"Where I grew up, we rode horse-and-carriage out of necessity. It was our transportation. In America, 90 percent of the people in the sport have no love for it. They do it for social status."
Most Gladstonians earned their money the old-fashioned way: They inherited it. At last summer's competition, the aristocrats were identifiable by their club ties, green pants and similarly sensible sports garments. Some of the more mature gentlemen still affected Brooks Brothers seersuckers, but not many. All had splendid teeth. Genteel pleasures awaited the 10,000 fans in attendance, who spread their ground cloths and numerous offspring on Gladstone's grassy slopes. They perused boutiques that sold everything from English saddles to deerstalker hats, sampled buttered scones and Watney Red Barrel, and listened as the New Jersey State Police Pipe Band played Amazing Grace, or something very much like it.
The three days of Gladstone were divided into the dressage, marathon and obstacle competitions, scheduled in that order. In dressage, horses and driver were rated on poise, style, agility and accuracy. During the obstacle phase, the carriages wove through narrow gates, rails, right-angled turns and colored cones with balls balanced on top—a regimen as formal as a dinner party at Miss Manners's.
Long won both the dressage and the obstacle events without the help of Caspersen, who decided to perform his glad-handing duties during those events and limited his participation to the marathon, which accounted for about two thirds of the overall competition. A slog among tightly-spaced trees, across water hazards and over 17 miles of sometimes rugged terrain, the marathon is a perfect model for the CEO's course to the top.
A steady rain complicated this year's competition. Long and Caspersen were sloshing gingerly around an old sawmill when a back wheel caught a corner post. Their carriage flipped, spewing its contents into a ditch. The subsequent penalty kept them from winning the overall title, but their second-place finish was good enough to earn them the trophy as the four-in-hand champions for the combined driving season.
Caspersen was beaming when he arrived at the press tent. His shirttails were out, his khakis splattered with mud. "See," he said, "it's not such a wimpy sport after all." Then he took a hard swallow of drink and mused, "Where else can you be middle-aged, balding and overweight, and still be a world champion athlete?"