EXCLUSIVE: The National Horse Show

The 2002 National Horse Show is still headed for Wellington, Florida, but it wants to run its equitation classes elsewhere in response to trainer requests.
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The 2002 National Horse Show is still headed for Wellington, Florida, but it wants to run its equitation classes elsewhere in response to trainer requests.

Show jumping will return this year to the big grand prix field at
the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Fla., when it hosts the
bulk of the 2002 National Horse Show. ? Nancy Jaffer

June 12, 2002 -- Like all Gaul, it appears the 2002 National Horse Show will be divided into three parts. Remember those high school Latin lessons?

Anyway, plans call for holding the bulk of the show in Wellington, Fla., over Thanksgiving weekend as National Chairman Gene Mische envisioned originally.

Meanwhile, the Washington International Horse Show board today approved
holding the Maclay hunt seat championship at that show. It was no surprise,
since Washington International President Sheila Johnson -- who is also on
the National board -- asked Gene some time ago if Washington could hold the
Maclay.

The Good Hands, the National's saddle seat championship, would go to the Pennsylvania National, if that board approves.

Trainers had said that getting all the Maclay qualifiers to Florida on Thanksgiving weekend at short notice (since people wouldn't know whether they qualified until after the regional ride-offs) could be both costly and difficult.

And by the way, the regionals are still going to run, Gene told me. The northeast regional, traditionally held at the Port Jervis, N.Y., show will head elsewhere, though, since that show isn't happening this year. Gene speculated those regionals could be at the Gold Cup in Devon, Pa., or at the Old Salem show in North Salem, N.Y.
Gene listened to the trainers in coming up with this plan for the Maclay.

"I think it works well for everybody," said Gene, who was influenced by the points they raised in a meeting at Devon last month. "When Washington offered to host the Maclay, we really thought it was a very good solution."

The Good Hands would fit in well at the Penn National because unlike the other fall circuit shows, it has saddlebred divisions.

Equitation-wise, Gene said, the Florida leg of the National will hold a championship for the top four finishers in each of the Maclay, USA Eq Medal, U.S. Equestrian Team Talent Search and Washington International equitation championship.

In addition to the new equitation championship, the Florida National will host hunters and jumpers, in greater numbers and more divisions than could be squeezed into Madison Square Garden, the show's former home. But Wellington shouldn't get too used to hosting the National. The current plan is just a stop gap for this fall, according to National Horse Show Secretary-Treasurer John Walker III.

"It's pretty much a done deal at this point," John said of the 2002 show, but then mentioned things could look quite different in 2003.

"We're still very high on the Las Vegas idea," he continued, referring to an unsuccessful effort this year to move the show west.

"It depends on what dates are available out there for us," he added, noting the show is hoping for something during the first two weeks in November, close to its traditional dates.

When a 2002 show in Vegas was still a possibility, it was being considered as a multi-breed affair, very heavy on the "show" part of things with little resemblance to what the National came to be at the end of its run in the Garden.

"I think we've got to reinvent the wheel here," John said. "If we're going to be a national event, then we have to make it such."