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Norfolk Hunt Club Norfolk Hunt Horse Show Receives Distinguished USEF Heritage Designation

The inside riding field at the show in 1962.

SUBMITTED BY GIL RODGERS, WITH D.A. HAYDEN; PHOTO BY PERMISSION OF RENNIE ROBERTS

THE NORFOLK HUNT HORSE SHOW (NHHS), now entering its 103rd year, has been selected by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) to receive the prestigious “Heritage Competition” designation. In doing so, the NHHS becomes one of 15 shows— out of 2,600 USEF competitions—to hold the coveted honor given to a Federation show. The designation of a USEF Heritage Competition is reserved for those that have been in existence for a quarter century or more, have promoted and grown equestrian sport, and have made a contribution to the community outside the gates of the horse show by achieving, maintaining, and promoting the equestrian ideals of sportsmanship and competition. The effort to obtain the “Heritage Competition” designation was spearheaded by Norfolk member Gil Rodgers. Norfolk members and supporters who provided rich historical information and contributed to crafting the submission to the USEF include: Lil Cabot Minot; Rennie Clark Roberts, Ex-Master of Foxhounds (MFH); Mary Crane, Ex-MFH; George Fiske; Wendy CollinsGutfarb, Ex-Associate MFH; David Lewis, Ex-MFH; George Lewis; Bob Macleod; Jay Mullen; Jim Powers; Sally Saltonstall Willis; James Gornall; Karen E. Stives; James Powers; Peter I. Wylde; Commissioner Mary B. Griffen; James Loer; Catherine Kennedy; Lisa Lewis; Diana McNamara; and D.A. Hayden, among others. Following are some excerpts from the submission.

What Does Heritage Mean? Heritage is the legacy handed down over generations; it resides all around us but is often invisible to the casual passerby. It is the embodiment of the generosity of our predecessors such as Miss Amelia Peabody acquiring and gifting large parcels of land, and the training and veterinarian skills of the dedicated doctors, Frank and Cecila Powers. It is the immeasurable number of hours— donated by visionary volunteers—spent

over the last 100 years to build a living and sustainable tribute to the sport. It is the thousands of children who were introduced to the thrills of equestrian competition—some of whom became world-recognized riders, trainers, and Olympic champions.

It Began in Saltonstall’s Paddocks The NHHS can be traced back to 1910, when the show was first held at the Richard M. Saltonstall farm estate in Chestnut Hill, MA, in backyard paddocks with a small number of entries including the Saltonstall sisters and neighboring families. The show therefore dates back 103 years and is the second oldest continuously running horse show in the United States after Devon, which began in 1896. Outgrowing the farm estate, the show moved to the more spacious Brookline Country Club, and then, in 1934, to the Dedham Country and Polo Club, where it was named the “Dedham Horse Show.” It became a prominent show, attracting leading riders and horses from all of New England, competing over the traditional Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to very hard work and dedication by the surrounding communities, the show survived the Great War, continued through the Great Depression, and persisted during World War II. After World

War II, the show grew considerably: in a single day, as many as 375 entries competed and almost 4,000 spectators watched the colorful event with 34 separate riding classes for children, amateurs, professionals, and experienced hunt club members. Almost half of the classes were devoted to children and junior riders, down to beginners under eight. The show had two main jumping arenas: an outside course readily visible from the stands that meandered around the countryside and featured fixed hurdles such as coops, log fences, brush fences, ditches, stone walls, and a gravel pit; and an inside field with two rings where hunter and jumper classes, equitation, and other events took place. The popular show remained in Dedham for the next 36 years, until it outgrew the available space. An icon for the show was the charismatic ringmaster, Clarence “Honey” Craven, from Brookline, MA. “Honey” instituted a high level of professionalism to the show and was respected by all for his knowledge and fair decisions. He was a handsome sight in coaching livery, top hat, and coaching horn, known for offering reassuring words to nervous competitors—“you look good” or “take a deep breath!” In addition to his role at Dedham, “Honey” was a professional ringmaster and manager

continued on page 88 March 2013

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