June 12 will be a day to remember, as the 90th annual Greenwich Horse Show will be held at the Milliken estate. Big plans are afoot, including a fabulous country luncheon, a silent auction and tickets available for ringside seats to watch the action as riders of all ages participate.
Alice Fisher, whose grandfather, Harry Fisher, was a founding member in 1914 of the Greenwich Riding Association, has delved into the past and found that the first show was held at Nutbourne Farm, the estate of James McClenahan, in Port Chester, N.Y. Called "a society event with 3,000 folks," a farmer's lunch was served under a large tent in appreciation for hunting and riding over the land, just as we do today.
In 1925, the show was held at the Polo Club grounds on Quaker Ridge, owned by John Sterling. Then in 1948, the event moved to the Blind Brook Turf and Polo Club on Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, N.Y., before returning to Quaker Ridge in 1950 for a few years, then back to Blind Brook for the 38th running in 1954.
In 1960, after being combined with a benefit for St. Barnabas Church, the June show was held on the property of Mr. William Heron at Lower Cross Road on Lake Avenue, where the association erected a gazebo in remembrance of Frank R. Parker, a president and firm supporter, along with his wife, now Betty Davies. The Parkers, along with Helen Castles, Fred Jeffrey and Tinkle Warfield, the first president, formed the nonprofit Greenwich Riding and Trails Association, as it is now known.
After the Heron family sold their property, Judy Richter, a well-known trainer, offered the association -- of which I am a member -- Coker Farm in Bedford, N.Y., for which we were most appreciative. It was a great site, but unfortunately not in Greenwich. Then in 1982, Gerrish and Phoebe Milliken came riding to the rescue, and invited us to use their exceptional property. The show has been there ever since, due to the extreme generosity of the Millikens. The land is by far the finest location for such an event, and we are eternally grateful.
The association's early years represented a fine time for horses in our town. Large estates, open fields and acres of farmland stretching down to Deer Park provided uninterrupted miles of bridle trails. Four-in-hand coaches, pulled by high-stepping horses found in the Gimbel and Joseph Wilshire carriage houses in backcountry, would arrive at the shows. The Greenwich Riding Association was formed by a group of riders and landowners including James Perkins, Charles Lanier, Harry Fisher, Roger Baldwin, Emersen Newell, Raynal Bolling and Karl Ely, with Bolling, a hero of the First World War, as president.
More horse talk:
I had a wonderful lunch at Mead Farm on June Road after the Greenwich Riding and Trails Association's clean-up day. It is amazing what is found on our trails, tossed there by messy people.
I was pleased to find that George C. Mead, the owner of the farm, gives horsemanship lessons on school horses to little riders as well as big ones. It was a sight I had not seen since Round Hill Stable closed.
It was the start of the Summer Horsemanship Program at the farm, just at the end of Guinea Road on June Road. I was impressed with the job George had done, not only with his teaching with the help of Susan Peterson, but fixing up the stable and outbuildings, turning them into a fine working barn.
It is not just horses; the terrace where we enjoyed lunch is delightful, with a view of the paddocks, rings and spectacular rock formations on the perimeter of the property. Thank you, George, for your generosity to the Greenwich Riding and Trails Association.
Talking about the old days brings to mind a wonderful article in The New York Times this month by Tess Taylor, "Brute Force -- On Small Farms Hoof Power Returns." It seems that Rich Ciotola, instead of using tractors, decided to prepare a pasture using a team of oxen at Moon in the Pond Farm in Sheffield, Mass. He used a pair of brown Swiss steers and a 20-pound maple yoke, leading them to a field to haul logs. As Ciotola said in the article, "Ox don't need spare parts and they don't need fossil fuels."
On May 26, the annual meeting of the Northwest Greenwich Association will take place at Audubon Greenwich on Riversville Road. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a talk by Greenwich Time editor David McCumber.
This is your opportunity to tell him your thoughts about the paper.
Allen Williams, a board member, will bring us up to date on the fire station situation in the lost corner of Greenwich. After that, the board will meet.
Of course there will be delicious food and drink. Don't miss such an interesting meeting.
Norma Bartol, a former Greenwich Time reporter and columnist, lives in backcountry Greenwich. Her column appears on alternating Fridays. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.