Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn spoke with Lake Placid Horse Show Association Board Chairman Richard Feldman on Friday, May 16 at the Lake Placid News office
LPN: Please talk about the investment of the footing at the horse showgrounds.
CHAIRMAN: The horse shows have taken a completely new tact in the last six or seven years. And it's the trainers of children and adults that have insisted in the footing that we are putting in. I've put this off for about four or five years because I knew it would be a million-dollar-plus investment, all paid for by our board members and our sponsors. That's who is paying for this, not the town, not the village. We are paying for this ourselves.
Lake Placid Horse Show Association Board Chairman Richard Feldman poses with the historic Lake Placid News editorial board. (Photo — Andy Flynn)
Last year, I was told point blankly by some of the larger stables that if we did not put in the new footing, they would not come back. I've been in the horse world all my life. It's not what I do for a living, but my family has a big horse operation in Kentucky, I rode for the United States team, I did everything there was to do, play polo, I was a master of foxhound. So I know the horse game, and they all know me. They're not lying to me when they say, "We're not coming back." Of course, I've known these people for 25 or 30 years.
Now that we've decided to do this, everybody seems to be coming back for the footing and an awful lot of them for the three weeks.
LPN: Can you explain what the construction workers are doing?
CHAIRMAN: The showgrounds itself is on top of a huge sandpit, so our drainage has been fantastic. What we had down for all the years - and I've been chairman for 24 years - all the years, we've added and added and added various degrees of different kind of sand, granite dust, etc. so that the ground has a cushion when the horses jump. So when they come down, the jump of their weight is cushioned in the dirt or the sand. The new footing does that, but it also allows you to run the same show without any slippage on the part of the horse in all weather. So we could get 3 inches of rain, where I can't run on the grass field, but I can run on all the other new footing fields. So if I had to cancel the grass, I can transfer it now onto the sand. It's a sand with a material fiber in it. You can see the material when you get close to it.
LPN: Is it safe to say this is a state-of-the-art improvement?
CHAIRMAN: Every Olympics, every world-class show in the world, you must have this today.
LPN: Talk about the timing of the investment the addition of a third horse show this year.
CHAIRMAN: We put this out for bid, and we got seven people who wanted to do it. I have a vice chairman, Tim Hooker, who has been with me forever and knows the footing game. That's what it's called, the footing game. And we picked a contractor that has done it in all the right places in all the right climates, and this is one of them that's difficult. We knew it would be a six- to seven-week project. So we started it April 28th or 29th, and we should be complete on June 10th. And then we have about seven days to put the fencing back in.
LPN: You're adding a new show, the Adirondack Horse Show. Why a third show?
CHAIRMAN: In the horse show world, imagine moving yourself, your daughter, her two horses, your husband and a groom around the country to show horses. It is a big deal. Multiply that by a stable that is bringing 60 horses, and it's really a very big deal. We've been told by the people who show here that if we ran three weeks, they would stay. And our early entries show that they are staying. We also know from the hotels and the home rentals that they're staying for three weeks, and that's marvelous. We had to do it in order to remain an "A" show, which is what we are. And we're in the top 25 shows in the world.
LPN: Why are the horse shows so important to Lake Placid?
CHAIRMAN: I've been told by the banks that the shows generate somewhere around 11 million dollars in revenue in the two weeks that we've had in the past. Add another week, and who knows what it's going to bring. That alone is very, very important. It's the income to the economy of Lake Placid that's so important.
LPN: How did you get interested in horses?
CHAIRMAN: There's a picture on my hall table of me on a pony when I was 5. My father was a polo player. He had no money, but he was very good, so he played with all the polo players of that day. You didn't learn how to play baseball or football when you were 5, you learned how to ride a horse. If you fell off, my father just looked down and said, "Get up. Get on that horse." And I spent a good part of my life on horses, either showing them, playing polo, being master of foxhounds, hunting my own pack of hounds. It's been a great labor of love for me. And I competed on the circuit.
When I first took this over, we were in trouble. We had big debts. No one was coming here. It was a leaky circuit show. That's what it was called. And we put some money into it right away. I did personally. I paid off all the debts and put my own money into the grounds. Then I called everybody I knew on the circuit, and I begged. One year, some came. I begged again the next year. And now I don't have to beg. They just come.
LPN: Remind us of the history of the horse shows.
CHAIRMAN: As far as I know, Mrs. Ruth Newberry started the show. I believe the tenure of the show is in the 40 years (started in 1970). I took it over because the shows had a problem in 1990. They were out of money, and they couldn't get people here. Then chairman of the board, a friend of mine, Martin Stone, just got up one day and said, "You take this over. I'm retiring." And that's what I did.
LPN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
CHAIRMAN: I'd like everybody to please come out and see what we've done. If you don't, it's like living in New York City and never going to the Statue of Liberty. You wouldn't do that. You'd go see it once, or you'd get on a subway once, or you'd go to Broadway once. Well, this is your Broadway. Come once and see it. We have shops. We have dining. We have everything out there. You don't have to spend any money. Just walk around, and I'll take you on a tour myself.
Lake Placid Horse Shows
The Lake Placid Horse Show Association will host three horse shows at it facility on State Route 73 this summer, adding a third show to its lineup for the first time.
The 45th annual Lake Placid Horse Show will be held June 2429. The 37th annual I Love New York Horse Show will be held July 16. And the first-ever Adirondack Horse Show will be held July 813.
One of the premier stops on the nation's hunter-jumper horse show circuit, the Lake Placid Horse Shows feature the nation's best horses and riders competing in four show rings. The shows feature more than 100 classes of competition each week.
Admission to the Lake Placid Horse Shows is $2 on weekdays and $5 on weekends. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free. Tickets are available at the gate. For more information, call 518-523-9625 or visit online at www.lakeplacidhorseshow.com.