Like many people my age, I was blessed to know a New York City that had a National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. I was even more blessed to have competed there. There was truly nothing like it. In fact, it was surreal.
To this day, when I’m backstage at MSG in my career as a publicist, I often mention to the people I’m with that “this is where we would warm up!” or “Over there is where I walked my horse up the ramp from 33rd Street.” And I’m always thinking: “Over there is where I sat, nervously awaiting my turn to make history,” as anyone who has competed in a national finals has done.
Fast-forward many years. There is no more National Horse Show in New York. I also don’t ride as much as I used to, although I get in the saddle from time to time, and stay connected to my horse friends in many different ways. I love to ride, but I also love my life in New York and my busy job.
I will always be an athlete, though, and I missed the goal-oriented training and discipline that riding gave me, not to mention the thrill of competing.
My husband and I work out a lot, and it’s a cornerstone of our relationship. We love training together, but as a track star in high school, he was always the runner in the family. I was happy to jog, never thinking I could make my riding-injury-riddled legs go fast enough to work up any legitimate speed.
About a year ago, we decided to take a friend up on her offer to participate in a charity 5-K race. Never having done one, I was nervous. Could I run three miles… in a row? Turns out I could, and the thrill of a race day was similar to a horse show. The early morning fresh air, the bleary-eyed warm-ups, the butterflies in your stomach, and the spirit of an athletic community was all delightfully familiar, and I relished the experience.
We began doing more races, and by this summer, we had competed in more than 20 5- and 10-K races, most of them in Central Park. I began to love the park. I couldn’t believe I had spent over a decade living in Manhattan and had largely overlooked this enchanting gem.
This lush green haven is a precious respite for New Yorkers looking to escape the city streets, not to mention a beehive of athletic activity. It’s so close, but a world away. When I found out a few months ago that the Central Park Horse Show was coming to town, the thrill I had for my city and my sport was overwhelming. I could hardly take the excitement, and began counting the days until September.
Last weekend I was running a race with my husband that took place on 5th Avenue, adjacent to the east perimeter of Central Park. When we were done, we decided to walk home through the park. We began winding through the roads, past joggers, carriage horses, baseball games, and family picnics.
I topped the crest of a hill, and all of a sudden, there it was! Tractors, equipment, and workers were everywhere… the build-out was happening in front of my eyes. A riding ring was being installed to bring show jumping, dressage, and polo into the middle of my beloved park, in my beloved city.
I snapped a few photos, giddy with excitement. My husband (God bless him!) held onto me as I carefully climbed on top of two walls and three flower planters to get the best shot of the action on my iPhone. I couldn’t wait to share the picture with my friends on social media, because I knew they’d all be as excited as I was.
We equestrians can be a big band of gypsies. We are extremely adept at coming into towns (I’m looking at you Lake Placid, Spruce Meadows, and Wellington!), setting up shop, doing our thing, and moving on.
This week, I hope we all take a moment to realize what a special time this is in the history of our sport. This show, and the fact that it will be aired on primetime television, is history in the making. I couldn’t be more excited to experience this iconic moment and to be a part of history once more.
Jamie Krauss Hess grew up in Greenwich, Conn., and rode in the hunter, jumper and equitation ranks as a junior. After graduating from New York University, she embarked on a career in public relations. When the call to ride again got too strong, she headed to California for a stint as an assistant trainer for Archie Cox. Now she’s back in New York City, working as the Public Relations Director at The Narrative Group and riding and showing when she can.