Olympic horse Abdullah joins jumping hall of fame

April 9, 2009


Abdullah and Conrad Homfeld.

Three horses and a veterinarian have joined the show Jumping Hall of Fame in the US, joining 61 previous inductees.

The annual induction ceremony at the Budweiser American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday night, honored Dr John Steele and the horses Abdullah, Miss Budweiser and Riviera Wonder.

Induction into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame is a great honor bestowed annually upon select individuals whose contribution to the sport has set them apart from others and whose influence has had a significant impact on the world of show jumping.

Dr. John Steele, DVM has been responsible for the care of some of the US's top show jumping horses. Owners of world-famous mounts such as Beezie Madden's partner Authentic, with whom she won three Olympic Medals including Team Gold at both the 2004 and 2008 Games; the legendary Gem Twist, who carried rider Greg Best to double Silver Medals at the 1988 Olympic Games, and Anne Kursinski's Olympic partner Eros, with whom she won Team Silver in 1996, entrusted their horses' care to Dr. Steele.

Abdullah was one of the most successful horses the show jumping world has ever seen. His illustrious career was highlighted by his standout performances at the 1984 Olympic Games, 1985 World Cup Final and 1986 World Championships. Abdullah was purchased by Terry and Sue Williams as a three-year-old stallion as an event and breeding prospect. The striking grey Trakehner stallion soon showed his propensity for show jumping after a successful dressage and eventing career. Abdullah embarked on a show jumping career that saw him carry riders Conrad Homfeld, Joe Fargis and Debbie Shaffner to great Grand Prix success, three World Cup Finals, and spots on US teams at CSIOs in Europe. However, it was with Homfeld in the irons that he put together his incredible three-year stretch that ranks among show jumping's most memorable. First came his double medal performance at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Homfeld rode Abdullah to a clear round in the team competition to help clinch the United States its first ever Team Gold Medal. The pair also won the Silver Medal in the individual competition. In 1985, Abdullah and Homfeld finished first at the FEI World Cup Final in Berlin. Then, in 1986, with Abdullah now age 15, he and Homfeld helped the US win another first ever Team Gold Medal, this time at the World Championships in Aachen. The pair served as the anchor for the team, and Abdullah was named Leading Horse of the competition, with Homfeld adding another Individual Silver Medal. Abdullah was honored by 'The Chronicle of the Horse' as one of top 50 horses of the 20th century. He was also named winner of the American Trakehner Association's Palmenblute Award five times. Following his fifth win in 1986, the trophy was retired in his honor and replaced with a new one.

The most brilliant open jumper of the immediate post-World War II era was undoubtedly Circus Rose, a 16.2-hand gray mare by Great War (by Man O' War) out of Winter Rose (by Endeavor II). In 1950, when she was owned by W.W. Schlusemeyer and ridden by Joe Green, she chalked up one of the most remarkable records ever amassed by a five-year-old, accounting for 18 championships and 84 blue ribbons at 27 shows, topped off by the Jumper Championship at "The Garden" - New York's National Horse Show - and the overall PHA Championship for the year. Following this completely dominant performance she was sold to August A. Busch, Jr. for a then-record price, and renamed Miss Budweiser after the family firm's principle product. Earmarked for Carol Durand to ride in the 1951 Olympic Trials, she adapted well to international-type courses, and Carol succeeded in "making the Team." However, it was not to be; when the FEI declined to revise its rules and permit women to ride in show jumping at the 1952 Games at Helsinki, "Miss Bud" was turned over to US team captain Arthur McCashin to ride. Before the Games, this pair collaborated in a victory in the Preis St. Georg at Dusseldorf. Then at Helsinki they placed 12th individually and helped the USET win its first team medal, a Bronze. Following the Olympics, Miss Budweiser was returned to the Busch family's Grant's Farm in St. Louis. With Bob Egan in the irons, she campaigned with conspicuous success throughout the Midwest, retiring the Jumper Championship trophies at such shows as Oak Brook and Lake Forest, in addition to many other victories, before her eventual retirement.

Early in the 1950s, Virginia horsewoman Liz Whitney happened to dock her boat during the Long Island shows at a restaurant/marina complex called the Riviera, owned by a former jazz trumpeter, Bernie Mann. When Whitney mentioned to Mann that she was going to sell a colt by her famous jumping sire, Bonne Nuit, out of Winter Rose, the dam of Miss Budweiser, she didn't have to say it twice, and shortly thereafter "Wonder" joined the Mann jumper string. Whatever the price may have been, the horse was a bargain. Wonder lived up to his name by going on to compile a record of consistent brilliance under the old "touch" rules that has never been matched, and proved that he could beat the best competition Europe had to offer. As a four-year-old in 1955, the 16.3-hand grey gelding, ridden by Al Fiore, carried off his first National Horse Show Open Jumper title. To prove that it was no fluke, the pair did it again in 1956 and 1957 in an unprecedented triple that retired the coveted Waldorf Astoria trophy. In 1959, Wonder was loaned to the USET and ridden by Bill Steinkraus. Bill promptly helped the team win the Pan American team Gold Medal in Chicago. Accompanying the team to Europe, he startled the world by winning the International Jumping Championship of Germany at Aachen, beating the best horses in Europe in the process, and anchored the winning U.S. Nations' Cup team at London. The following year he won the Grand Prix of Wiesbaden and competitions at Lucerne and London, where he also anchored winning Nations' Cup teams. Physical problems may have affected his performance in the Rome Olympics, where he finished only 15th in the individual competition and did not start in the team event. Though he was beset by soundness concerns for much of his career, Wonder achieved things no other horse has ever done, and many knowledgeable horsemen still consider him the most athletic jumper they ever saw.