USHJA Debuts “A Retrospective of the National Horse Show” at the Wheeler Museum

November 1, 2011



Lexington, KY- On Monday, October 31st the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s Wheeler Museum unveiled a special exhibit honoring the 128 years of the National Horse Show’s contribution to equestrian sport and history.

Invited guests for the sneak peek were a virtual who’s who of the hunter jumper community, including Wilson Dennehy, who is strongly committed to preserving the history of our sport, “I first attended the National in 1952, 60 years ago this week- that’s the year that George Morris won the Maclay and Medal and I won the junior hunter division. He [George] said “who’s this guy from Chicago, I thought there were cowboys and Indians out there”- George and I have been good friends ever since. It’s a very special horse show”. Dennehy contributed several of the rare photographs and artifacts on display, one of which is his own red Hunt Coat worn for the 1955 Hunt Team at the National Horse Show and a copy of the February 1956 issue of Sports Illustrated which featured an article on the illustrious career of Dennehy. There is also a deep personal tie to the National for Dennehy, “In my hometown when I won all that stuff in November 1955 it got smeared all over the local paper and of course the piece in Sports Illustrated, well this girl I didn’t know very well called me up in January 1956 and said she had this girl who likes horses coming and that I was the only one she knew who does horses-she only knew that because of the papers and magazine, but I said oh yes, I’ll come to your dinner party. Guess who that was I met? My wife, Sandy. My romance began because of the National Horse Show and hasn’t stopped. This exhibit is full of wonderful memories and I’m very happy USHJA is sharing them with everyone.”

The exhibit has been carefully designed by Kristyn Kay, Director of the Wheeler Museum at USHJA, “I’ve always heard stories about the National and the Garden, but after working on this exhibit- I’ve almost felt like I was there! It’s been amazing to learn just how many of the most renowned riders and horses competed at the National. “ Kay is delighted with the response and looks forward to planning the next special event for the museum, “Ponies”, celebrating all things pony in the hunter jumper world, to open to the public in summer of 2012.

Among the artwork on display is a watercolor created by Paul Brown of Shannon Power winning the $1,000 Military Stake at the National Horse Show in 1932, on loan from Pat Carleton a longtime supporter of both USHJA and Chairman of the Museum Committee. The “High Jump Competition” was a crowd favorite. “This is the culmination of our very first effort as a museum committee, so it’s a special occasion for us but it’s also an exhibit for a very special horse show. The National Horse Show now has a home in Kentucky at the Horse Park and its first major corporate sponsor, so this is very significant for us, for the horse show, and we honor it with this exhibit.“ said Carleton.

Joining the festivities was the current President of the Alltech National Horse Show, Mason Phelps of Wellington, FL- “I really appreciate USHJA’s effort in recognizing us [the National].” Phelps added about this year’s event and its new home at the Kentucky Horse Park, “We are over joyed! First of all the Kentucky Horse Park- the heart of horse country- and the Alltech Arena, what more could we ask for.” When mentions of the glory days at Madison Square Garden come up Phelps is eager to share, “Madison Square Garden is an era gone by, now is a time of rebuilding. I feel like we’ve had a complete rebirth of the National Horse Show.” Looking around at the images of grandeur that is such a part of the National’s history, Phelps believes the new National will embrace the spirit of being as memorable as this exhibit has portrayed. “Everyone needs to visit the USHJA’s Wheeler Museum and walk through this exhibit at least once, to feel the history, then come to the National and see the future.” Phelps said.

The exhibit opens to the public on Wednesday, November 2nd and runs through December 23rd, 2011. For more information on this historic exhibit please contact Kristyn Kay at 859-225-6708 or kkay@ushja.org.

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