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Maclay Finals trivia
|Created:||March 12, 2018|
Did you know where the name of this prestigious competition originated?
Alfred B. Maclay was an esteemed equestrian
Most people in Leon and surrounding counties are familiar with Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. Many have visited the Lake Hall recreation and picnic area, biked, or hiked the 11 miles of pristine Lake Overstreet Trails, or taken in the majestic beauty of the 28-acre historic ornamental gardens.
Those Gardens are putting on a show right now, with peak bloom just around the corner. Now is certainly the time to take a visit to take in this horticultural masterpiece.
But how many know about the man for which this popular park is named – Alfred B. Maclay? Those who are a bit familiar with Mr. Maclay know that he designed the gardens for which the park is named. Horticulture was just one of his many interests. Others included collecting antique furniture, art and books, as well as raising and showing dogs and horses.
With the Red Hills Horse Trials taking place at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park this weekend, all things equestrian are front and center. Alfred B. Maclay was involved with horses from an early age and became a champion for their ethical treatment over the years.
Alfred Barmore Maclay was born in New York in 1871 to Robert Maclay and Georgiana Barmore. Barmore was the daughter of Alfred Barmore who was one of the principals of the Knickerbocker Ice Company, the largest ice producer in the country by 1881. An offshoot of the ice company was the Knickerbocker Trust Company, with Robert Maclay as its President from 1894 to 1897.
Maclay was educated at a private school in New York City. At age 16, he became a member of Squadron A, a cavalry troop in the New York National Guard. He enlisted in the US Infantry to fight in the Spanish American War, eventually achieving the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Later, Maclay spent several years learning the family businesses. Around age 30, he left and took a two-year tour of Europe. When he returned, he did not go back to the family businesses. Instead, he focused on his many interests, including being an active official and exhibitor at horse shows.
In 1912, Maclay purchased property in Millbrook, New York, which he named Killearn (pronounced kill-urn) Farm, after the Scottish birthplace of his great-great-grandfather. He spent his summer at Killearn raising Fine Harness horses and show dogs. He grew up foxhunting, show jumping, and steeplechasing, but an injury would cause him to move away from these activities and towards working with Hackney horses and other Fine Harness horses.
Maclay visited Leon County with his wife, Louise Fleischmann Maclay, in 1923 and was so impressed by the huge oaks and pines, beautiful dogwoods and hollies, he decided this would be the place to fulfill his lifelong dream of creating a beautiful garden and it would be their winter home. Maclay decided to showcase winter and spring blooming camellias and azaleas in his garden because he was a winter resident of Tallahassee. Alfred B. Maclay died in 1944 at age 73. Mrs. Maclay opened the gardens to the public from 1946 to 1949, and in 1953, she donated the gardens to the State of Florida for use as a state park. She passed away in 1973.
The first Maclay equitation class was held in 1933 at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Equitation is defined as the art and practice of horsemanship and horse riding. The class was established by Alfred B. Maclay when he was a board member with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The class was conceived by Maclay, an accomplished horseman, “to inspire young riders to develop the best horsemanship skills and instill in them respect and compassion for their equine partners.”
Maclay served on the Show Committee of the National Horse Show for 30 years, serving as Chairman in 1916. He also served as president of the American Horse Show Association, now the United States Equestrian Federation, from 1926 to 1936. The National Horse Show was established in 1883 to showcase Fine Harness horses and show jumping.
The Maclay Equitation Finals are held every year in November. To reach the finals, junior riders enter to compete in the ASPCA Horsemanship Class at sanctioned horse shows across the country. The Maclay class format is comprised of 50 percent jumping performance and 50 percent flat performance. This format is based on Mr. Maclay’s original objective of improving the overall rider. His commitment to excellence created one of the most outstanding riding competitions for young jumping riders. It is a coveted Championship that has produced many of our country’s finest horsemen.
The 134th edition of the National Horse Show took place Oct. 31 through Nov. 5, 2017 at the Kentucky Horse Park. There were 177 riders in the 2017 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, the nation’s most historic equitation title. The winner was 17-year-old Madison Goetzmann of Skaneateles, New York.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is located about two miles from the site of the Red Hills Horse Trials. The historic Maclay House is open for tours daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 30. The museum in the House includes a section on Mr. Maclay’s involvement with equitation. Make time to visit the park to enjoy the spectacular gardens and to learn more about this remarkable, true Renaissance man.
Special thanks to John Canetta, Maclay Gardens State Park Historian Extraordinaire, for maintaining the park archives and supplying information for this article.