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REBEL ON HORSEBACK
Alice Higgins
October 28, 1957
Humberto Mariles, the Mexican general who refuses to fade away, is back in the U.S. again to prove—by winning—that his equestrian principles are sound as well as sensational
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October 28, 1957

Rebel On Horseback

Humberto Mariles, the Mexican general who refuses to fade away, is back in the U.S. again to prove—by winning—that his equestrian principles are sound as well as sensational

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"See," Mariles continued, leaning forward earnestly, "I headed for the center of that obstacle. It looks bad, but if you aimed there it wasn't. Many riders did not realize that. Now this next one—it is harder than it looks—parallel bars always are. Now here comes the last one." It was a brick wall, 6 feet high. Arete skimmed over. There was a general expulsion of breath. The film's remaining footage was devoted to the pomp and circumstance that come with a great triumph.

Mariles was equally eager to show a film in which he was not the hero, but the reel taken at Helsinki was run in an atmosphere of anticlimax. "Now there goes Llewellyn," explained the general, completely absorbed. "He is England's best rider. He won. I do not care for his style, however." He watched several more round the course. "Now here is Pat Smythe—she is very, very good. I prefer the way she rides; in fact, she is among the world's best 10 riders." A Russian rider appeared. "See, they have improved, but they still have a long way to go.... Now, here I am on Petrolero. Watch!" he announced objectively. "In a few seconds you will see where I lost the Olympics."

Petrolero was obviously making a good round. He leaped the penultimate obstacle, rounded a turn—and slipped. Mariles slowed the film. "See! It was the easiest fence on the course but I couldn't get him back in stride." In slow motion, after the horse had landed, the bar comes tumbling down. The family sighed.

But the general, keeping the film in slow motion, was already absorbed in the next horse. "Now look," he continued. "Watch the horses when they jump. See how they change stride and get both hind feet on the ground to make the leap. I find that in the States many riders—even experienced horsemen—do not know this. They think a jump is just a part of the gallop stride. Now see how they land—always one foot only on the ground first. Then a split second later the other foot lands. That is why a rider must be balanced and ready to help a horse here."

The film flickered to an end and Alicia Mariles snapped on the lights. "It is enough for tonight, I think," she said. "We have many more—Spain, Argentina, France, the U.S., the Pan-American Games. We learn so much from these." Mariles stretched and patted Vicky on the head. "Yes," he agreed, "soon Vicky will be ready—I have written Prince Bernhard, the president of the F�d�ration Equestre Internationale, and have asked permission for Vicky to compete before she is 18. He has given his permission, and next year, with good luck and if she is riding well, she might represent Mexico with the team in the Garden. Then I will retire and she must try to better my record."

He rose slowly from his chair and began packing up the projector, screen and reels. "You will see," he said. "I know that this year we are facing the toughest competition we have had since the 1952 Olympics. But we may even have some surprises this year. Maybe we don't always win, but we never disgrace the country. Once you are among the top 10, winning and losing are part of the breaks of the game. But when they disbanded the team," he went on, his voice rising in anger, "that was not part of the game!" He pounded one fist into another. "And then we raised the money ourselves to send a team to the Olympics and they would not let us go! They made us give it back." A flash of his former anger returned. "People said I should go to the government and apologize and they would let me form my old team again. Apologize? Why should I bow? If I am going to be kicked in the tail," said General Humberto Mariles with a growl, "it will be when I am standing up straight, not when I am bending over!"

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