The long-awaited Washington International horse show, talk of the horse world all summer, was finally held last week, and although it did not live up to all its advance ballyhoo, it was good enough to earn a permanent spot in the crowded fall schedule.
The appurtenances of the National Guard Armory, incidentally, were fine enough to stir the envy of rival entrepreneurs; the ring was big, the stabling ample, the makeup area convenient. Nevertheless, some very high-quality entrants notwithstanding, the competition was, for the most part, barely tepid, with lukewarm audience reaction to match.
The big event each evening was, of course, the international jumping featured in the show's billing. However, the strong riders from Germany had it almost all their own way, and for the most part it was simply a question of which German was going to win—Fritz Thiedemann, the European champion, or Hans G. Winkler, the last Olympic champion.
Fritz ended by winning the most and was the individual champion, with fellow countryman Hans in the reserve spot. In fact, all four German riders and their nine horses are frighteningly good and forecast genuine trouble for the official U.S. Equestrian Team when they meet at the coming shows of Harrisburg, New York and Toronto.
That highly successful U.S. team, by the way (SI, Sept. 29), was not at the Washington show. Its schedule had been made up before the Washington dates were announced and, besides, the U.S. horses were tired from a strenuous summer, to say nothing of the team's commitment to the three giant and traditional fall shows. Nonetheless, the absence of an official team in the capital caused comment among the American spectators who watched the Germans ride off with five of the six first places.
But Frank Chapot, an official team member who came to Washington as a private individual with his own horses, did win the one class that Fritz and Hans and their buddies apparently overlooked, and that, happily, was on the last night, when the President of the United States was watching. (It was, incidentally, the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Challenge Trophy that Frank won.) The other U.S. riders, Jeb Wofford and Sandra Phipps, were as helpless as they had been all week, despite the moral support of Ike and his First Lady.
Mexico, the third nation competing, helped break up the German monopoly by at least placing in the ribbons. As usual, Mexico was represented by that fixture-name, Mariles, but this year it was a new generation. The famous general's son, Humberto Jr. (who celebrated his 18th birthday in Washington), and his 16-year-old daughter Vicky made their debuts as international riders, with 23-year-old veteran Lieut. Roberto Vi√±als rounding out the team. Mariles himself, grounded by inner-ear disturbances that have affected his balance, made his initial appearance as a judge and furthermore made his presence felt by pointing out a minor rule infringement by the Germans.
Sending the young Mexicans in to oppose Germany's power seemed like asking a Little League team to take on the Yankees. And although those Little Leaguers didn't win any first places, they came surprisingly close. Vicky, rigid with stage fright the first two nights, came to life and booted her father's bobtailed Chihuahua II around the fault-and-out course for a second place behind Fritz Thiedemann, and young Berto managed two third places. Vi√±als was second or third on several occasions as well. Indications are that, with a few years' experience behind them, the Mariles children will be very bad news for their competition.
Proud Papa Mariles, although he admits that the Germans would have given him trouble if he could have ridden, predicts even better things for his brood at Harrisburg—never mind about waiting those few years.
Other than the international classes, hunter, jumper, saddle and walking horse events made up the show. The saddle and walking horse entries were on the light side, but there were plenty of hunters—and nice ones, too—in their respective classes. Unfortunately, most of those nice hunters were not performing too well, perhaps because it was the first indoor show of the season.