With more horses than ever before—700-odd were crammed into Madison Square Garden's limited quarters—and more spectators since before World War II admiring them in an efficiently run, on-schedule program, the New York National Horse Show's 80th year was so good that one can only regret it was not better.
The show's main trouble was not too little but too much. The overwhelming number of entries in certain classes—especially for working hunters and ponies—reduced those events to utter boredom for spectators, and perhaps even for some participants. There were 83 entries, for example, in the junior working hunter stake (won by Californian Lindy Patrick with her mare No Commotion) and watching that number of horses jump the same fences over and over produced the effect insomniacs hope for when they count sheep. The solution for the National is to set qualifying conditions for these classes as well as for the equitation riders. This is the most expensive U.S. show for exhibitors, and others offer more money in prizes. Nevertheless, the National will always draw the top horses because of its prestige. Eliminating lesser ones through stiff entry conditions would enhance and streamline the program.
A minor matter, but an annoying one, is the inadequacy of the show's public address system. Perhaps his many years as announcer have reduced Otis Trowbridge to boredom; perhaps there is something wrong with his sound equipment; whatever the reason, his announcements emerge as a mumble. A program is of some value in watching a horse show, but it is impossible for a spectator to follow the progress of individual classes without help from the announcer. Trowbridge was strictly no help this year.
Neither of these handicaps detracted from the show's fine performances, particularly in the open jumping. On the first night there were no less than seven jump-offs in the Imperial Puissance event, a final duel between the Colony Farms' Jacksorbetter and the Frank Imperatore Motor Company's Grey Aero. These two had jumped off in the same event last year, with the Canadian-bred Jacksorbetter victorious at 6 feet 10 inches. But the stone wall, at approximately the same height, stopped Jacksorbetter this time, and the decision was reversed. The effort, however, was costly for Grey Aero, who won no more classes during the next seven days, while Jacksorbetter consistently finished in the money.
Jacksorbetter was leading in points for the championship when the final stake class began. But his stablemate, a green jumper named Untouchable, ridden by the USET's Kathy Kusner, not only won the stake after two clean jump-offs but the championship title as well, edging Jacksorbetter into the reserve. So one owner, Colony, had jumpers in the two championship spots for the first time in some 30 years.
Colony's boss is 24-year-old Benny O'Meara, a cold-eyed young man from Brooklyn, who learned about horses in a local riding academy and was virtually unknown just two years ago. But with Jacksorbetter, a horse he got in trade from a fellow pro from Chicago, he started collecting championships all over the horse show map. Benny is constantly buying and selling horses and, unlike most professionals, he refuses to show for anyone else. "If I like a horse well enough to show him," he says, "I want to own him." At his New Jersey stables, named after a listing he saw in the phone book, horses come and go like autos on a used car lot, hardly traditional procedure in this sport. Benny's business has become so brisk that he has had to cut down on showing, but, even so, Jacksorbetter earned enough points to be the 1963 reserve champion of the Professional Horsemen's Association. The title, awarded on the basis of points collected at shows throughout the year, was won by Uncle Max, a big gray gelding owned by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Shapiro and shown by their 17-year-old son Neal. Neal became the youngest and the first amateur rider to win this award.
The junior riders, who make the show a truly national event because they must qualify at other shows to be eligible, came in their usual large numbers, and the four horsemanship classes, two for the saddle seat and two for the hunter seat, were closely and vigorously contested. Kentucky-trained riders dominated the saddle seat events as Sue Ellen Marshall, a student of Louisville's Jim B. Robinson, won the "Good Hands" title and Randi Stuart, a Tulsa student of Mrs. Charles Crabtree of Simpsonville, Ky., carried off the medal award. Later in the week, when Randi was back in school, Helen Crabtree rode her Legal Tender to win the five-gaited grand championship stake for the second time. The hunter seat classes also were won by the ladies, the medal event by Stephanie Steck of Long Island and the Maclay award by Wendy Mairs of Pasadena, Calif., whose sister Mary, the individual gold medal winner at this year's Pan American Games, won the same class three years ago.
The international classes, usually the highlight of each performance, were almost no contest this year. Germany's fine riders—Alwin Schockemoehle, Kurt Jarasinski and Hermann Schridde—won the team award with 125 points to 72 for the U.S. Though gratified by this and individual awards, the Germans were not happy. They had missed winning the "big" classes—the Nations Cup and the International Stake. Desperately short of stock as an equine virus took its toll, the Germans, who had seemed invincible from the start, began faulting. The U.S. won three of the 11 events, all toward the week's end, as Frank Chapot captured the Good Will Challenge Trophy with a thrilling speed ride on Manon and Bill Steinkraus won the International Stake with Sinjon. Steinkraus also saved the day in the Nations Cup by turning in three clean rounds to break a tie with Canada, as Tommy Gayford and Blue Beau went without a blue ribbon for the first time in six years. Beau set a Garden record last year by clearing a 7-foot 1-inch stone wall. "I took the heart out of that old horse at that wall," said Gayford. "He's just not going to go that high again."