The organizing committee of the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament released a statement on Jan. 12 that the show has been canceled for 2011. The organizers cited the departure of the National Horse Show and ASPCA Maclay Finals from the show as the reason.
“We don’t, at present, see any way to proceed for 2011,” said the Syracuse organizers, John Madden, Frank Madden, Peter Howard, Eric Hasbrouck and Paul Mahalick. “There are only so many sponsors, riders and horses, table sales, etc. for a top class show.
“We have tried to do things at Syracuse a little differently. We have tried to live up to the admonition of George Morris (who, parenthetically, has been sensationally supportive of Syracuse) to aim for excellence in every aspect of the show from the footing, prize money, scheduling, schooling facility, etc. within the limits of an indoor one-ring show. It may be inevitable that the industry is inexorably heading to spending weeks (and months) at multi-ring factories so that there will ultimately be only four or five show facilities to survive. That may be what people want. It is not a show that we started out to run or have any interest in organizing.
“With what the NHS is now doing to put us back in the economically unsustainable split situation in the absence of an overall sponsor, we would have to dumb down our standards beyond what is acceptable to even try to run a show in 2011. That is simply not on the cards.”
Mason Phelps, president of the National Horse Show, confirmed that the NHS will take place at the Kentucky Horse Park on Nov. 2-6. He stated that the NHS board and executive director, Carolyn Vincent, have been scouting new locations for the show since the summer. The board of directors—composed of Mrs. Thomas N. Armstrong, III, William J. Berman, Samuel A.B. Boone, Leo G. Conroy, Debi Dobbs, Susan Humes, Louis M. Jacobs, Suzanne Thoben Marquard, Ernest M. Oare, Mason Phelps, Jr., Allan E. Shore, Jr., John Y.G. Walker, III, Bill Weeks and Peter Welles—met on Jan. 4 and voted unanimously to move the NHS to the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“There was pause about moving the ASPCA Maclay Finals from New York state, but I think with the ASPCA opening up an exhibit at the KHP and it being the home of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, and its geographical location, it was desirable,” said Phelps.
“We listened to the industry, to the concern and advice from equitation and hunter trainers. There are some who are not thrilled with this decision, but you’re not going to make everyone happy,” he continued.
Phelps pointed out that many exhibitors felt that Syracuse’s location in upstate New York was undesirable since the didn’t want to travel north after the Washington International in Washington D.C. the week before, then go south. “Also, the offsite stabling at the fairgrounds for the equitation horses was a deterrent, and at Kentucky, we won’t have that problem,” he said.
“There are those that had issues with schooling on one side of the street and then walking across the street to compete. I think there were many factors that played into it. Since the USEF told us that junior hunters had to show on the weekend, trying to fit the junior hunters and the Maclay and the jumpers into the schedule was a jigsaw puzzle. For all those reasons, it made sense to make the move,” explained Phelps.
The Syracuse Sporthorse Invitational Tournament began in 2003 with a schedule featuring the jumper division primarily, and it quickly became a popular event. The Syracuse grand prix has been a World Cup-qualifier since 2004.
Syracuse first hosted the ASPCA Maclay Finals in 2005. The class had been somewhat homeless after the National Horse Show’s last appearance at Madison Square Garden (N.Y.) in 2001. In 2002, it was staged at the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.), and in 2003 and 2004 at Pier 94 in New York City.
The National Horse Show began in 1883 and for 105 years ran in Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1989, the NHS and the Maclay moved to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey but then returned to Madison Square Garden from 1996 to 2001.
From 2002 through 2007, the NHS was held in Wellington, Fla., but moved to join the Maclay at Syracuse in 2008. “We’re very fortunate that Syracuse gave us a home for the time that they did until we could sort things out. It was a great stepping stone for what is going to be the future of the National Horse Show,” said Phelps.
Phelps confirmed that while there might not be an international jumper division at the 2011 NHS, “it is certainly our desire to make the National Horse Show in Kentucky as similar to Madison Square Garden as possible and maybe even include the saddle horses,” he said. “But the very first objective is to do the best we can by the Maclay Finals because there are kids out there who are already qualifying. Once we get that done, we can plan other things.”