Bob Bell's Classic Company is among America's premier equestrian competition management organizations. Among the shows he has organized are the Gulf Coast Winter Series, the Atlanta Series, and the highly popular Biltmore event in North Carolina at the Vanderbilt estate. He also served 14 years in management capacities at the Washington International.
Despite his busy schedule, we managed to catch up to Bob just before he was off to run another show.
Question - Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down for an interview with the readers of EquiSearch. Can you fill us in on the new schedule and facilities for the National Horse Shows?
It's going to be a very exciting fall with two new shows. The Metropolitan Horse Show in New York is going to be at Pier 94, only 5 blocks from Time Square. Lots of new classes for the Nationals and new formats.
Question - What is the Piers complex like in New York? How many stalls will there be there? How big will the schooling area be?
Pier 94 is a VERY large clear span building. We will be able to fit 325 stalls without a problem. The schooling area is 150 x 75 - that's BIG for indoors. The show ring is 270 x 85.
Question - Tell us a bit about the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas where the National Indoor Championships will be held? How far will the horse show be from the famous Las Vegas main street with all the casinos?
The Orleans is state of the art and brand-new! The show is just a few miles from the strip. The view from the Orleans will be second to none at night. When you are on the strip... you can't see the strip. But from the Orleans Arena you can see the entire thing.
Question - Why was it decided to have three National Horse Shows this year?
Why Not? The Vision statement for the National Horse Show Association of America (NHSAA) is to promote the sport. What better way then to offer more shows. The Maclay needed to be back in NY City. It's tradition and this is a very traditional sport. The exhibitors on the west coast do not have access to NY City or Palm Beach simply because of logistics. So adding a show in Las Vegas will give them a showing opportunity. The show in Palm Beach will again offer the BIG prize money and let's face it, Palm Beach is Palm Beach.
Question - What sort of classes will there be in New York? We've heard that Pony Jumpers will debut there.
New York will offer the full array of AA Rated Classes. Green, Green Conformation, Regular, Regular Conformation, A/O, Junior Hunters, plus Ladies Side Saddle, Pony Hunters, Children's and Adult Hunters along with Pony Jumpers in a great new format along with Junior/Amateur Owner Jumpers. Both the Pony Jumpers and Junior/Amateur Owner Jumpers will compete in a modified World Cup format over three days. It's going to be very exciting. New York will also offer the Adult Amateur Equitation Championship as well as the ASPCA National Horsemanship Championship.
Question - Along with hunters and jumpers in Las Vegas, there will also be Arabians, Morgans, and Western Pleasure classes. How did this come about?
The National for years has been limited in time and space at Madison Square Garden, the show at Pier 94 will be limited in stabling to 325. In Las Vegas, the stabling will consist of about 700 stalls. Without stall restraint, and with a second ring, we will have more time for additional classes and disciplines.
Question - Tell us a little bit about the shows you're worked on in the past few years.
My company, The Classic Company produces about 24 AA shows a year all over the south. We produce all the shows in Gulfport, Mississippi during the winter months, all of the hunter jumper shows in Conyers, Georgia at the 1996 Equestrian Olympic venue, and our flagship show, the Biltmore Estate Summer Classic along with several smaller shows in Charleston, South Carolina. Biltmore this year will top 1400 stalls and is built on a grass field without even electric. Everything is erected for the show behind the Vanderbilt Mansion.
Question - How will managing the Metropolitan National Horse Show and the National Horse Show Indoor Championships differ from your other managing jobs?
The shows will be smaller, just kidding. They are the NATIONALS. The dream of every person in the show ring week after week, year after year, it to win at the Nationals. These shows, even though they are new, are the Nationals. I plan to offer everything I can to make the shows special to the owners, friendly to our horses, and make them something to strive for year-round for the competitors.
Question - Did you ever attend the old National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York? Do you have any special memories of the shows there?
I was lucky enough to attend about 9 of the shows at The Garden plus the Meadowlands. The shows were very exciting and one of my claims to fame is I did ride at Madison Square Garden... it was 4 am,, along with 150 other horses, but I am sure it was my walking in both directions that helped Danny Robershaw win later that morning on Arc de Triumph in the Regular Working. (JUST KIDDING)
Question - How will the Metropolitan National Horse Show differ from the old shows at Madison Square Garden?
I really hate to compare but since that is the question... the atmosphere will be different. The layout for Pier 94 will lend itself for everyone to feel part of the show. Everything can be seen. The stalls, the schooling area and the ring are all visible from most of the building.
Question - What special features or events do you have planned for each show? Will there be a dressage exhibition in New York?
Dressage will have a very special part of New York this year. The final plans are being made as we speak.
Question - Do you have horses yourself? If so, what do you have?
I still have horses, I have a hunt horse, which because of my schedule has had some time off, and I have two young prospects that include a Voltaire baby. In the past I have dabbled in steeplechase horses and hunter- jumper prospects.
Question - How did you become involved in the horse industry?
In the beginning 25 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Kent, parents of Grand Prix rider Laura Kraut, asked if I would help them in the horse show office because of my computer knowledge... I became involved with show management because many of the shows in the southeast were so bad 10 years ago. I knew I couldn't do worse and I started the Charleston Summer Classic. I was in hopes of getting 125 horses to come to the beach and show over two weeks. Well, we had 450 the first year and 750 each year after that. This show was very popular and I was asked to manage other shows...and here we are at the Nationals.
Question - Anything you would like to add?
Needless to say I am very excited and honored to be involved with the forming of two new important horse shows. I have found that working with the board and the executives of the NHSAA that they are very open to new ideas. If any of your readers have comments or suggestions, I am always happy to read them and pass them on.