Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Late, Great and Relatively Unknown Ben O'Meara

At dinner last night with a group of my horse show friends (we all know each other through horse shows) we talked about a lot of different topics. One that came up was Jacks or Better.  One of the gang is a horse show judge and she had recently seen a jumper named Jacks or Better but the owner had not known that there was once a famous jumper by that same name.

Then Ben O'Meara came up.  Bet you never heard of him either?

Born in 1938, Ben O'Meara started in the horse world as a groom and blacksmith in Brooklyn. A self-taught rider, he first attracted attention in the show ring with a top performance at the 1961 National Horse Show aboard his horse, P.D. a police department failure. Aboard Jacks Or Better, O'Meara captured the PHA Championship in 1962 (at the time one of the top honors in the horse world) and that same year tied for the National Horse Show Jumper Championship with Kathy Kusner and Unusual.

A progressive figure who invented a number of riding techniques still used today, O'Meara helped forge strong links between professional rider/trainers and the USET at a time when many pros regarded the USET with uncertainty. A strong Team supporter, several of his horses competed for the Team after they had been sold. Jacks Or Better, for example, won the Grandprix of Aachen with Neal Shapiro, and Untouchable went to the Tokyo and Mexico City Olympics with Kathy Kusner.

O'Meara produced many winners; he developed the horse, Silver Lining, and sold Good Twist to Frank Chapot as a 3-year-old. He also had a number of show ring victories aboard The Hood, including the Jumper Championship at the National Horse Show, and Grey Lady. O'Meara began the 1966 season with wins in Florida aboard Gone Flying. Tragically his career ended when he was killed in a plane crash on April 16, 1966 at the age of 27. Later that year Gone Flying won the National Horse Show Jumper Championship with Barney Ward in the irons.

In the few photos that seem to be out there, Benny rarely wears a helmet, how politically incorrect is that?  That was a different age.....

“Most of the horses O’Meara dealt with were hot Thoroughbreds off the race track; many had never jumped a fence before he acquired them.

“If a horse survived his training (and it was a hard test), he was quite a good horse. He taught his horses to learn to "fend for himself, to be quick in front and good behind, to get very round, and above all to concentrate on his fences."  (George Morris is a big fan of Benny and the above quotes come from him).   It was amazing that Ben O’Meara could produce jumper after jumper for the show ring in a matter of weeks. Even though they were still very green, they were bold, brave and extremely careful, and they’d win. A long string of O’Meara’s horses eventually jumped for the U. S. Equestrian team, including the great Untouchable, Jacks or Better, and others.” George feels that had O’Meara lived ‘his ideas would have leveled out and become less extreme.’

It's sad that O'Meara died at such a young age. Just think of what else he might have achieved.


  1. I most certainly have heard of Ben O'Meara, but didn't know that much about him. What a rider he must have been! I don't like the sound of his training very much, but he certainly got results. Bet he was sorry he sold Good Twist!

  2. I met Benny when I was 14 years old. We worked at the Prospect Park Riding Academy in Brooklyn. Benny went to Erasmus Hall High School. Several times a week, Harry Goldstein the owner, would let the stable boys take horses out for a ride through Prospect Park.
    Benny would take these hack horses over every fence he could find. He often played hooky from school so he could work in the stable. He was a freckled face fun guy to be with. Who new he would turn out o be one of the greatest horseman of all time.


    1. I also remember Benny at Prospect Park. We became very close in the years to come Please let me know who you are as we may know each other .

  3. I remember watching Mr. O'Meara at Fairfield and Oxridge shows...he, like almost every other jumper rider, poled his horses (bamboo rods, sometimes with spikes) to get them to jump the article says, it was a 'different age'...and George Morris was at times brutal on a horse.

  4. Worked as a groom for Carl Knee and Benny .....Jacks was a half standard bred and thoroughbred ....groom the old garden with the Hood .....could make a donkey jump

  5. I knew Benny and Carl Knee at Pelham Bridge in the Bronx, in the late 50's. Benny recruited us girls to jump his horses. We'd go to horse shows, Benny would buy a prospect right at the show, put one of us (Benny's jocks)on the new horse, take 3 fences and then Benny would enter us in a jumping class and sell the horse when we exited the arena! Benny's guys were Dominick, Stevie, Jackie, and Jimmy. I am Janie Kayaloff, aka for contact info.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...