While we marvel at the efforts of today’s top riders, spare a thought for the colossal exploits of yesteryear’s stars with the challenges of a more experimental phase of equestrianism, says Pippa Cuckson
THE Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius – “faster, higher, stronger” – certainly applied to the early days of organised equestrianism.
One of the first recorded showjumping courses was at Madison Square Gardens in 1892, six fences of 1.75m to 1.83m (5ft 9in–6ft). The New York Times reported that one faller “had a narrow escape from bad injury, as he landed on the top of his head, and was spun about like a top, his foot caught in the stirrup”.
Sixty years later in New York, post-war icon Pat Smythe tackled similar rails – now thoughtfully cushioned by bamboo wrapping! For those brought up in the era of accuracy fences and nuanced distances, the archives leave you gasping, “Did they seriously jump that?”
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