The United States Eventing Association's (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame was established in 1999 to honor the accomplishments, contributions, and dedication of members of the eventing community who have truly made a difference to the sport. Induction into the USEA’s Eventing Hall of Fame is U.S. eventing's highest honor and recipients include past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founding fathers, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, breeders, and coaches.
In preparation for the 20th anniversary of the USEA’s Eventing Hall of Fame we’re taking a walk down memory lane to revisit the inductees who have joined the Hall of Fame over the years. Read on to meet the Hall of Fame Class of 2009. Click here to meet the Class of 1999, click here to meet the Class of 2003, and click here to meet the Class of 2006.
Bruce Davidson was a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team for more than 30 years, first making the team in 1971 when he was 18 years old. He was a member of two Olympic gold medal teams, 1976 and 1984, and earned two Olympic silver team medals in 1972 and 1996. In 1974, riding Irish Cap, Davidson was the first American to win the World Championships at Burghley in England. As a result of his win in the Championships, the U.S was awarded the privilege of hosting the World Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park in 1978. Davidson defended his title aboard Might Tango and became the only rider to ever win back-to-back World Championship titles.
Davidson represented the U.S. at two Pan American Games, winning both the individual and the team silver medal at the 1975 Games in Mexico City. At the 1995 Pan Am Games in Buenos Aires, he earned individual gold and the team silver medal once again. Davidson competed at the prestigious Badminton CCI4* seven times and in 1995 became the first American winner. He also added multiple wins at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event to his extensive record and holds the record for number of wins at Kentucky Three-Day Event with six victories.
Davidson was the highest placed rider in the World FEI rankings in 1993 and 1995, and he was named the USEA Rider of the Year every year from 1980 to 1995. In 2002, Davidson was named one of the 50 most influential horsemen of the 20th century by The Chronicle of the Horse. Davidson currently resides at his Chesterland Farm in Pennsylvania where he breeds horses, trains students and horses, and continues to ride.
Kevin Freeman’s first international success came in 1963 when he won team gold and individual silver medals at the Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Freeman represented the U.S. in three Olympic competitions. He was a member of the silver medal team at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo riding Gallopade and placed 12th individually. At the following Games in 1968 in Mexico City, Freeman rode Chalan as a member of the silver medal U.S. team. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Freeman was the highest placing American and won his third team silver medal aboard Good Mixture.
In 1991, Freeman was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. He was the organizer of the Freeman Farms Horse Trials in Oregon for many years and contributed much to the growth of the sport in Area VII.
Denis Glaccum was one of the first members of the USEA and rode in his first event in 1956. Four years later, Glaccum competed in the 1960 Olympic Selection Trials. In 1976, Glaccum started the event which would become the Chesterland Three-Day Event, and 10 years after that he formed Fair Hill Equestrian Events, Inc., which now goes by the name Plantation Field Equestrian Events and is responsible for organizing the events at Plantation Field. Glaccum also pioneered the use of portable cross-country jumps at Fair Hill, a practice that has become mainstream in modern eventing.
Glaccum co-founded the American Horse Trials Foundation, which allows riders to collect tax-free donations. He served for many years on the USEA Board of Governors in a variety of positions and was involved with the introduction of computers to the organization and the headquarters’ move to Morven Park. He is also a former member of the United States Equestrian Team’s Three-Day Event committee. In the early 2000s, Glaccum assisted in writing the curriculum for the Course Designers’ Clinics.
Glaccum holds the honor of having competed in events longer than any other American, competing from 1956 to 2012.
David O’Connor was a member of almost every U.S. Equestrian Team from 1986 until his retirement in 2004 and is one of America’s most successful international three-day event riders. In 1995, O’Connor won both Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and the Fair Hill CCI3*. The following year O’Connor rode Giltedge as a member of the silver medal-winning team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and was fifth individually aboard Custom Made. In 1997, O’Connor rode Custom Made to become only the second American to win the Badminton CCI4*. O’Connor’s performances at the Olympics and Badminton led him to the title of USEA Rider of the Year in 1996 and 1997.
At the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, O’Connor and Giltedge were members of the gold medal team and were the individual silver medalists. In 2000, O’Connor rode Custom Made to win the individual gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games. He was also a member of the bronze medal team aboard Giltedge, who then went on to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event the following year. Two years later, O’Connor once again stood on top of the podium as a member of the gold medal-winning team at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain. His partner was Giltedge, who with O'Connor represented the U.S. Team an outstanding five times.
O’Connor is now retired from international competition but continues to support the sport by training riders and horses and designing courses across the country. He was the President of the United States Equestrian Federation from 2004-2012. He served as the coach for the Canadian Eventing Team from 2006 through 2012, leading them to silver medals at the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2010 World Equestrian Games. In 2013, he was appointed the Chef d’Equipe of the United States team, a role he held until 2017. In 2018 he became the chair of the FEI Eventing Committee.
Eileen Thomas was Executive Director of the USEA and served the organization for 17 years from 1974 to 1991. Before living in the U.S., Thomas had spent 15 years working as secretary to the British Pony Club and was chief scorer at the Badminton Horse Trials. In 1974, Neil Ayer persuaded Thomas to move to the U.S. to help set up the office system for the USEA.
Thomas established the central horse registration and event registration programs, campaigned to have Training Points abolished, set the minimum age of 4 years old for competition horses, and revamped the grading system. Under her direction, the Omnibus grew from a tiny booklet to four major volumes a year and membership and starter numbers flourished immensely.
Horse welfare was always a top priority for Thomas and she campaigned for rule changes and for greater authority to be given to officials to ensure that abuse did not occur. In 1982, Thomas was awarded the prestigious Wofford Cup in recognition of her years of dedication to the sport.
Custom Made (Bassompierre x Purple Heather) is a 17.2 hand dark bay Irish Sport Horse gelding who was foaled in Ireland in 1985. Owned by Mr. Joseph Zada, Custom Made is best known for his individual gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games with David O’Connor in the irons. O’Connor and Custom Made won their first major event when they took first place at the 1995 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. The following year the pair placed fifth individually at the Atlanta Olympic Games and were third at the Badminton CCI4*. In 1997, O’Connor once again took Custom Made to Badminton where they won the prestigious event in superb style.
Custom Made won his very last competition at the Fair Hill CCI3* in 2002. He now lives in happy retirement at Stonehall Farm in Virginia.
Good Mixture (Mixture x Romaha) was a 16.1 ½ hand brown gelding born in 1962 who was bought off the racetrack by Miss Geraldine (Gerry) Pearson in Oregon. After the 1972 Olympics, he was purchased by a group of USCTA members with Neil Ayer owning the largest share. In 1971, Good Mixture was named USCTA Horse of the Year, and in 1972 he was Kevin Freeman’s mount at the Munich Olympic Games where the pair was members of the silver medal-winning team. In addition, they were the highest placed Americans earning an individual fifth-place finish. Two years later, Good Mixture partnered with Mike Plumb and headed across the Atlantic Ocean once again to contest the World Championships which were held in England at the Burghley Horse Trials. Good Mixture and Plumb won the individual silver medal and were members of the U.S. Team which took top honors earning the gold medal.
After Good Mixture retired from competition, he was sent to Freeman’s farm in Oregon where he served as a schoolmaster well into his 20s.
A 17.2 hand bay gelding bred in Ireland, Irish Cap was owned and trained by Bruce Davidson. Irish Cap carried Davidson to a third-place finish at the 1974 Badminton Horse Trials but he is probably best known for sweeping the medals at the 1974 European Championships held at the Burghley Horse Trials in England. Davidson and Irish Cap not only were members of the gold medal team, but they also won the individual gold medal.
Two years later, at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Irish Cap and Davidson helped the U.S. Team win the Olympic gold medal.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.