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Record-Breaking Attendance at 119TH National Horse Show in Wellington, Florida

After being held indoors for 118 years at Madison Square Garden (with the exception of six years at the Meadowlands in New Jersey), The National Horse Show concluded its 119th year yesterday at the spacious, outdoor show grounds of The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida. The National, founded in 1883, is the oldest and most prestigious horse show in the U.S., bringing together the best horses and riders in the country.

During the last six years, attendance at the Madison Square Garden location had dramatically deteriorated, particularly after 9/11. The social cachet that had once been associated with the show had for some reason begun to lose its luster. Add to that the inability to secure a long-term, economically feasible contract with the Garden, and, by the spring of 2002, the continuing existence of The National was in jeopardy.

To the rescue, Gene Mische, Chairman of The National as well as Chairman of Stadium Jumping, Inc. -- Mr. Mische made the dramatic decision to move The National to an outdoor venue, far away from the New York metropolitan area, and to break with the show’s longstanding tradition.

While there were skeptics, the skeptics have now been proved wrong. The crowds came back, the social set was out in full force and the horses and riders were shown at their best in the flawless show rings of The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club.

The 119th National Horse Show began on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 and ended on Sunday, December 1, 2002. With attendance topping 50,000 for the six-day show, parking often went into an overflow phase and show programs were sold out by the fourth day. Most remarkable was attendance for Friday night’s performances beginning at 7pm: over 13,000 packed the stands to watch hunters, jumpers, dressage horses and Friesians; and these loyal fans stayed until well past midnight so as not to miss the last jump. On Sunday, the show’s last day, over 15,000 watched the many competitions, concluding with the $100,000 National Horse Show Jumper Championship, won for the second year in a row by Olympian Lauren Hough.

Sponsors The Palm Beach Post, Lexus, BET, Adequan and Kilkenny Insurance were gratified to have supported this groundbreaking endeavor.

Wellington, Florida has long been considered the equestrian capitol of the U.S. by those in-the-know. Now, with the overwhelming success of The 119th National and the public’s apparent interest in the horse world, it is expected that The National will return to Wellington for its 120th year.

It is estimated that the six-day show added $12 million to the revenues of Palm Beach County. Coupled with the half-billion dollars per year otherwise contributed by the Palm Beach County equestrian community to Palm Beach County’s revenues, it is clear that the equestrian business represents an important part of the community.

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