The Shows Will Go On!
(first appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Equiery)
by Jennifer Webster
When longtime Maryland horseman and popular horse show manager W. Gary Baker became ill last year, he began making plans and putting his affairs in order. Anyone who ever worked with Gary Baker knows that he had very specific and definite ideas, and opinions about everything he was involved in, from breeding ponies, to racing horses, to managing horse shows. Gary owned the licenses for three United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) recognized horse show dates, and he wanted to make sure that these shows, which meant so much to him during his lifetime, were passed into the hands of someone who would do right by them, by the horsemen who have been loyal to them throughout the years, and by Baker, himself.
So he contacted the USEF and asked that upon his death, the licenses for Showplace Spring, Maryland National, and the December Hunter Classic be transferred to Streett Moore. In addition, Baker made recommendations that two additional shows for which he was longtime manager, Boumi Temple and Loudoun Benefit (VA), be managed by Moore as well.
Streett Moore is also a lifelong Maryland horseman and popular show manager. He grew up showing ponies with his brother, Brooks, from their family’s Belfield Farm in Baltimore County. After graduation, Moore decided to turn childhood fun into business. He began teaching students and training horses and ponies from Belfield Farm until the mid-1980s, when the decision was made to sell the property. In 1986, Moore was hired as Director of Riding at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, where he is about to complete his 28th year of service.
Under his direction, the McDonogh riding program has changed and it has thrived. McDonogh students and their horses and ponies continue to win on the national and local show circuits. A McDonogh rider has won The Equiery Hunter Award for the past four years and 2012 brought a significant first: Jacob Pope, a member of the 2013 graduating class, won both the USET Talent Search and the ASPCA Maclay Medal Finals.
Soon after Moore’s arrival on campus in the spring of 1986, the old McDonogh show grounds, which hosted many an interschool horse show and horse trials, as well as a four-day A-rated horse show every May, was named as part of a tract of land that the school would sell off for commercial development. Consequently, plans were made to build new show grounds, and construction began on the current facility, which sits in much closer proximity to the barns. More rings were later added, and in late 2010 came the completion of the Eagle’s Nest, a state-of-the-art indoor riding arena, and the Hall of Fame Patio, sited beside the main outdoor ring. The Eagle’s Nest and Hall of Fame Patio were dedicated in a service at McDonogh’s Alumni Weekend in 2011, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the end of the McDonogh Cavalry, and and honoring Moore’s 25 years as Director of Riding.
McDonogh School presently hosts between 15 and 18 shows a year. Some of those shows are owned by other people or associations, who rent the facility, management included. For more than twenty years, Gary Baker was one of those people. When asked why he felt Baker chose him, of all people, to carry on his horse shows, Moore replied, “I’ve known [Gary] since I was seven years old. I rode his horses and helped him with things. It is a relationship of over forty years. He liked what we had done with McDonogh School, and how the shows ran there. He and I worked well on committees we served on together. I just think he felt comfortable with it.”
In the eyes of some, Streett Moore may as well have just won the lottery. Acquiring the license for a USEF show date–let alone three of them–is not an easy thing to do, for the very simple fact that the dates are all presently accounted for. The calendar is full. Dates don’t change hands often, and when they do, it occurs one of three possible ways: via private sale, via transfer through the USEF in the event of death where the previous owner of a date or dates has made prior arrangements, such as Baker did, or via lottery held by the USEF, should the prior owner die without having made prior arrangements for transfer of ownership.
Spring Show Start
The first two shows on the calendar, Showplace Spring and Maryland National, have already taken place; they span from Thursday to Sunday on two concurrent weekends at the end of March and beginning of April, and are held at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center. Moore was pleased with his first-time results. Showplace Spring “or should we say Winter?” as was jokingly posted on the Belfield Farm Show Management (or BFSM, Moore’s management corporation name) Facebook page on March 30, faced horrible weather. Cold, rain, and wind forced cancellations of classes and reorganization of the daily schedule, but still saw 194 horses compete. Moore and his team, including wife Amy who handled the stabling, among other things, were offered kind sentiments and encouraging accolades by the competitors and officials who were impressed with the way the new show management played the unfortunate hand they were dealt by Mother Nature.
The following week brought better weather and more horses. The final tally was 214 including entries from trainers who had originally planned to take a pass on the second weekend, but who “liked what they saw” at the first show, according to Moore. And “what they saw” included fantastic prizes such as monogrammed backpacks, bridle racks, and first through eighth place medals instead of ribbons, in memory of Gary Baker. The medals were presented after a memorial jog, also named in Baker’s honor. A “jog” involves a rider trotting his horse back in the ring in-hand, saddle removed, to be inspected by the judge for soundness, and the jog used to follow every over fences class at a recognized horse show. But as show schedules have become more and more crowded, and the desire for pomp and circumstance less and less, some USEF zones have voted to eliminate the jog from their rules. This was not a welcome change to Baker. “Gary liked tradition and one of the traditions he liked the most was the jog for soundness after each class,” said Moore.
Also new this year was the hospitality tent with complimentary ringside breakfasts for competitors. The tent remained open throughout the show, giving folks a place to sit and relax and enjoy a drink or a snack between classes. These breakfasts, along with many of the new great prizes, were the result of sponsorships and contributions made by local training stables who, when asked, were happy to “step up to the plate” and contribute, explained Moore. It is this new aspect of his shows that pleases Moore the most; the willingness of these same people who support the shows with entries, to also offer donations towards improving the quality of the shows, which resulted in a better show experience for all. He hopes to continue this trend at the December Hunter Classic, and at all three shows going forward.
Medals in memory of Gary Baker
Boumi Temple and Loudoun Benefit
Moore will have less of a free rein with the programs at Boumi Temple and Loudoun Benefit, the two shows that BFSM has been charged with managing, but does not own. Boumi Temple is Maryland’s oldest horse show and began as a benefit event for the the Shriners Hospital for Children, still a beneficiary of a portion of the proceeds of the show. The show has been held during the last weekend in May at McDonogh School for several years and will be held there again this year.
Loudoun Benefit is one of Virginia’s oldest horse shows and has seen a number of homes over the years, including Foxcroft School and Morven Park. It finally settled last year at Shelby Bonnie’s picturesque Salem Farm in Upperville, Virginia, where it will be held again on June 11-14. Loudoun Benefit has its own board of directors with whom Moore is working to continue the popular traditions for which the show is heralded, such as daily catered luncheons for exhibitors (another Baker favorite). The show also boasts a magnificent bevy of sterling silver perpetual trophies awarded to division champions and grand champions. Names on the sides of these trophies read like an all-star lineup of show horses, ponies, and riders of the past several decades, including entries from none other than Streett Moore himself.
Moore is excited to put the money his shows make back into future BFSM events to improve the quality of each show and the overall show experience which in the end, he says, “benefits everybody.” He expressed that it’s not just about making money; it is about having horse shows that are fun for the competitors, shows that people will remember for the good time they had or the great prizes they won, and will want to come back to.
Horse showing was one of the four most important things in Gary Baker’s life, along with horse racing, family, and friends, and he considered many of his horse show friends “family.” With a dear friend now at the helm of his beloved horse shows, and one of his shows, the Loudoun Benefit, now happening on the same grounds as the Piedmont Point-to-Point races that he so enjoyed, we can rest assured that W. Gary Baker is utterly satisfied with the arrangements he so carefully made.