"And look what happened!" he continued in exasperation. "The three Mexican riders on the Prix des Nations team who were sent to the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932—well, two of them were out at the first fence and the third went out at the second! The whole world was laughing at Mexico! I don't care where you send your men to learn, but they must all learn one single set of principles, one doctrine, even if it comes from China!" He waved his fist in eloquent determination.
The door burst open and a Weimaraner ran in, energetically wagging its rear end. "This is Henry," the general explained. "He was given to me by a friend in Harrisburg. Si�ntese!" he ordered. Henry continued panting happily with his head on the general's knee. "Well," Mariles went on, "in 1936, when General Avila Camacho was Undersecretary of War, he sent me along to Berlin as an Olympic observer. I decided that a composite of the various styles, based mainly on the Polish and German, would be best suited to Mexico. General Camacho thought I was right. Many others thought I was crazy. But Camacho never doubted me, and when in 1940 he became President, he ordered me, yes, ordered me put in charge of Mexican riding."
By that time Mariles was already making a name for himself in the international horse-show world. His first appearance in New York, in 1939, for example, turned out to be a moment with dramatic consequences not only for international riding but for Mariles himself. "I was only a captain in the cavalry then," he recalled, "and I had been working with a little horse named Resorte. He was almost a pony, so small"—he indicated the height with his hands—"and he was so scrubby-looking that my commanding officer refused to let me bring him to New York. He was afraid it would be bad for Mexican prestige. As an army officer, I had to follow his orders; as a horseman, I thought differently. I smuggled Resorte onto the train along with the other horses.
"When I got to New York, there was a telegram for me from my commander. He was very angry; he warned me that I would answer to him for my disobedience when I returned. For me, this New York jumping was a matter of win or be court-martialed." A happy grin spread slowly over the general's face as he savored once more the tension of that ride. "The first event in my New York horse show was the Bowman Cup. There were 46 horses entered; 43 competed. Resorte was the only one to make the course without a fault. The next day I had another telegram from my commander. This time he congratulated me.
"I rode Resorte for many years," the general went on. "A story grew up about how I found this horse, a sort of legend—how he came out of the herd one day and put his head against my cheek." He smiled. "Very nice, and I probably told it once myself. But to tell the truth, he did come out of the herd, but not to kiss me. He came because I got so mad at his bad behavior that I threw a rock at him. I hit him, too—and he jumped right over the corral fence. That fence was 6 feet high, and I knew I had a jumper.
"Resorte died just a few months ago—he was 31 years old. He was a great horse." The door opened and Alicia Mariles, the general's vivacious, dark-haired wife, came in with a pre-lunch-eon cocktail. A horsemanship teacher, too, she was still in her riding clothes. He waved a greeting to her. "I will tell you something," he went on, inspired by a sudden idea. "A good horse is more difficult to find than a good wife! I am a fortunate man. I have had both"—he smiled at Mrs. Mariles—"and besides little Resorte I have had Arete, who had only one eye, and now Chihuahua II. So many riders, you know, never get to ride even one great horse. Not even one!" He waved a forefinger.
"Arete was killed jumping," he continued. "But Chihuahua II—he is still young, and he is the best of all. You know why he is so good? It is because he is a coward. He hates to hurt himself. He took 67 fences at Harrisburg last year before he touched one!"
It was time for lunch now, a fact which was announced by the lively entry of the general's three daughters, Vicky, aged 15, Alicia, the 11-year-old who is nicknamed La Gorda (The Plump One), and Patty, 7 (their 17-year-old brother, Humberto, was away at military school). The general followed them into the dining room. There was an expectant wait as he strode to the head of the table and took his seat. With that, activity commenced.
Henry the Weimaraner, banned from the room by Patty, pushed the door open tentatively, spied his master and bounded to the safety of his side. Patty, with a scolding look at Henry, hurried up to fill the general's glass with milk. The general fed Henry a banana. "I'm not eating much," he explained. "I never do before I ride." He bit on a tortilla. "The Mexicans," he went on, "are almost the only ones of the international teams who do not eat before they ride." La Gorda and Vicky left their places to fetch from the sideboard some scale-model obstacles they planned to use as a centerpiece for the forthcoming Equestrian Ball. The general studied them critically, then announced his approval. "The Americans," he picked up his thought again, "get indigestion for a different reason." A maid appeared with a tray which was set down in the center of the table. The general fed Henry a tortilla. "They have read so much," he went on, "about so many different styles that they cannot digest it all." Patty brought her father a platter of poached eggs. He kissed her on the cheek. Henry put a paw on the table and was roundly denounced for his bad manners. Conversation flew. The general mopped up his eggs with another tortilla. "Down, Henry!" he shouted. Outside, sudden thunder rolled.
"Good Lord!" Mrs. Mariles gasped. "What is going to happen to the ceilings? We have no roof...." The general calmly continued his dissertation on the American situation. "In no other country," he said, "are there so many fine horses—the best in the world—but there is no central school—everyone is so busy trying to make money that they will not spare the time and effort to train the horses and riders...." Thunder crashed again, followed by the snare-drum tattoo of a downpour. A servant rushed by, carrying a pail and mop. "It is raining into the bathroom!" she cried. Mrs. Mariles exclaimed in despair and, pushing back from the table, issued rapid commands. The general and the children scurried about the room snatching trophies from the walls. Plink, plonk! The drops were already falling in the dining room. Plink, poing, ping! They fell into the silver cups and bowls. The general stared in exasperation at the widening cracks in the ceiling. There was a crash of thunder, then a crash of plaster as a spot gave way. Lunch was over.