Monday, May. 27, 2024

My Own Memories Of The Show Jumping Hall Of Fame

In March of 1985, the first step toward the creation of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum took place at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the American Grandprix Association in Tampa, Fla. We all believed that U.S. show jumping had developed a significant enough history to warrant some formal way of honoring those who had contributed to the sport's development and popularity.
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In March of 1985, the first step toward the creation of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum took place at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the American Grandprix Association in Tampa, Fla. We all believed that U.S. show jumping had developed a significant enough history to warrant some formal way of honoring those who had contributed to the sport’s development and popularity.

Because of Jane Clark’s family’s involvement in the formation of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., AGA Chairman Gene Mische asked her to be chairman of a committee to establish a Hall of Fame for Show Jumping. She gladly accepted this responsibility.

Some of the country’s leading figures�” people like Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, Gene Mische, Leonard King, Bob Rost, Larry Langer and Elizabeth Busch Burke�”believed there was no question that a hall of fame for show jumping was in order. Now it was a question of how it would operate, where it would be located, and how it would be founded.

Using the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as a model, the Show Jumping Hall of Fame’s primary purpose would be to promote interest in the sport by honoring those who had contributed so much. The museum would also house historical exhibits, photographs and meaningful mementos.

Annual elections would determine which people or horses should be honored. Based on the well-established rules of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, we developed a set of criteria. A slate of candidates, proposed by the Nominating Committee, was put forward. The criteria included the candidate’s record, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the sport. Electors were to be selected from the nation’s leading equestrian organizations, as well as the media.

At least 60 percent of the approximately 100 people eligible to vote each year must submit a ballot to constitute an official election. To be elected, a candidate must be named on at least 50 percent of ballots cast.

For many, many months, the issue of location was much discussed. Finally, through the untiring efforts of my old friend Elizabeth Busch Burke, we secured space for the museum at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla. This popular theme park draws more than 3 million visitors a year and would give the SJHF lots of exposure.

In 1987 we held our first election for induction. Inducted in this charter class were Bert de Nemethy, Bill Steinkraus and Idle Dice.

Some of the mementos and exhibits put on display over the next several years included a history and timeline of the horse and of riding, a display on safety helmets, a display on the evolution of jump cups, Olympic memorabilia and pictures, and even a 19th century saddle tester. A history of the FEI World Cup Finals, as well as the U.S. Equestrian Team’s record in the Olympics, World Championship and Pan Am Games, was also included.

Some other items of interest included Idle Dice’s bridle, the saddle Bill Steinkraus used when he won the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics, a fully packed U.S. Equestrian Team tack trunk, and a letter from Leslie Burr (now Howard), asking her mother to buy her a pony.

In 1989 the Show Jumping Hall of Fame opened to the public at Busch Gardens. There is a wall featuring a plaque for each Hall of Fame inductee.

At about this same time, the United States’ national series of amateur-owner show jumping events lost its sponsor, Insilco. The SJHF Board of Directors voted to pick up the responsibility for this series. It is important for the sport to provide top-level amateur-owner classes under grand prix conditions. This is how horses and riders progress to the top.

At this point in time, due to all the work entailed, the board decided to hire Marty Bauman as executive director. Marty has full responsibility and oversees all the activities�” annual elections, the annual induction ceremony at the Budweiser American Invitational in Tampa Stadium; management of the SJHF Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic series; and coordination of assorted special events, such as fundraisers or riding clinics. Jane Clark decided to resign as chairman and the board elected Gene Mische as the new chairman and myself as president. And now we have our own website: www.showjumpinghallof fame.net.

Again, thanks to Busch Gardens, a new location for the Hall of Fame adjacent to the Clydesdales exhibit has recently been completed, giving the Hall of Fame a beautiful, new, bigger and better home at the theme park.

That is a brief synopsis of the show jumping Hall of Fame. Now I’d like to ever so briefly touch on its inductees. Most of the people (and horses) I have known personally; a few I have not.

William C. Steinkraus. Respected worldwide as a horseman of the highest class, an intellectual horseman. Individual gold medalist at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Bertalan de Nemethy. A world icon in show jumping. Bert’s legend as USET chef d’equipe lives on and on. He revolutionized course building at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Idle Dice. The horse’s name is synonymous with Rodney Jenkins (rider) and Harry Gill (owner). A big, old-fashioned American Thoroughbred, he possessed great scope and won and won and won.

Patrick Butler. Not only one of the greatest owners the USET ever had, but also a kind and gentle man. He helped people with their personal problems and gave many young riders a “leg up.”

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August A. Busch Jr. “Gussie” was there for the sport. He was a great sportsman. He liked it all and did it all, and now his family carries on the tradition.

David Kelley. Dave was a horseman’s horseman. Admittedly a learned rider, he was a tough taskmaster, especially on himself. A spit-and-polish horseman, his hunters and jumpers all won.

Jimmy Williams. He was a master horseman, a master teacher. He was a star and bigger than life. He leaves legions of pupils who are tops in their own right.

Ben O’Meara. Benny was a genius. He came from the streets of Brooklyn to earn cham-pionships at the National Horse Show (N.Y.) in Madison Square Garden. A self-taught horseman who figured it out and beat them all.

Frances Rowe. One of those great, true horsewomen of the old Virginia school, Frances “Fanny” Newbill Rowe had an insatiable appetite to learn a newer and better way.

Kathy Kusner. Truly a pioneer when it came to women’s rights on horseback. A disciple of Ben O’Meara, Kathy had a killer instinct in the ring and made it fashionable for women to win.

Arthur McCashin. Arthur will best be remembered as an early mentor, supporter and rider for the USET. A great all-around horseman, Arthur helped get de Nemethy together with the USET.

Brig. Gen. Harry D. Chamberlain. His record, photos and writings make him my personal “horseman of the century.” His Olympic and institutional results are formidable, his books my bibles.

San Lucas. Coupled for most of his career with Frank Chapot, the big, rangy American Thoroughbred will be most remembered for Nations Cup, puissance and grand prix victories.

Adolph Mogavero. This diminutive man always rode his hunters and jumpers in a forward seat with style. He had style before there was much style. A light, sensitive rider.

Whitney Stone. Chairman of the Board, the pillar of the USET. This man ran the organization with strength, passion and charity. A great spokesman, and an even greater leader.

Morton W. “Cappy” Smith. Another horseman bigger than life, “Cappy” could do it all with horses. Not only was he the country’s premier horseman, but he had the looks, charm and personality too!

Pat Dixon. Pat will always be etched in my mind aboard two of his horses, Injun Joe (later called Nautical) and All Afire. With these two and many more, he won many classes.

Eleanora “Eleo” Sears. A great sportswoman and patron of the game, “Eleo” was one of the team’s great benefactors, owning some of the best horses. Early on, she recognized de Nemethy’s genius.

Mary Mairs Chapot. A protege of Jimmy Williams and later on of Bert de Nemethy, Mary was known for her style. One of the earlier women riders, Mary won all over the world, especially with Tomboy.

Barbara Worth Oakford. A great woman, a great character, and a great sportswoman, Barbara literally died with her boots on. From California, she started many great horses, including Snowbound, the horse Bill Steinkraus won the Olympic gold medal on.

Snowman. Synonymous with rider Harry de Leyer, the pair dominated shows like the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, winning class after class. The theatrics they presented brought crowds to the show.

Dr. Robert C. Rost. “Doc” Rost rode, trained, taught, judged, timed and sat on every committee. A great friend to all, he did it all and is still doing it.

Joe Green. A character among characters, Joe was a great jumper rider, winner and horse dealer. I’ll remember him most on Trader Bedford, who kicked out over his fences.

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Frank Chapot. ASPCA Maclay winner, hunter rider, and jumper rider extraordinaire, Frank has done it all with horses. Frank has participated in 11 Olympics, either as a rider or chef d’equipe.

Gordon Wright. Gordon was a teacher’s teacher. He was also a great rider and a smart horseman. He was my own personal mentor, and so many people can trace themselves back to Gordon and his teaching.

Mickey Walsh. Possessed with a great sense of humor, Mickey could do it all, from riding a race horse over timber to showing a hunter or jumper. Those who can will remember seeing him jump Little Squire (13.2 hands) bareback over 6 feet at Madison Square Garden.

Trail Guide. A gallant, class horse. I best remember him at the 1960 Rome Olympics, with Frank Chapot posting the best score for the team in the Nations Cup. He died in a jump-off in Madison Square Garden.

Pamela Caruthers. A great rider and horsewoman in her own right, Pam brought the country forward through her masterful course building. She got us all riding forward.

Dick Donnelly. Most famous from the turn of the century until the 1930s, Dick was equally at home on a hunter or a jumper. He and the 15.2-hand Thoroughbred Heatherbloom jumped over 8 feet on several occasions.

Jet Run. Started by Rodney Jenkins and Jimmy Kohn, the bay Thoroughbred gelding was a classicist. He is best remembered paired with Michael Matz winning the FEI World Cup Finals in 1981.

Ned King. A great friend of the sport, who knew it all backwards and forwards. Ned managed the National Horse Show with style for years and years.

Bobby Egan/Sun Beau. Bobby was a beautiful, soft rider and a true all-around horseman. He ended up riding Sun Beau, who some thought to be the best jumper ever. A legendary horse.

Melanie Smith Taylor. A very kind and gifted horsewoman, Melanie was a fierce competitor against the clock. Most will best remember her aboard Calypso. The pair won everything worldwide.

Freddie Wettach Jr. His reputation lingers on as a great rider and “natty” dresser. He could set the pace on a working hunter, ride races, or jump King’s Own over 8 feet.

Johnny Bell. Johnny was a good friend, a sportsman, and knew how to win classes. Possessed of his own style, Johnny and his gray McLean St. were unstoppable.

Rodney Jenkins. Rodney would probably get most Americans’ vote as horseman of the century. Not having had a formal riding education, he taught himself. In short, Rodney won all the classes.

Franklin “Fuddy” Wing Jr./Democrat. Both horse and man, gentlemen to the fullest, veterans of the 1948 Olympics in London. They were pillars of the sport for many years.

Sinjon. Loaned to me by Harry de Leyer, Sinjon was my personal favorite. He could go fast, clean, high and wide. Bill Steinkraus and I both enjoyed the weedy little bay immensely.

Carol Durand. Carol was the first woman to ride on U.S. Nations Cup teams just after the war. Riding Reno Kirk, Paleface and Miss Budweiser, she won her share.

Touch Of Class. This diminutive, bay mare, ridden by Joe Fargis and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Brownlee Currey, showed her class by winning team and individual gold medals in Los Angeles (1984).

George H. Morris. I want to thank my family, teachers, horses, peers and students. They are the ones who gave me the breaks and gave me “a leg up.” I am most thankful and appreciative to be included in this list.

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