Wheeling and trotting under the lights of Madison Square Garden before the critical eyes of judges and spectators, the stylish hackney ponies and three-gaited horses pictured on the opposite page epitomize the classical elegance of the horse show. On view again this week (Nov. 4-11) during the New York National's diamond jubilee year, these breeds are as much a tradition on the horse show scene as the show itself: there were classes for them 75 years ago when the first National was held in William Vanderbilt's horsecar barn on Madison Square.
This year the show is celebrating not only its diamond jubilee but a second, minor anniversary as well. Thirty years ago the National moved from its old quarters at Madison Square to its then brand-new Garden site, and by odd coincidence this year's hackney-pony judge, Mrs. Jessie Cox of Cohasset, Mass., herself drove ponies on that memorable occasion. Furthermore, the National's new manager, Clarence (Honey) Craven (SI, July 21), started his career that same year as ringmaster—a role he filled every year until assuming his present more responsible duties.
As if to mark the anniversary, the show will bring back, for the first time since 1933, the roadsters, those flamboyant, fast-trotting horses best known today at the track. The trotters were one of the biggest crowd-pleasers at the original National, ranking second in appeal only to Ulysses S. Grant Jr.'s Arabian (a gift from the Shah of Persia), who was tied second in his class. The Arabian division, on the other hand, will be absent from this year's show. But with a record 466 horses and ponies entered, more than the facilities of the Garden can accommodate (some had to be stabled elsewhere), there will be action aplenty, with performances every morning, afternoon and evening for eight days.
As always, the international jumping will be the climax of each day—and this year the competition will be particularly keen. Though this event did not make its appearance on the New York scene until 1909, when teams from Great Britain, Canada and the United States inaugurated the contest, it has always been the favorite, an event which for years was of particular interest because it was a strictly military affair. Not until this decade, when the ranks of the cavalry in the world's armies had thinned to the point of disappearing, was the door opened to civilians.
November 3, 1958
One of the first civilian riders to jump through that door was Hugh Wiley (see cover and following page), a 31-year-old civil engineer from Tow-son, Md. who, strangely enough, started his international career by being drafted from the U.S. team to ride for a foreign competitor. Back in 1950, Hugh took his hunter to the trials and earned himself a place on the new United States Equestrian Team. However, when the international shows started, the luck of the Irish, who were also competing that year, turned bad and, due to injuries, they did not have enough riders to make up the required team of three. With commendable sportsmanship, the U.S. offered one of its four riders to Ireland; straws were drawn and the Irish won Hugh Wiley. The Irish and their gift rider then promptly won the team competitions at Harrisburg and New York.
Hugh returned to his business and to riding with the local hunt until summoned by the U.S. to ride again prior to the last Olympics. However, his draft board was also beckoning. Having already served two years with the Merchant Marine after World War II, Wiley went into the Navy, but with special privileges which kept him on horseback most of the time. When he bought his palomino—"in desperation, because I needed a horse fast"—Hugh named him Nautical to honor the Navy that allowed him to do his tour of duty on a horse instead of a ship.
Last year, representing the U.S., Hugh was the leading individual rider in both New York and Toronto, defeating England's top-rated Pat Smythe and Ted Williams. He did all his winning aboard Nautical.
With Nautical, fresh from a rousing performance at Harrisburg, and Mrs. W. Joshua Barney Jr.'s Master William, Hugh will be back this week to defend his title against fellow Americans Billy Steinkraus and George Morris, Mexico's new generation of Mariles stars and an imposing array of riders from Germany, Cuba and Canada. Fortunately, an exacting situation is not something that bothers Wiley. "Competition," he says, "sharpens me. It seems to bring out the best in my riding. For some reason I make fewer mistakes under pressure."