working his way up to supervisor of a sales team in the New York Region.  He left Coke in 1977 to follow his dream of starting his own business.  His hobby was trading horses, as well as the equipment that came with the animals.  He began selling tack through classified advertisements and at the Englishtown Auction.  This led to the rental of an old beauty shop and the establishment of Ricks Saddle Shop in Englishtown.

In 1982, Wills purchased a feed store in Cream Ridge to open the second Ricks Saddle Shop. 

Wills and his wife, Rose Marie, have a daughter, Kathy, who is Vice-President of the business, and have three grandchildren.

Other awards presented at the Breeder’s Dinner were:

New Jersey Standardbred of the Year Award:  Glidemaster, son of Yankee Glide, won the Triple Crown of Trotting in 2006 on his way to winning eight of 15 starts with seven second place finishes.  He earned $1.9 million for his owners, Robert B. Burgess and Karin Olsson Burgess of Ontario, Canada, Marsha A. Cohen of Asbury, NJ, and Brittany Farms of Versailles, Kentucky.  He will begin his stallion career at Walnridge Farm of Pennsylvania in 2007. 

New Jersey Thoroughbred of the Year Award:  This is the second consecutive year that Park Avenue Ball has won this award.  Bred in New Jersey by C.J. Hesse, Inc., is a four-year old chestnut colt by Citidance, out of Road to the Ball, by Cahill Road.  A winner of seven races in 18 career starts, Park Avenue Ball joined the ranks of the top five New Jersey-bred earners of all time after a successful 2006 campaign that saw him win three of his six starts.  Park Avenue Ball won $317,000 in 2006 and has career earnings of $946,600.

The Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey honored Allen and Connie Skolnick’s Southwind Farm in Pennington at 2006 Breeder of the Year, for the Skolnick’s long-standing support of the New Jersey standardbred breeding program during more than 20 years that the farm has been in operation. 

In addition, the 2007 Equestrian of the Year, Kaitlyn Murray, a 16-year-old North Warren Regional High School was presented to the equine community.