In October 1883, New Yorkers—more than five thousand of them—thrilled to the first ever Madison Square Garden Horse Show.  It lasted for five days and brought together horses and owners from many parts of the country.  Breeders networked.  Spectators gawked.  Horses paraded three times a day.  Winners collected their prizes.

Daisy and Abby were there.

They were present at the birth of what would become the National Horse Show:  the event that came to mark the start of the social season, the place to see and be seen if you were from high society, and a recognized institution both in the equestrian world and the social calendar.

The two best friends attended because they were both familiar with horses.  Daisy knew how to ride, jump, and handle spirited mounts.  Abby enjoyed the show so much that she returned three times that week.  The jumping exhibitions were her favorite.  She probably saw the two noted “professional lady riders,” Miss Mulhuish and Miss King, who were jumping experts.  Abby did find that it “added to the excitement” when the riders were thrown off their horses!

National Horse Show

There was plenty to see:  fifty tiny ponies and several huge Percherons, and nearly every size and sort of horse in between:  trotters, Arabians, hunting horses, saddle horses, thoroughbreds, “roadsters, and the fancy breeds for driving in fancy turn-outs.” There were exhibits of “harnesses, blankets, whips, and stable implements.”  Coaches and carriages and other horse-drawn vehicles were lined up for inspection by the curious. The horse stalls were ornately decorated and considered worth a look.

Red, white, and blue streamers hung jauntily from the ceiling of Madison Square Garden.  “More than 50 electric lights” had been strung up.  The Seventh Regiment National Guard Band serenaded the onlookers.

The old Madison Square Garden

The show was organized by the National Horse Show Association of America, formed only a year earlier.  The NHSAA modeled itself on the poultry, dog, and “blooded cattle” shows and hoped to make money, increase interest in horse riding and showing, and to provide a place for breeders, owners, and riders to exchange ideas. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Since owning prize-winning horses was generally the purview of the wealthy, the Madison Square Garden Horse Show morphed slowly but surely into an annual venue for members of high society to meet each other, display their newest jewels or furs, engage in matchmaking, and simply to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate the beautiful horses.

Neither Daisy nor Abby made a habit of attending the National Horse Show.  One who did, though, was Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She was a generation younger than Juliette Gordon Low, and in her day, the National Horse Show was the place to be every autumn.

I love it when my two research worlds come together!

Readying for the Horse Show inside Madison Square Garden in Alice Longworth’s era, 1909



The photos are from from;, and from respectively.  Except for Abby’s, the quotes all come from the New York Time  If you’d like the specific citations, please e-mail me: