Thursday, November 3, 2011

The National Horse Show

This week marks the start of "The National Horse Show" which has changed its venue frequently in the past 10-15 years.  The show was a legend for many years when it was held in Madison Square Garden.  When it became too expensive to have the show there it moved to several different locations, all unpopular for various reasons, to the Meadowlands, then back to lower Manhattan, then to Palm Beach and lastly to Syracuse.  This is the first year that the show will be held at the lovely Kentucky Horse Park. The hope is that this will become its permanent home after being "homeless" for so many years.

Madison Square Garden was a special place for the National and I doubt that any other location can bring back that magic.

It was a black tie, even white tails, event.  Ladies would dress up in their evening gowns and jewels to come and watch the horses.  It was an "event" on the NY social calendar. It must have been special to have been able to ride in the show during those days.  There were even classes for the US Calvary riders.  One of my friends who grew up in NJ used to go and watch during the 70's.  It was magical she said. 

Another spectator recalls seeing Bill Steinkraus riding the now-famous Bold Minstrel in the International Puissance Class in the late 60's.  Bold Minstrel went on to compete internationally in two Olympic equestrian disciplines:  eventing and show jumping. 

In 1958 evenings at the National aired on live television.  Viewers were able to see Johnny Carson (a guest host) sitting backwards atop Snowman, who became Horse of the Year two years in a row. 

But this year, the National's numbers are up and show organizers have had to turn away over 150 horses.  The VIP seating area that orginally held 30 tables was enlarged to hold 50 tables.  Ticket sales will benefit nine charities.  There is an effort underfoot to bring that glamour and prestige back, a tough nut to crack.  At 128 years, it has been around for a long time.  Let's hope that some of that special magic can be returned, not just for the horses' sake, but for those of us who love horses and also for those who have never seen a horse show!

(Richard Jeffrey, a famous course designer, takes a peek at the oldest trophy at the National.  It was first presented in 1883). 

1 comment:

  1. Ann, just found this one. I, too, grew up in the 70s going to the National at MSG. And it WAS magical!! I absolutely lived for those once-a-year trips. Usually just my mom and I would go, but sometimes the whole family. We would go on Maclay day and stay all afternoon and evening. One year we actually had someone to root for, a girl from my barn. She didn't win anything but it was extremely exciting! We would also see Saddlebreds and lots of open jumping. My favorite pair was Rodney and Ike.

    After not seeing a National Horse Show since about 1981, I went to the first one at the KYP in 2011 (which you were writing about here). It was REALLY REALLY great - I had a marvelous time. (I wrote a series of blog posts about it, starting with this one: I think they did a wonderful job recapturing what made the National so special. I'm pretty sure it was a huge hit last fall, too, so I have high hopes for what will always be my very favorite show!


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