Tuesday, May. 28, 2024

Women’s History Month: Carol Hagerman Durand

On March 5, Beezie Madden and Margie Engle joined fellow show jumping stars McLain Ward and Mario Deslauriers as the United States celebrated a win in the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival’s $75,000 Nations Cup. Engle was a member of the team that went to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and Madden has ridden in two Olympics for the United States—scoring a team gold in Athens in 2004 and a team gold and individual bronze in 2008 in Hong Kong.

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On March 5, Beezie Madden and Margie Engle joined fellow show jumping stars McLain Ward and Mario Deslauriers as the United States celebrated a win in the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival’s $75,000 Nations Cup. Engle was a member of the team that went to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and Madden has ridden in two Olympics for the United States—scoring a team gold in Athens in 2004 and a team gold and individual bronze in 2008 in Hong Kong.

Engle and Madden are just a couple of the fierce females whose names are synonymous with 21st century show jumping. But 50 years ago, leading lady riders weren’t on the forefront as they are today. While many have helped secure female spots on U.S. international teams, Carol Hagerman Durand was one of the first to blaze the trail that eventually led to allowing women to compete as equals.

The Chronicle’s coverage of the National Horse Show (N.Y.) in the Nov. 20, 1953, issue had this to say: “At the conclusion of the show there was no question about the outstanding rider at Madison Square Garden. From the Midwest, Mrs. Carol Durand was a member of the 1951 and 1952 U.S. Equestrian Team and came back this year to team up with Arthur McCashin and Ronnie Mutch to make up the team…As for Mrs. Durand, she and the 19-year-old Reno Kirk won two individual international events, the $1,000 International Stake and the International Individual Championship Challenge Trophy, plus being a member of the winning U.S. team in the 1st event of the International Low Score Competition and part of the winning pair in the 2nd event of low score competition.”

From Kansas City, Kan., Carol Durand was familiar face on show jumper circuits in the years following World War II. A rider since she was 8, she only put down the reins during WWII for two years when she joined the Red Cross and served in India and China.

Of her many accomplishments, which include riding on the first “civilian” U.S. Equestrian Team in 1950, she is best known for being the first female equestrian to qualify for a U.S. Olympic team, which she did in 1951. However, a ruling by the Fédération Equestre Internationale at a meeting in Paris, France, in 1952 prohibited her (and other women) from participating that year in the Prix des Nations at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.

Durand would not let her exclusion from the Helsinki Olympic Games curb her riding success, and her persistence continued to open doors for women in show jumping. In Life’s Nov. 30, 1953 edition, she was featured in an article about the National Horse Show titled “Girls Steal The Horse Show,” which recapped the female domination of the Good Will Challenge that year.

In the years when jumper classes were still ridden primarily by men, Durand racked up wins in Harrisburg (Pa.), New York and Toronto with her horses Reno Kirk, Paleface and the talented gray mare, Miss Budweiser (Great War—Winter Rose, Endeavor II), on which she qualified for the Olympic team.

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She was well respected in the industry—by men and women alike—and though many top male competitors felt that some women were “at a handicap,” Durand was not one of them.

“I’d say that the average woman is at a handicap competing against men. But the really good women riders don’t need handicaps. They are as good as the top male riders and better than the others. I mean riders like Pat Smythe, Carol Durand, Shirley Thomas and Joan Flynn,” said General Guy Henry, a member of the Board of Directors at the National Horse Show, in a 1956 Sports Illustrated interview.

Durand’s death in 1970 at the young age of 52 was the result of a tragic riding accident at Cahokia Downs racetrack (Ill.) Her legacy lives on in the history of U.S. show jumping, and she was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2000. Durand’s success on the international jumper circuits worked to eliminate the taboo presence of women in the sport. In 1964, Kathy Kusner and Mary Mairs were the first women to ride on an Olympic U.S. show jumping team.

It’s always nice to know how we got where we are, and in this case, I take my hat off to Carol Durand for taking one for the “team.”

Meghan Blackburn likes figuring out how we’ve all ended up where we are. And studying the history of the horse industry offers up plenty of answers. Whether it’s pilfering through countless vintage Chronicle issues in the attic, or propping her feet up to pore over one of the bound volumes which are piling up on her desk, she’s committed to getting the dirt on those who have helped the evolution of the equine world and blogging about it weekly.

Have questions or suggestions? Email Meghan at webintern@chronofhorse.com.

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