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Lorraine Jackson

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Olympic Eventing History in Review: 1912 Stockholm, Part 2

Olympic eventing has shape-shifted quite dramatically over the years, with early editions being nearly unrecognizable side-by-side with the modern sport. As we approach this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, which is adopting yet another format, we’ll be taking a look back at its evolution over the past century.

We kicked the series off with the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, the first year an eventing-type competition was first introduced. After sharing an overview of the format and competition results earlier this week, today we’re introducing you to very first Team USA eventing Olympic medalists, who won team bronze that same year. 

Photo via IOC Report / Public Domain.

It didn’t take many tries for the Americans to make the Olympic podium in the equestrian disciplines. While we unsuccessfully campaigned a single rider in 1900 in a smattering of now unrecognizable contests (and no equestrian events were included in 1904 or 1908), the military boys brought home the gravy in 1912.

Swedish Poster Advertising Olympic Eventing. IOC Report / Public Domain

Swedish Poster Advertising Olympic Eventing. IOC Report / Public Domain.

The U.S. eventing team (known then simply as “Military Riding”) was comprised of Lieutenant Colonel Ephraim Foster Graham, Lieutenant John Carter Montgomery,Lieutenant Ben Lear and Captain Guy Henry, one of the great cavalry reformers of the 20th century. Our first bronze medalist team was not just a smattering of athletic heroes, but military men of the highest order.

Lt. Colonel Ephraim F. Graham was a 1903 graduate of West Point, as was his future teammate John Montgomery, and the legendary General Douglas MacArthur. Graham was an officer of the U.S. Army’s 10th Cavalry Regiment, known as the Buffalo Riders.

The Regiment was a segregated cavalry, in other words, the regiment was composed entirely of African American soldiers, except for officers. It had extraordinary challenges, but Graham deeply respected his men, and was known for making an effort to keep his regiment, fit, sharp and intimidating in the battle. He remained in the Army for his entire career.

Colonel John Montgomery served with the 7th Cavalry division in various locations, including the Philippines, and was an instructor at the Mounted Police School in the two years prior to the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. After his bronze medal winning ride, he would go on to serve as Inspector General of the 2nd Division in World War I, and be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He remained in Germany after the war ended as Chief of Staff of American Forces up until 1920, and retired from military life in 1930.

John Carter Montgomery. Courtesy of UMWblogs and West Point Library. Public Domain

John Carter Montgomery. Courtesy of UMWblogs and West Point Library. Public Domain

General of the Army Ben Lear was already a veteran soldier when he entered the 1912 eventing contest, and he would go on to be the most decorated and revered of the United State’s first medal winning team. After first serving in the bottom ranks in the Spanish American War, he was quickly promoted through the ranks in Philippine-American War and WWI.

In WWII, his vast experiences made him a valuable resource to the army, and as lieutenant general he become responsible for the training styles and processes for innumerable soldiers entering combat. He was known to be extremely strict, and when he punished a convoy of soldiers who cat-called at a group of ladies in his presence, he made them march 15 miles back to their post in 97 degree heat, earning him the derogatory nickname “Yoo-Hoo.” All told, this giant of a man served with distinction in FIVE wars.

General Ben Lear. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

But as far as horses go, one might say that Major General Guy Henry was not only one of the greatest equestrian Olympians, a great military hero, and a man known to be tough as nails, but also one of the most influential horsemen of the 20th century. Though he had already graduated from West Point, served in battle, and graduated from the U.S. Army’s Cavalry school, Henry had even greater ambitions for the future of the U.S. Army’s horse program.

He received permission to attend and graduate from France’s Cavalry School at Saumur in 1907. He returned with invaluable knowledge about better conditioning, more natural and less violent training methods, and was solely responsible for the U.S. Army abandoning more severe bits in exchange for snaffles and double bridles.

In addition to competing, Henry was also the organizer and trainer of the 1912 team and — are you ready for this? — competed his horse Chiswell not only in eventing (which as we previously mentioned, included more than 30 miles of endurance in that era) but also individual show jumping and dressage. In addition to his eventing bronze, he placed 4th in show jumping and 11th in dressage.

Henry would go on to serve as Chef d’equipe, President of the FEI, and Chief of the Cavalry over the next 30 years, continually working to improve horsemanship and quality of riding in the United States competitive and military programs.

Guy Vernor Henry Jr. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In Stockholm, the four officers performed admirably in the grueling Military event, with all completing a test that was certainly intended to weed out the weak. Each completed the distance ride in less than four hours, each went clean in steeplechase and cross country (save a few time faults in the latter) and all earned very solid “prize riding” (dressage) scores that bested much of the European contingency.

While none of the American officers went clean in “prize jumping,” neither did their fellow competitors, and the whole board was shaken up significantly; most notably, it dropped France out of contention, and propelled Sweden into the lead, making them champions on their home turf. Mere fractions separated the individual leaders, and both Lear and Montgomery were within a few fractions of the individual podium.

It was nonetheless a triumphant performance by the Americans at a significant overseas event, and it set the tone for North America’s scrappy and dedicated program for years to come.

As a fascinating side note, Sweden’s equestrian powerhouse would continue to play a dominating role in eventing for the next 60 years before experiencing a terrible drought from 1972 until just the past games in London in 2012, when Sara Algotsson Ostholt and her mare Wega won the individual silver medal, and the Swedish Team missed the podium by a single rail.

America had set its precedent at illustrious overseas competition, but World War I was going to leave the world map, the Olympic Games, and the sport of eventing in excruciating limbo. Stay tuned for the next edition of ‘Olympic Eventing History in Review” and in the meantime…

Go Eventing.

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Horses in History: Mr. President, Tear Down These Stables!

It’s Presidents Day! Pop quiz: Whose idea was it to replace the White House stables with a four-car garage? From the archives of Horse Nation‘s “Horses in History” series, Lorraine Jackson explores a bit of horsey presidential history.

President William Howard Taft on horseback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

I couldn’t help but wonder while writing about Britain’s Royal Mews whatever became of good ole’ USA’s First Horses and presidential stables. Were the horses elected out of office? Run out of town by the horseless carriage? Impeached after a treasonous tumble? Well, more or less, all of the above turned out to be true.

According to official White House history, the presidential stables were, throughout its many incarnations, always quite simple and modest in design. The first was built in Georgian brick in 1800, the second in 1806, rebuilt again after the war of 1812 saw their complete annihilation, a fourth time after they burned down accidentally in 1864, rebuilt once more when the previous was torn down to make way for the War and Navy Building (now the Executive Office Building) and finally, permanently demolished in 1911. It would seem the only person who had a more unlucky stay at the White House than the horses was William Henry Harrison, who only made it a grand 32 days in office as President.

The final incarnation of the White House Stables in 1873. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Gander a guess at which U.S. President did the White House Stables in for good? It was in fact William Howard Taft, the giant of a man and 27th president of the United States. While it would seem that W.H.T. had it out for horses, you might say that they had it out for him too. At the age of nine, the family horse went running off with the carriage, William in tow, and the ordeal ended with him sporting a skull fracture and a terrible cut to the head. And so began an infamous relationship.

Taft by carriage. Photo via Library of Congress.

In 1909, President Taft  took a long tour of the American West, and as part of the visit was slated to ride down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on horseback. His aides repeatedly begged him not to, on the basis of his “hearty constitution” (at this point in his life Mr. President weighed a mighty 345-360 pounds) noting that the trail would require multiple mounts and dismounts along a narrow trail. Up until the morning of, Taft insisted he’d be going, but after looking down the steep edge of the canyon, Taft paled to a ghostly white and thought the better of it, supremely disappointed.

He was thwarted yet again on the tour when visiting Yosemite Forest, when the assigned horse “appeared to be unequal to the President’s bulk, so Taft was advised to walk” and a soaking perspired President arrived at the site without a change of clothes for a day of meetings.

Hearty Taft in Yosemite–poor man. Photo via Library of Congress.

In fact, the President’s equestrian jaunts were generally frowned upon by staff, as demonstrated by the following exchange. After a hack on the White House property, President Taft sent a telegram to Secretary of War Elihu Root stating in regards to his health “Took long horseback ride today; feeling fine.” To which Mr. Secretary responded, “How is the horse?”

Not all rides went so smoothly on the White House grounds, and President Taft was the last president ever to be thrown on the property. Only weeks later, he was riding again and took a bug to the eye which laid him out for several days. (That must have been some bug!)

In 1911, Taft finally did away with the stables and the horses, as well as the White House’s last personal milk cow. It is not said what became of the president’s horses, but it seems Taft’s transportation back luck voodoo didn’t end by replacing ponies with a four-car garage and a Model M. After switching to cars, he was involved in a number of traffic accidents, including having his “horseless carriage” collide with a New York City street car and being dragged eight blocks, among other mishaps.

Taft traveling nominally safer by car.

Horses have made a few re-appearances at the White House since then for special occasions, but Taft was the end of the practical use of horses at America’s presidential seat.

Go riding.

Originally published April 16, 2012.

Best of JN: Due to USEF Handling Error, Glefke and Farmer Will Return to Show Ring

Kelley Farmer. Screenshot via YouTube.

Almost a year to the day since the explosive announcement that Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer were being suspended from the USEF, our sport’s governing body announced that they acknowledge their mishandling of the blood samples, and all suspensions and fines will be lifted, and the trainer and rider now have full standing in the sport once again.

Here is the full statement from US Equestrian:


USEF announced today that it has resolved the litigation with Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke for their alleged July 2016 GABA violation. USEF is voiding the proceeding from the outset and vacating all penalties and suspensions, thereby restoring Ms. Farmer and Mr. Glefke to active membership effective July 1, 2017. They are free to enjoy all privileges of membership including participation in competition.

“The USEF must always treat its members fairly,” said Murray S. Kessler, President of the USEF. Kessler continued, “Late in the arbitration discovery process, the legal teams for USEF and Ms. Farmer and Mr. Glefke learned about errors in the laboratory’s handling of the blood sample in this case, that the USEF hearing committee was unaware of. Simply said, these errors were serious enough that we no longer can rely on the validity of the test and therefore, regret any negative impact that this had on Ms. Farmer and Mr. Glefke. All our members must be treated fairly. Accordingly, we are setting aside the suspensions as the USEF’s procedural integrity must be pristine in order to fairly protect our competitors. I have ordered a thorough compliance audit of the laboratory to ensure that what occurred in this case never happens again and that the proper procedures and checks are in place to be certain of that. I can assure our membership that any necessary corrective action will be taken.” 

Importantly, USEF continues to be committed to aggressively investigating all reported drugs and medications violations as well as enforcing the rules. Maintaining a fair and level playing field and ensuring the welfare of our horses remains a top priority for USEF.”


Ultimately, this final settlement ensures that not only will there be no consequences for the prohibited substance found in the horse’s system, but also that there will be little recourse for US Equestrian’s failure to effectively test and prosecute cheaters. Short of USEF members collectively making a massive stink, it is unlikely that testing procedures will change, and even less likely that people gaming the system will be held accountable.

You can read all our coverage of this case below. As we said back in August, we sincerely hope that US Equestrian will make good on the promise someday to prioritize clean sport and enforcement, and that genuinely good horsemen in the sport will find a way to rise to the top and be the heroes that the hunter world so desperately needs.

Arbitrator Lifts Suspensions of Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke – Jan 5, 2018

Editorial: Pres. Kessler, Please Put Our Money to Good Use – August 3, 2017

US Olympic Committee Sides with USEF, Glefke and Farmer Likely Exhaust Options – August 2, 2017

BREAKING: LARRY GLEFKE AND KELLEY FARMER PENALIZED FOR DOPING VIOLATIONS BY THE USEF HEARING COMMITTEE – June 30, 2017

THE SAD AND BIZARRE DEFENSE BY KELLEY FARMER AND LARRY GLEFKE – June 9, 2017

USEF Agrees to Grant Farmer/Glefke Rehearing Request on Doping Case – February 23, 2017

KELLEY FARMER AND LARRY GLEFKE RELEASE STATEMENT ON USEF SUSPENSION – January 12, 2017

‘Unexpected’ Tests Positive for GABA, Suspensions and Fines for Kelley Farmer and Larry Glefke – January 11, 2017

Thursday Video: This Little Boy Refusing to Get Off His Pony is All of Us

Adulting is the absolute stink of all stinkages. Today alone, I’ve had to cancel a stolen credit card, take my car to the shop, and spend $50 at the post office mailing things. That’s real life.

In child life, the saddest thing you will do is be forced to get off your pony. But as all of us know, sometimes that’s the cruelest responsibility of all.

Perhaps no one single human better embodies this emotion than our little friend Devon, who — when his mother politely informs him that it’s time to get off his white wonder pony, Roxy — has a meltdown on the outside that we’ve all had on the inside.

So, we were a little upset to have to put our pony away…

Posted by Adrienne Smyrl on Sunday, December 17, 2017

Favorite excerpts from this tearful negotiation include:

“I don’t want Roxy to go away.”
“But she’ll just be right in the pasture.”
“NO, (followed by incoherent wailing)”
“Well, what else do you want her to do?”
“I want her to play with me!”
“But you’ve already been riding her for an hour.”
“I don’t want her to go awayyyyyyy….”

Devon, you are all of us. We applaud your willingness to say what we’re all thinking when it’s time to get off our unicorns.

Thanks to Gemini Farm for sharing this hilarious, wonderful clip with us, and Go Riding!

As seen on Horse Nation!

 

EN’s 12 Days of Christmas: Horseware Outfits for Human, Horse and Dog

Ladies and gents, Christmas is closing in, and with our proximity to the arrival of Old St. Nick, EN’s 12 Days of Christmas is going to get increasingly more jolly. Wait until you see what’s coming for you today!

We can always count on Horseware to get us into the holiday spirit. This is the company whose signature weatherproof, rip-proof, downright dark magic-infused blanket is green and red, after all! Did you catch their new Christmas commercial? Featuring top riders, ponies with impressive tree decorating skills, one very adorable little kid, and some magical snowglobe action, it’s a holiday must-watch.

In addition to the fabulous advent calendar giveaway they’re running on their own Facebook Page, they’re spreading the love to Eventing Nation, too. Today — and today only — you can enter to win a seriously amazing prize: A deluxe outerwear set for human, horse, and hound!

This prize pack will include a select Horseware winter jacket, turnout blanket, and dog blanket to keep everyone you love warm and toasty through the rest of this winter and many winters to come (except for your cat, who will just have to stay curled up in your duvet for 21 hours a day like always).

Enter below for your chance to win a genuinely epic trio of Horseware Goodies! The contest closes at midnight tonight: