In the flag-draped, gold and scarlet setting of Toronto's Royal Winter Fair Horse Show a rousing season reached its rousing climax. This year has brought some exciting moments, but nothing to match the moment when the United States Equestrian Team's Hugh Wiley sailed his elderly but agile Nautical over a formidable 6½-foot stone wall to capture, for the second year in a row at Toronto, the International Individual Puissance at heights greater than anything faced in the last Olympic competition. Wiley also won the individual fault and out event and, on the last day, pulled the U.S.E.T. to a win in the team event by riding clean to beat out England.
For Hugh Wiley and the U.S. team these Canadian victories carried a special vindication. After their New York successes (SI, Nov. 25) some competitors spitefully commented that the U.S. had done well only because the Garden courses, which come under fire regularly every year, had been arranged especially for them. At Toronto, which has all the space the Garden lacks, the U.S. team won more firsts than any other country.
The drama of these victories had, as always in Toronto, a worthy setting. For 12 days, under the gay bunting of the coliseum, almost 700 horses performed. A sergeant from the Governor General's Horse Guard, wearing a silver helmet topped by a waving crimson plume, galloped into the ring to sound on a silver bugle the fanfare before each class. There was the usual big agricultural show, packed with livestock and flowers, and with a life-sized statue of the Minister of Agriculture molded in butter on view.
That spine-tingling International Individual Puissance came late in the week after some accomplished riding in the international jumping by Ireland's Lieutenant William Ringrose (two wins), Charles Dennehy of the U.S.E.T. (one win) and England's Pat Smythe (one win). (Teammate Ted Williams also won one later.) Twenty horses jumped the solid-looking course and six of them went clean. Some of the obstacles were removed, others were heightened, and the six had another go at it. Four went clean.
Now only three jumps were left in the arena, and the stone wall was up to 6 feet. Williams went first on his little Pegasus and was clean. Mexico's Julio Herrera had one knockdown with Acapulco. So did England's Dawn Palethorpe on Earlsrath Rambler. Hugh Wiley and Nautical were clean.
Two obstacles were now left, and the wall was raised to 6½ feet—so high that the jump crew had to stand on tiptoe to adjust the top blocks. The spread jump was 8 feet wide.
Again Williams and Pegasus were first. But enough was enough—Pegasus had knockdowns at both obstacles. Wiley brought in Nautical, and the big horse went confidently toward the spread fence. He cleared it, thus winning the class, but Hugh swung him around the turn and headed him for the towering stone wall as well. Over Nautical went—faultless, and apparently boldly searching for more heights to conquer.
There were other winners, of course. Strangely, for the U.S. horse show audience, some of the biggest and hardest fought classes were in the Hackney pony and horse division. It's a rare sight indeed to see so many entries in that division. There were, for example, no less than eight tandems in one class—12 pairs in another—and the heavy harness classes (they practically don't exist any more in the U.S. except where Mrs. Loula Long Combs is apt to go) were amply supplied with quality horseflesh, though there was only one U.S. stable represented. In the Hunter division, the honors went to the Canadian owners. At the time of the stake there was only one point separating Elaine Boylen's Thou Swell from the leading Duke of Paeonian, owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Pettibone of Middleburg, Va. Then, just as if to prove how inconsistent horses can be, neither horse won the stake. Peggy Augustus' Waiting Home went with brilliance and was the winner. Thou Swell, ridden by his former American owner, D. R. Motch, was second, which shifted the point balance in his favor and made him champion conformation hunter of the Royal Winter Fair, as he had been at the N.Y. National.