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July 3, 2012

Showing, And Showing Support

Sept. 28, 2001

Business as usual is the way of the horse world, but after the Sept. 11 attacks, even the riders were shaken and thought hard about how to honor the victims of the attacks.

Following the tragedy of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, many questioned the wisdom of continuing with a normal horse show schedule while the nation seemed to come to a halt. On a weekend when professional sports such as football, baseball and golf canceled their activities, many horse shows, including the Lincoln American Gold Cup, carried on.

“Before the tragedy, we were well into the horse show preparation, and it’s not easy to stop,” said Leonard King, the manager of the Gold Cup. “We thought, ‘Let’s try to go ahead with the show in a positive way.’ We were all trying to return to some type of normalcy.”

Classes at the Gold Cup ran on schedule Thursday, Sept. 13, but after two classes had been completed on Friday, Sept. 14, a meeting was held between riders and the management of the show, and the remainder of the day’s classes were canceled, including the $25,000 qualifying grand prix.

“The night before, President Bush had called for a day of prayer and mourning and for everyone to go to church during their lunch hour. A lot of us felt pretty strongly that we would like to take part and, for once in our lives, actually be a part of everyday society, and deal with what was going on,” said Schuyler Riley. “Sometimes, in our world, we get wrapped up in what we’re doing, and we forget about other people, but this is really something that you can’t ignore. It really hit home to all of us.”

Danielle Torano had expressed her doubts about showing to her husband, Jimmy, earlier in the week, but felt that the day off Friday helped. “We talked about it a little bit driving here, and I said to Jimmy, ‘Is this disrespectful [to show]?’ And he said, ‘No, I think we need to go on and do our thing.’ And then that night, we went back and started watching TV. We watched all night, then woke up and started watching it again, and we didn’t really talk about it, but it just didn’t feel right.

“We came out to the show, and it was just like, ‘Who wants to do this?’ It was just a feeling. I said to someone, ‘I’m not there, and I don’t know anyone there, but emotionally, I’m down.’ And watching prayer service, I was destroyed by the end of it. It was heartbreaking to see. People my age were in that building. They went to work, and that was it. But I woke up [Saturday morning] thinking, ‘OK, I’m ready to do this again.’ I felt really good about it, where before I was wondering if we were being disrespectful.”

“Considering the President declared it a national day of prayer, it was a chance to reflect on the things that had happened,” said Chris Kappler. “I think [Friday] was the day the everybody took to deal with the impact of it, and the next day, it felt like more normal.”

King and the rest of show management made fund-raising for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund a priority for the show. “We all agreed that we would try to turn this tragedy into something positive, and that the way to do that was to raise funds to benefit victims of the terrorists,” King said.

Throughout the week, riders and almost everyone else on the grounds wore red-white-and-blue ribbons to signify their remembrance of the tragedy. Riders volunteered to donate either a lump sum or percentage of their prize money. From the start of the show, a table was placed just inside the front gate, with envelopes available for the spectators to donate to the Red Cross.

During the grand prix on Sunday, there was a designated Red Cross fence, and each time someone jumped it faultlessly, the show donated $100 to the fund, with a minimum donation of $2,500. Show announcers Peter Doubleday and Brian Lookabill made every effort to help the crowd remember and honor the victims, including moments of silence and Lookabill’s singing of “God Bless America” before the grand prix.

Initial estimates of the total donations show that riders donated more than $20,000, and that the show and spectators added more than $10,000 to that.

“I think that in the beginning of the week, it was disturbing that everything in the world stopped but the American Gold Cup,” said Kappler. “But we were here, and we did a nice thing on Friday, and the show management explained how they were really trying to turn this into a positive effort for the victims. As a result, I think everybody really felt good about what was going on here. Everyone could come here and just get their mind off it for a little while. I think that helps people with moving on.”

Riley agreed that the show tried to balance “business as usual” with honoring the tragedy. “I think the Gold Cup has done a nice job here, trying to show respect and still go on with our lives. I think everybody has tried to be respectful all week,” she said.

This article was first published on Sept. 28, 2001, in The Chronicle of the Horse. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.