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ON THE SCENE: Honoring horse shows’ Richard Feldman

July 6, 2018
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Some people have profoundly impacted the long-term well-being of Lake Placid. There were Godfrey Dewey, Mayor Bob Peacock and the "Boys of Winter" that successfully pitched the International Olympic Committee for the 1980 Winter Olympics (which includes Shirley Seney).

Richard Feldman, 27-year chair of the Lake Placid Horse Show Association, is a member of that highest pantheon of leaders. He died on March 8 at the age of 83.

Yes, the horse show was Ruth Newberry's baby, but Feldman not only rescued it from a financial ditch, but he enabled it to fly - soar really. Since Feldman took the reins, the competition nationally and internationally has exploded, yet this year new chair Philip Richter reported that not only is it hosting the largest field ever, but the number of people clamoring to participate was the highest ever.

Article Photos

Richard and Diana Feldman
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

That's a testament to Feldman's passion, his treating every rider, owner, trainer, groom, member of the staff and attendee as if they were the most special person in the world, and his devotion to welcoming and encouraging young riders. He believed that the horse show's future success lay in the hands of young riders having a great experience coupled with the hospitality and visitor assets of Lake Placid. There can be no better proof of that vision than Richter taking over the reins, as he was once one of those young riders that Feldman celebrated and encouraged.

On Saturday, June 30 at a special luncheon for local patrons, and Sunday, July 1 at a tribute held at the Lake Placid Club Golf House, Richard Feldman was honored and thanked, as was his wife, Diana. Without her, all this wouldn't have happened as she was his emotional center, cherished confident and love who fully backed his vision.

"Richard has gone to the racetrack in the sky and is now in horse heaven," said Diana, her voice filled with emotion as she read from prepared remarks. "In Richard's memory we must smile, and in his loss, we shed tears. His love of life and his four-legged friends will always be remembered through the years."

"Today, for me is a very bittersweet day," said Richter, his voice full of emotion. "I feel the darkest sadness about us losing Richard, iconic Richard as I liked to call him, but at the same time, I feel this incredible sense of optimism about the future, about the shows, and about everything Richard did to put us on this path of success. Everything here today reminds us of Dick: the weather, the field, the horses going around. It's a testament to Richard's lasting leadership that this year, our first year without Richard at the helm, is the biggest year of the Lake Placid Horse Shows. Biggest in not only attendance of exhibitors and horses, but biggest in interest level."

The tributes on Saturday and Sunday were also a call to action. No one person can fill Feldman's shoes, be it in energy or largess. He backed his passion with money, often quietly given. Richter has assembled a team of dedicated professionals to help him manage the show and will be seeking additional support from the Lake Placid and horse show community to fill the contributions once made by Feldman that kept the facilities at or better than the competition.

"This show was his life," said ring master Alan Keeley. "He did everything he possibly could to make it special. He taught me that the end of a horse show, after the last class and the last call, that it's proper to sound 'Taps,' which officially ended the show. The problem for Richard was that 'Taps' tended to be sad. He wanted to know if I could suggest something else. I found a military bugle call called 'Tattoo,' which means lights out. It doesn't end on a sad note; it ends on an up note. So, I played it every year for him. He would come out and stand with me in the ring, and I'd play 'Tattoo' while he'd bawl his eyes out because he didn't want the show to end."

Feldman spent a lot of time looking for the right person to help carry his legacy forward and make its future success and character be a part of their heritage as he knew it could not remain static and that a new generation had to carry it forward. He identified and recruited Richter, no easy task as the Lake Placid Horse Shows require a lot of time and attention.

Richter grew up showing in Lake Placid beginning in the pony ring in 1977, and in 1980, his family attended the Winter Olympics, where they had the good fortune to have tickets to the "Miracle on Ice" competition between the young U.S. team and the Soviet Union, the powerhouse team of the decade.

Richter serves on the board of the US Equestrian Team, the US Equestrian Federation, and the Hampton Classic Horse Show, and he is an avid and active competitor. He said there are very few horse shows in the world that can claim being continuously run for 50 years and announced that at the end of the show, Executive Director Lori Martin would be filing for a Heritage Designation by the US Equestrian Federation. If approved, this designation will recognize the Lake Placid Horse Shows as one of the oldest, continuous, and premier horse shows in the United States.

"It takes an army to make this horse show happen, said Richter. "We are not a professional horse show management company that's trying to make money every week and buy and do other things. We are trying to do one thing very well. We are a horse show that's run by exhibitors for exhibitors. We want everyone to have a great experience and want to come back year after year."

"Richard had a very personal touch," said Christian Currey, who participated the first 18 years starting with Ruth Newberry, and after a long hiatus is back with his family. "He lived it, breathed it, smelled it. Richard got involved with the nuances. Anyone can put on a horse show, but Richard pushed the ball. It always takes a leader to make sure things happen, everyone's accountable, and that the bar gets raised a little every year. Lake Placid is a horsecation. Many horse shows are just a horse show, but this is a horse show and a vacation."

Tim Hooker, vice president of the LPHSA and a close friend of Feldman, underscored how vital Diana Feldman was to her husband's success and his being able to give entirely of himself to the organization. He said Feldman never forgot and always attributed his success to those who rallied around him and supported his effort first to save, then build, and then reinvest and continually upgrade the horse shows.

North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi described how proud Feldman was to be honored as Lake Placid's "Citizen of the Year" in 2009, serve as grand marshal of the Fourth of July parade, and most especially be elected to the Lake Placid Hall of Fame, which he often said was the proudest moment of his life.

"Things never got done without Richard," said Politi. "I had to deal with Richard every day. He was not the most subtle guy. Richard was extremely persuasive. As a result of that persuasion, all the facilities are what they are today. Richard convinced this community how important this event was for all of us. We are very proud of him, and his legacy will live on. He will always be a part of Lake Placid."



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