The national horse show in New York's Madison Square Garden produced a not-unexpected victory-last week by the Mexican team in the international jumping class, but the classic exploits of General Mariles and his colleagues were in some ways quite eclipsed by the acrobatics of an unorthodox 22-year-old named Al Fiore. Hurling himself right out of the saddle at each obstacle, this exciting young professional allowed the horse to jump almost without his weight and always, by some miracle, managed to meet his mount on the other side of the jump, even at the risk of coming down—as he has been known to do—with both feet on the same side of the horse. Fiore's attractive wife Gloria, a riding instructor, is well aware of the chances her husband takes and accepts them calmly. "He's got just as much heart as the horses he rides," she says, "and besides, Al has always been athletic. Sometimes after shows riders will get together and see which one can jump the highest without a horse, and Al usually wins."
On Mr. and Mrs. Bernie Mann's Riviera Wonder, a 4-year-old gray gelding and full brother to Miss Budweiser of the former U.S. Equestrian Team, Fiore bounced and flew to win two of the three touch and out classes, the open jumper class, the Professional Horsemen's Association class and the show's champion jumper award. These feats are all the more remarkable in that his mount just started competing in the jumper division in August, and then was still in the green jumper classes.
Another Mann horse, Riviera Mann, which was ridden throughout the year by Fiore against some 2,000 jumpers, was second in the annual Professional Horsemen's citation to Bedford, the sensational black champion ridden by Dave Kelly in place of the injured Joe Green. Still a third mount from the Mann stable, Riviera Marina, named after a yacht basin, placed well in the tough jumper classes throughout the show. Young Fiore's methods may be hard on both horse and rider but, all in all, it was a great eight days and nights for him and the Mann family.
Less noticed but certainly notable was the beautiful and quiet riding done by 32-year-old Hungarian Gabor Foltenyi on the jumpers owned by Miss Eleonora Sears. Her 9-year-old bay gelding Diamant captured one of the touch and out events, the jumper stake and the reserve championship of the show in its division. Against the strong competition of some 40 jumpers, Foltenyi also placed Miss Sears's other jumper, Ksar d'Esprit, in four classes.
A former pupil (when both were in the Hungarian Cavalry) of Bertalan de Nemethy, coach of the present U.S. Equestrian Team, Foltenyi schools both the hunters and jumpers of the Sears stable in semidressage to obtain suppleness and obedience. "We trust each other, so we both can go quietly into the ring with confidence," he says. "I do not believe that I am prejudiced, but I think these are the two greatest jumping horses in the world. One day Diamant took 87 obstacles. A horse must be honest to do that."
LOVER ON HORSEBACK
Foltenyi, incidentally, has sentimental as well as equestrian ties to Madison Square Garden. Two years ago Julius Nadasy, a former member of the Hungarian Olympic Three Day Team, came to watch the show, bringing his sister. Introductions were made, a romance blossomed, and shortly after Gabor Foltenyi and Erzsebet Nadasy were married.
Miss Sears, an accomplished horsewoman herself, has a knack for spotting top riders, and this year she again had talented Joan Walsh aboard her hunters. Joan, daughter of Mickey Walsh, the country's top steeplechase trainer, has a personal preference for Miss Sears's Reno, but in the past has done her best on Sidonia. On Reno she won the working hunter stake this year, as she did in 1953 on Sidonia. She also did well on Pike's Peak, winning the conformation hunter stake; this is probably the first time at the Garden that the same owner and rider have won both of these events, and as is only natural, both Owner Sears and Rider Walsh are more than pleased.
The exhilaration that comes only with a clean sweep of blues was reserved for Mrs. Lyle Cobb of Beaverton, Oregon. After a full-dress, three-hour make-up job by Elizabeth Arden, this tiny, 106-pound housewife threw an 80-pound silver-mounted saddle on her big palomino stallion Belvedere's Golden Glory (SI, Oct. 31) and went into the ring to win the new parade horse championship. She had already captured the palomino parade horse class and the parade horse class with amateur rider, and since she felt impelled after each win to make an excited' long-distance report to husband Lyle in Oregon, she kept the phone lines busy.
Horse shows generally are not known for their light moments but this year Madison Square Garden had some bonuses in this department. One came unexpectedly with the mounted Arabian native costume class, in which 12 horses entered the ring, the riders wearing everything from burnooses to sequin-studded leopard capes and harem veils. One lady cantered about wearing flowing robes and a stuffed bird, and a really eye-catching gentleman rider was draped in an ocher cloak and the falsest-looking waist-length black beard seen since the death of vaudeville. When a gallop was requested, this heavily bearded hero took off, hell-bent for Mecca, robes streaming back to reveal a pair of desert-style (U.S.) blue jeans. Urged on by an appreciative audience, he galloped at a speed reminiscent of Nashua, moving one spectator to shout, "Look under that beard and see if it's Eddie Arcaro!"
Another bonus, which was just as unexpected in its own way, was the easygoing, pleasant performance put on by Arthur Godfrey in his daily exhibitions of his trained Arabian, Goldie. Goldie's every move was explained in the familiar Godfrey accents over a portable microphone, a novelty which Goldie accepted calmly and the audience accepted with considerable enthusiasm. Long interested in dressage, Godfrey's studies of the art began in earnest last January when he became a pupil of Arthur Konyot, a veteran Hungarian trainer. He was fortunate in having the right horse on hand. Goldie, a willing pupil and a gift horse, had arrived as a 2-year-old, unannounced and totally unexpected. Godfrey was uncertain about accepting him at first but, as he now says: "When I saw that pretty head and those great big soft eyes—like a little dog's—I just had to keep him!"
The climax of each show, the colorful international division, this year had an extra touch of drama and tension. The injured but still brilliant Mexican team rode off with most of the honors, the hard-riding U.S. team coming a heartbreakingly close second. Canada, starting well by winning the Royce A. Drake trophy, was plagued by injuries. Douglas Hood's horse took a bad jump, jolting his rider so hard that he bit his lip and needed five stitches to close the resulting wound, and Major L. J. McGuinness was injured in a fall and unable to compete in the last day of the show. The Irish, riding well throughout, won the Good Will Challenge Trophy and were close seconds on several occasions.
The last class of the last night of the show found Mexico and the U.S. tied with equal numbers of blues. The event was a team competition, three members of each team each riding a different horse, the aggregate score to decide the winner. The Irish had two faultless riders and one with 12 faults. The Mexicans each had a knockdown on the last obstacle, also making a total of 12. The U.S. had three turns with no obstacles down, but 12½ faults because of one horse's refusals. Mexico's Lieut. Vi√±als made a faultless round despite the pressure of the jumpoff, General Mariles and Eva Valdes turned in good scores, and another very large silver trophy was headed to Mexico for the eighth time since 1946.