America's biggest equine event, The National Horse Show, which opens its annual eight-day stand next week (Nov. 2-9) in Madison Square Garden, had no more class than a six-day bike race when it was first held in a car barn in 1883. But before long, New York society seized upon the show as the place to display its costliest finery, and since the 90s it has been an event in which the blood of both horses and onlookers is likely to be blue.
Yearly, for seven decades, the National has climaxed the thousands of smaller horse shows held across the country, and has brought together in final competition some of the best horses and riders. Most thrilling event, which thousands will also be watching on TV this year, is always the international jumping competition, in which foreign horses and riders challenge the best our country can produce.
This year Spain is sending a jumping team for the first time since 1926, and West Germany, believed to have one of the best teams in the world, will make its first visit since 1930. The participation of such high-caliber horses and riders has lured Brig. Gen. Humberto Mariles and his Mexican army team back into Garden competition. A contingent from Canada also will compete for international jumping honors. Arthur McCashin of Pluckemin, N.J. and William Steinkraus of Westport, Conn., both of whom rode on the U.S. team which placed third at the 1952 Olympics, will again represent their country, aided by a newcomer, 22-year-old Charles Dennehy of Lake Forest, Ill.
The absence of Mrs. Carol Durand, the Kansas City housewife who has been a member of the U.S. equine entry for the past four years, and the glamorous Josephine Abercrombie, who won 12 out of the 13 harness events she entered at last year's National, may make next week's event an even more competitive affair among the ladies.
HUNTERS, JUMPERS AND SADDLE HORSES
In addition to the international competition, scores of U.S. riders will display their hunters and jumpers in obstacle events. In the saddle horse division, three-and five-gaited horses (above), high-stepping aristocrats, majestic and brilliantly turned out, will be judged on manners, quality and performance. Fine harness horses, carrying a full mane and tail and hitched by light harness to four-wheeled rubber-tired wagons, will trot and turn before the judges, as will heavy harness horses and Hackney ponies, the latter well known for high action with their front and hind legs.
Leading contender in the $2,000 Jumper Stake is the Wee-3 Stable's Andante. Albert Merkel's Grey Dawn and My Mighty Mac, owned by Sunny Side Riding Academy of Paramus, N.J., will be top challengers for the professional horsemen's trophy.
MEADOW PRINCESS AND BEAN GYPSY
In the three-gaited saddle horse division, Meadow Princess, a chestnut mare owned by the Dodge Stables and 1953 champion, is the horse to watch, as is Beau Gypsy, owned by Delaine Farm, Pa., in the flve-gaited event. Adding to the splendor of this year's show will be an exhibition in dressage by Mrs. Lis Hartel of Denmark, who captured second place at the last Olympic Games.
Of the thousands of people who attend the National, many go to be seen instead of to see. But even in competition with dazzling society, high fashion and stars of stage and TV, the horses have so far been able to hold their own.
THE FIVE-GAITED SADDLE HORSE
The walk is foundation of all gaits. Five-gaited horses can be identified by long tail and derby hat worn by rider.
The trot is a two-beat gait suitable to all road conditions. Horse's legs work in diagonal pairs.
The slow gait is hardest for horse, most comfortable for rider. A four-beat gait, it is done at ambling pace.
The rack is tour-beat gait done at speed. It is an acquired step and is difficult for a horse to do.
The canter is three-beat rolling gait, shows horse at its majestic best. It is performed under restraint.