Unification News for October 2000

Reflections on the 2000 Autumn Classic

by Lesa Ellanson—Port Jervis, NY

Initial trepidation gave me pause as I set out to write a testimony about the 2000 Autumn Classic Horse Show at New Hope Farms. Such reporting should manifest overall insights on the bigger providential picture. Admittedly, placing a testimony within the context of equestrian show jumping, by its very nature, might seem but a tiny blip on the dispensational radar screen. However, I'm confident that the Unification News readers can appreciate my unique witness to the eternal hand of God and the already concrete beginnings of an ideal world, even though it will be within the prism of horse-related endeavors at New Hope Farms.

First, a preface.

We are in an Olympic year. We revere the games for many reasons, but there is one that stands out in my mind: since its inception in ancient Greece, men have set aside strife and war to engage in the far more pleasant activity of competitive sport. The very ideal of the games transcends national and/or political conflict. They supersede race, religion, class and gender. No one could argue that North and South Korea made modern history as they marched as one during Sydney's opening ceremony. No other phenomenon outside of a religious one surmounts the broad spectrum of human barriers as do those two weeks that arrive every four years.

An integral part of both the ancient and modern Olympiad was equestrian sport. In the modern games, equestrian competition saw its resurgence in 1866. Show jumping in the current style of individual grand prix (translated means, "greatest prize") was inaugurated in the 1900 Paris Games and became a team sport at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Then, team members consisted of ranking military officers who were selected from their country's elite cavalry units. Thus all teams were comprised of fighting men. No civilian competed until the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, when equestrian sport set precedent with the first non-military participants, including women. It was hailed as an innovative moment in sport. Ever since, the United States, as well as many other countries, have assembled squads of various disciplines, including show jumping, dressage, three-day eventing, driving and endurance.

Now to the present.

As we know, Father and Mother are no strangers to setting precedent. Building New Hope Farms in Port Jervis, New York, realized their goal of creating the foremost equestrian venue in the country. The farm hosted its first major Autumn Classic grand prix in 1989, over a decade ago. Today, the show offers not one but two major grand prix competitions in the same week, whereas most large shows include only one. In only its second year, the Autumn Classic was recognized by the Federation Equestrian international (F.E.I.) And received the coveted CS I-W status, or World Cup Qualifier ranking. No other horse show in America has ever garnered such prestige in so little time. (Many people believe that the Olympic Games are every rider's big dream and it has its merits, to be sure. But the real super bowl of show jumping, the prestigious World Cup, has no equal.)

Although the show has seen both fat and lean years according to rider attendance, New Hope Farms still maintains an indelible reputation in the equestrian world as a first-class facility and for the quality of its events and shows.

It was no exception at this year's highlighted event. The 2000 Autumn Classic Grand Prix may well be one of the most historical Autumn Classics to date.

What makes this year exceptional? Before I reply, a brief explanation:

Equestrian competition is the only sport where men and women compete in the same contest, on the same turf, and against one another. Every competitor knows that the one great equalizer is a courageous horse and (in the case of show jumping) the perilous host of nearly six-foot obstacles to be hurdled. It's bravery and grace, fortitude and determination that win the day. Physical stature and brute strength of the rider matters little. A horse's perfect performance is built upon the foundation of trust in its rider, whether you are a man or a woman, whether you are young or old, short or tall. You must jump clean and you must jump fast. Thus the overly done controversy involving equal rights between men and women is truly lost on the seasoned equestrian. Becoming an Olympics equestrian for either gender is no mean feat, especially if you consider this country's stringent selection process: it requires a triumph over every other world-class rider in the U.S., man or woman, young or old.

So it was for the four women who earned the right to represent America as the first all-female show jumping squad; this accomplishment alone made history in modern Olympic annals.

Margie Goldstein-Engle, Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough and Nona Garson are the four members who will comprise the United States Equestrian Team.

Why does that make this year's Autumn Classic so extraordinary?

In the year 2000, the show was host of three of these four remarkable women. (Only Laura Kraut was unable to attend, as she had an early date with destiny in Sydney. Nonetheless, her mother, Mrs. Carol Kent, a famous show secretary, did attend.) And of the show's two grand prix events, both were won by women.

The victor of the 2000 Autumn Classic Grand Prix with its $50,000 in winnings was young Kate Levy of Katonah, New York. She defeated a field of over forty riders and took first place aboard her horse, Lagretto 5. And she turned 20 years old that very day! (Happy birthday!) Age matters not, gender matters not.

The $25,000 Open Welcome Grand Prix was won by Margie Goldstein-Engle and her horse, Reggae. Margie has won more equestrian events than any other rider in America (she has won the Autumn Classic Grand Prix twice, including the very first, and has not missed attending the show since 1989). Although her home base is Wellington, Florida, her string of ten world-class horses is being stabled here at New Hope Farms until her return from Sydney.

"We just love it here," said Goldstein-Engle, speaking fondly of New Hope Farms.

Said Margie's head groom, "It's the best place to keep our horses going [meaning, keeping them fit]. The facility is fantastic and they [the horses] love it here. We do, too."

Given how quickly word spreads within the world of equestrian sport, the world will soon know of this. It must be spreading since in 2001, New Hope Farms will host among others, the Westchester-Fairfield Dressage Show (a qualifier for the Pan Am Games) and the Southern Tier Quarter Horse Regional (a breed show that attracts riders from everywhere east of the Mississippi). Since the beginning of 2000 there have been scores of inquiries, everything from international dog shows to national-level horse shows to regional trade shows from associations that want New Hope Farms as their international showplace. "If you build it, they will come," is taking on a whole new meaning.

Building a premier equestrian facility to attract the flower of equestrian elite is but one frontier of True Parents' mission to restore the ideal. As we see in the queries of many horsemen, New Hope Farms, by its existence, imparts a sense of, if not directly influencing, a desire to know of Father's motive, hence his ideal. The farm stands as another important pillar in building that ideal.

Applying this realization to sport, it would seem that the U.S. equestriennes of this year's show jumping squad would have to agree. As previously mentioned, the top woman rider in America entrusts her horses to remain at New Hope Farms while she attends the Sydney Olympics. (Entrusting everything you love to others, leaving your home country to challenge yourself and gain victory in a foreign land. Sound familiar?)

Two team members are wives and of those, one of these women is a mother; all chose to leave their families in America to compete for their country. These women are a part of the same pioneering spirit unique to women before them, athlete or not: the willingness and commitment to challenge their own limits for a greater cause. Such spirit was seen in its modern context during the opening ceremonies in Sydney: is it any wonder that only women bore the enduring Olympic torch to light the fire that launched the games? Not coincidence, I assure you.

As I interviewed each of those women riders during the AC, I saw two things: the wearied stress of competition upon their faces and the fire of expectant victory burning in their bright eyes. I've seen that look before.

The recent providence has oftentimes featured True Mother in the forefront. She, like God and True Father, aspires to elevate all women so that they might assume greatness for God, country and family. In fulfilling a victory for Heaven, ourselves and our descendants, individual responsibility and self-sacrifice are key elements to success. Different levels, different courses, the same ideal. I was proud to witness the expansion of that ideal onto a greater, if even secular, level. It's just a matter of time before the secular becomes the sacred. It seems fitting then that the roots of the modern Olympiad began as a religious ceremony held by the ancient Greeks, who revered sport as a hallowed ritual.

Sadly, the Olympic Games will soon end for another four years and the Autumn Classic has concluded for this year. Equestrians, both men and women, will return to pursuits in preparation for the next competition. Many will retain special anticipation to return next year to New Hope Farms and the Autumn Classic Horse Show. Earth-shattering realizations? Perhaps not, given the need to end war, famine, racial strife and other ills of the fallen world. Yet there might be the chance that God's providence will march on to finally triumph within the heart of one horseman who has at one time attended the Autumn Classic.

Who knows, it may even be a horsewoman.

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