At the start of the day on October 3rd there were three food trucks parked in front of
the Crosbie E. Saint Equestrian Center in Highland Falls, New York. When this photo was taken at the end of
the show two of the trucks were gone and only the second set of stalls on the right-hand side of the building
would not fit into this picture. The left and right sides have ten stalls each.
THE GENERAL CROSBIE E. SAINT EQUESTRIAN CENTER: AN INDOOR RIDING FACILITY OVER 40 YEARS IN THE MAKING
The United States Military Academy has competed in IHSA competitions since
at least the start of the 1970's if not during the first three years the
organization used that name (1967-70). Yet riding at the USMA goes back
much further than that, back to a time when horses, trains, boats and
bicycles were the only modes of transportation. The USMA has been with us
since 1802, the Bicycle was invented in 1817, the train started rolling on
track in 1828 and horses, well, we will get back to you with a start date
on that one.
The USMA prioritized horsemanship perhaps from the time they opened their
doors, and in 1846 the USMA constructed Thayer Hall, a building that was the
largest indoor riding arena in the world at
that time. Ulysses S. Grant just missed riding there as undergraduate
(Grant graduated in 1843) but George S. Patton (class of 1909) would excel
in equestrian pursuits and placed fifth in the Modern Pentathlon at the 1912
Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1958 Thayer Hall was converted into an
academic building, and being so large today it houses the Departments of
history, mathematical sciences, behavioral sciences and leadership, electrical
engineering and computer science, and the academy's audio, visual and media
With the demise of Thayer Hall as an equestrian facility there was still
someplace indoors on campus that could and would host equestrian events.
Gillis Field House, best known today for the legendary Bobby Knight coaching
the Army Basketball team there for six seasons and for USMA graduate Mike
Krzyzewski playing for Knight there prior to becoming the head coach of both
Army and Duke University (the latter where Krzyzewski has coached for 40
seasons), had a layer of dirt underneath the court which could be removed
for events such as horse shows. IHSA Founder Emeritus Bob Cacchione often
mentions the time George Morris judged a regular season IHSA show inside
Gillis Field House sometime in 1975. It should be noted that Gillis Field
House was a multi-purpose building, and events related to riding had to fit
into a schedule around those of other sports and any other gathering
arranged for the facility.
However by the end of the 1970's alterations to Gillis Field House
prevented the removal of the flooring and ended any hope of indoor riding at
West Point for the forseeable future. The USMA's IHSA team was doing very
well at the time. Coached by Col. Bob Balla, the USMA won the hunter seat
Region Title in what is now Zone 3, Region 3
during the 1977-78 season (only the second year of co-education at the
USMA). By the fall of 1979 all of the lessons and any events were held
outdoors at nearby Morgan Farm in Highland Falls.
|Entering the building through the front door you will be in the Saint Equestrain Center Museum.
Trophies and other paraphernalia from before, during and after the USMA's involvement with the IHSA are on
display. Once you pass through the museum you reach a main corridor with stalls and access to the indoor viewing
1982 USMA graduate Mike White recently related a story about one of
the earliest attempts to get started on the next indoor riding facility
on USMA property, which occured just before White was enrolled there. "Col.
Balla said that a cadet left $200,000 to the USMA Equestrian Team to be
used for construction of a new indoor equestrian facility.
Col. Balla was upset that someone high up at the USMA decided that the
donation could be used for any 'more pressing issue.' That issue was
to install AstroTurf (what is more commonly called Artificial Turf) at
Michie Stadium (Editor's Note: The AstroTurf was installed in time for
the 1977 Football season, meaning interest in a facility beyond the
occasional use of the field house was already underway)."
For some time 'more pressing issues' continuted to halt the momentum
of the creation of a new indoor facility at West Point. However in the
1990's things began to change. Peter Cashman, at that time and until
very recently the Co-Head Coach of the USMA Equestrian Team with his
wife Sherry, led the campaign to raise money for the construction
of a new indoor facility, and unlike in the past Cashman's campaign
gathered more and more momentum. As early as the late 1990's Cashman
talked of building a 'bubble'-type indoor that would take up some of
the space at Morgan Farm. At one point things looked gloomy but then
in 2005 a sum was raised by selling a print by renowned artist Don
Stivers entitled "No Shortcut to Greatness." Known for his support of
the military, Stivers painted "No Shortcut to Greatness" depicting the
West Point area shortly after the civil war (Ironically Stivers, who
once gave the USMA class of 1961 over $20,000, served in the Navy
during World War II). Once again the quest for a new facility was on
the front burner.
|This photo dates from 2003 IHSA Nationals. On the left is Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo's
Renae Beggs (she placed ninth in individual intermediate fences). On the right is Beggs' coach Sophie Rowlands
and in the middle is former Jersey City State head coach Jerry Mupo. Mupo alternated between the west coast
and the east coast in the last years of his life. Note Mupo's Army Equestrian hat. After his death in 2005
it turned out that Mupo left the USMA almost half a million dollars expressly for the construction of a new
indoor equestrian center.
Around the same time an individual involved with the formation
of the IHSA passed away. Jerry Mupo, who coached Jersey City
State's IHSA team at shows before the IHSA officially took on that
name, was in his 80's. Mupo had a tremendous love of the USMA and
rarely missed an IHSA show in which West Point was competing.
Shortly after his passing Mupo's ashes were spread across Morgan
Farm. "Jerry will be with us always," said Cashman at the time.
But the Jerry Mupo story did not end there. Having earned a
considerable amount of money as a bridge inspector for the state
of New Jersey, Mupo wanted a sum given to the USMA specifically
for the construction of a new indoor riding facility. Mupo
stated in his will that the USMA had only a certain window of time
to do this, and that the money could not be used for any other
purpose. If the new indoor facility was not built in the
specified time then all of it would go someplace else (White
said that, for example, it might have gone to the Boy Scouts of
America). It took a while to settle the Mupo estate, but when
the dust settled the USMA had been given roughly $500,000 by Mupo
and a date that would calculate out to 2019 or 2020 as the
deadline to construct the building.
Faced with losing such a large sum the academy went full
speed ahead with fundraising. With the help of White and the West Point
Association of Graduates a fundraising PDF surfaced on the
internet in early 2017 showing a goal of $2,900,000, naming
opportunies and the layout of the 30,500 square foot facility.
A family named Roux purchased the Facility Naming Rights on
behalf of General Crosbie E. Saint and his family. According to
Cashman "General Saint served two tours in Vietnam. His commands
included the 11th armored cavalry regiment, the seventh United
States army training command first armored and the third cores of
the United States Army Europe. He also served on the army science
board and the advisory board for the Jewish institute for national
security affairs. Saint was a 2012 recipient of the West Point
Association of a grass distinguish cadet award." A member of the
class of 1958, Saint passed away in 2018 at the age of 81. Other
large donations came from a family named Anderson and a family
named Lamb, the latter of which Mrs. Lamb competed on the 1982
USMA IHSA team.
|The 17,500 square foot indoor arena at the Saint Equestrian
Center is named for Ronald O. Hines, who was the first second
Lieutenant from West Point to die in Vietnam.
The actual riding arena is named for Ronald O. Hines, USMA class
of 1961. "Hines was the first Second Lieutenant from West Point to
die in Vietnam," says Cashman. "He was a mule rider. The donation
came from his college roomate." (Editor's Note: Hines would be
happy to know that "Paladin" the Army Mule seen at every home
football game is in a stall a few feet from Hines Arena).
Though the original goal was 2.9 million the fundraising effort
blew past that goal. "We raised 3.3 million in the last five
years," says White.
Needless to say the facility was constructed and would have
opened a year earlier had covid-19 not erased the 2020-21
season for West Point. And in October of 2021 the Crosbie E.
Saint Equestrian Center formally opened - twice!
There was a party at the Equestrian Center on the evening of
Friday, October 1st, attended by several former IHSA riders and
dignitaries from West Point. Also in attendance was Michael O.
Page, a 1964 Olympic Silver Medalist and a judge at many IHSA
shows. Page donated a trophy to West Point for their museum,
which is found in the middle of the building and serves as the
main entrance or Grand Foyer. Many historic photos are on display in the
museum, including one of Debra Lewis. Lewis and one of her
teammates were the first females to join what had been an
all-male roster (that could fill a point card) when the USMA
went co-educational in 1976. Lewis was on
hand for the grand opening, and according to White she "Burst
into tears when she saw (the museum)."
|Debra Lewis (center) was one of two females to join the USMA
Equestrian Team the year West Point admitted women for the first time. Lewis is
seen here with IHSA Founder Bob Cacchione (on right) and Peter Cashman, who as
the USMA co-head coach from the 1980's until the end of the teens played a big
part in seeing the planned indoor go from an idea to a finished project.
Though today Cashman is the Executive Director of the IHSA he is still often
seen at the Saint Equestrian Center with Head Coach and wife Sherry Cashman.
Two days later far more people passed through the entrance, for on
October 3rd the USMA hosted the second Zone 3, Region 3 IHSA show of
the 2021-22 season. This marked the first time in over a decade USMA
had not hosted at either Centenary's equestrian center or Briarwood
Farm, but rather on a portion of Morgan Farm that was once part of
one of their outdoor arenas. In effect, the Saint Equestrian Center
was built on top of soil that Jerry Mupo might have 'blown across.'
Cashman, who stepped down as Co-Head Coach to take over the IHSA's
Executive Director's position from the retired Bob Cacchione, finally
saw the dream realized. When Lily Yampolsky of the State
University of New York at New Paltz entered the ring for her open
fences ride at 9:46AM the USMA was officially holding their first
indoor home horse show on their terms since the 1970's. Six classes
later Jennifer Taylor became the first USMA rider to win a blue ribbon
at Saint Equestrian Center when she won her intermediate flat class.
Though Centenary University was high point team with 42 points (the
Cyclones have captured a region title every year since 1990) the USMA
was reserve high point team with 32. The Black Knights also had the
reserve high point rider in Lilliam Holtmeier, a winner in limit
fences who along with Taylor and Centenary's Arielle Logiudice had a
first and a second to qualify for the 'Question-Off" with judge
Barbara Filippelli in place of an actual ride-off for high point
Though it turned into a traditional IHSA show like most all the
rest the journey to get there was quite the ride. The USMA's
odyssey from an idea to a finished riding center can serve as
inspiration to all programs that imagine such a facility but have
yet to take action to start the process. And remember to be patient
and not give up faith. There are hopefully more three million
dollar, IHSA-related equestrian centers destined to be, whether they
are five years, ten years or even over forty years away!