With 79 years of practice behind it, the National Horse Show, opening this week in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, has developed into one of America's grandest pageants of sport. Sprinkled through a tuxedoed, gowned and jeweled first-night audience are the military uniforms of countries that have sent their teams, and under many a top hat is a foreign delegate to the United Nations. Behind the color and ceremony, however, there are tense preparations for championship competition. At left: before the horses go out into the ring an attendant works off his nervousness by fluffing out an already flowing tail. The riders at right seek last-minute counsel or pace their mounts to calm them. All hope this final attention to detail will insure a flawless showing—and a blue ribbon. On the following pages are scenes of two of the show's top events.
The harness horses and ponies, disdainfully kicking dirt into the laps of their aproned drivers, are all precision and elegance as they circle for the approval of judge and spectator. The soft glow of the harness, the glitter of viceroy or buggy, the burnished coats and the well-groomed drivers combine to make a spectacle of smartness peculiar to horse shows. Even when lined up, with overchecks dropped and headed by a groom (above), the ponies awaiting judges' inspection show the regal pride of an ancient breed.
From the box seats it looks easy. But clearing a fence demands of the rider a sure, delicate touch and balance. And the horse, handsome or homely when still, becomes an arresting sight in a moment of power.