byNina Fedrizzi| Oct 26, 2017
The year was 1983. The place was the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), then held in Landover, Maryland. It was the final round of the $15,000 puissance class, and the atmosphere was electric.
The crowd of 15,630-strong inside the packed stadium seemed to know history was afoot as they watched America’s Anthony D’Ambrosio trot back through the in-gate into U.S. Air Arena. Under his saddle was a 17.1-hand, off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding who had so far proven himself to be a talented jumper, though not quite fast enough to be a top competitor in the grand prix ring. The horse was named Sweet’N Low, which was ironic.
On that night, there would be nothing low whatsoever about what D’Ambrosio and the leggy grey would accomplish.
After a series of warm-up jumps, the pair approached a puissance wall that towered at a staggering 7’ 7”½ high. Barney Ward, riding a horse named for his then-9-year-old son, McLain, had been eliminated in the third round. German rider Michael Ferves had taken down the wall as one of two competitors remaining in the fourth round. Now, it all came down to D’Ambrosio.
To date, no rider has managed to break the indoor world puissance record set by Anthony D’Ambrosio and Sweet’N Low that night (the Thoroughbred, whose Jockey Club name was lost, was renamed for his owners Donald and Barbara Tober’s artificial sweetener company). Thirty-four years later, it’s uncertain if anyone ever will.
Last year at the WIHS, Barney Ward’s son, McLain, and ZZ Top tied for first place with Aaron Vale and Finou 4 jumping 7′ feet—no small accomplishment, but still more than seven inches below d’Ambrosio’s record. “Records are meant to be broken,” D’Ambrosio told The Chronicle of the Horse in an interview in 2014, adding that he’d love to watch another rider that year jump higher than him.
Will 2017’s $25,000 International Puissance High Jump Class be the class? We’ll have to wait until tomorrow (Friday, October 27th) to find out. Until then, we’ll leave you with this video of d’Ambrosio and the brave OTTB that accomplished one of show jumping’s most legendary and longstanding feats:
-Photo credit: Pennington, courtesy of the WIHS.