HIS & HERS : Bob Cacchione, founder of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association with equinista, LA Pomeroy
Time flies when you’re having fun. As do air miles, which definitely accrue if you’re Robert E. ‘Bob’ Cacchione of Fairfield CT, the ageless and eternally dapper founder and executive director of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA). George Clooney and his ‘Up in the Air’ black card would be hard pressed to keep apace with Bob’s epic itinerary visiting shows across eight national Zones, sometimes traveling to multiple events in a single day or weekend, and always (always) encouraging riders and coaches, posing for selfies while making new friends, and sharing dazzling old stories. Like working at Cartier and escorting Andy Warhol to the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden… or discovering the fellow fox hunter who kept bumping their horse into his was none other than Jacqueline Kennedy… or that he used to date (wait for it…) ‘You Light Up My Life” singer, Debby Boone. But nothing lights him up more than thinking about the 2016-2017 season-long series of nationwide celebrations ahead, dubbed ‘Bob’s Magical History Tour,’ in conjunction with the 2017 official 50th Golden Anniversary of the organization’s founding in 1967. You can practically hear those travel points adding up now…
HERS: The association you founded as a teenager is turning fifty soon. What’s going through your head?
HIS: That I don’t believe it. Fifty years? Where has the time gone?
HERS: Time well spent?
HIS: In retrospect, absolutely. I can’t express how proud I am when I think about the doors this has opened for young riders. Or the multiple years, if not decades, that so many coaches have given to the association and most of all, to its riders. That’s the real backbone of IHSA and nearly 50 years later, I’m still mesmerized by it.
HERS: Next 50 years?
HIS: Wow, let’s see… an international IHSA? Maybe. I believe it could happen. To see IHSA go global would hinge on the ‘equitation factor.’ Here in the United States, we’re the only nation that has equitation. The European formats focus on dressage and stadium jumping. So it’s a matter, in part, of looking at expanding programs and defining intercollegiate.
HERS: Those early shows had judges known as great horsemen even then, like Frank Chapot, George Morris and Mike Page. How’d a kid like you pull that off?
HIS: While building IHSA, I used to ringmaster for every show I could. That’s how I met horsemen like George Morris, Ronnie Mutch and Victor Hugo Vidal, first as coaches and riders at the in-gate, and later I’d ask them to judge. George judged the first IHSA show hosted by the US Military Academy at West Point (NY). I think we had three shows in their field house that year and our judges were George, Mike Page and Jim Fallon, who coached Bennett College and would go on to become AHSA president.
HERS: George Morris personally autographed a copy of UNRELENTING for the silent auction benefiting IHSA at its National Championships in May. Does he hold fond memories of judging intercollegiate?
HIS: Yes, he does! When he judged his first IHSA show, in mid-1970s, he said he had been very impressed at how well organized it was. Since the beginning, he’s said he loves how the IHSA format builds on a riding foundation, from Walk-Trot through Novice to Open. I later asked him to judge Nationals when we held them in Texas, and he said he was honored. I was just as honored when he asked Trafalgar to send us a signed copy of his best seller.
HERS: Keeping that element of fun in collegiate riding is important to you. Even if you’re the target of a little impish fun. Like the ‘Bob heads?’
HIS: One year at Nationals, I had no idea that Naomi (Blumenthal, IHSA treasurer) had printed these larger than life copies of my head on signs and given them out at the show and to the audience. When she had asked me for a head shot I never questioned why. So now it’s time to present the Cacchione Cup and while I’m congratulating the top riders, they keep asking me to turn around, saying I am “all over the audience.” I didn’t know what they meant and moved on to the third-placed rider, Robert Jacobs from St. Andrews, who literally took me by the shoulders and manually turned me around to see the stands full of giant cardboard copies of my head! To this day it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Robert ‘Bob’ E. Cacchione is executive director and founder of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (www.ihsainc.com). In 1967, as an 18 year-old freshman at Fairleigh-Dickinson University, he became its youngest faculty member as well as coach of a newly-formed equestrian team that would launch the IHSA and its egalitarian mission of making riding available to all college students no matter their gender, race, skill or economic level. In May 2017, IHSA will celebrate the 50th golden anniversary of its founding at its National Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park. Past winners of its historic Cacchione Cup, named in honor of Bob’s parents, Marty and Anne Cacchione and presented annually to the nation’s high point hunt seat rider, include USEF four-time Equestrian of the Year, Beezie (nee Patton) Madden (Southern Seminary) and her US Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medal squadmate, Peter Wylde (Tufts). Cacchione has been recognized for his commitment to college riding with the USHJA Presidents Distinguished Service Award, USEF/EQUUS Foundation Humanitarian Award, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Centenary College, and the American Horse Publications Equine Industry Vision Award. He is also Vice Chairman of the Gentlemen’s Committee of the Alltech National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Equinista (fashionista + equestrienne) L.A. Pomeroy is a 2016 Syracuse Press Club sports writing award winner for Time & Again, how h/j trainer Jennifer Gurney’s rehabilitation of ex-racehorses mirrors the life of her stepfather, Harry deLeyer, who spent $80 to save an Amish plow horse named Snowman from slaughter and went on to win America’s triple crown of indoor grand prix show jumping. The five-time (2008-2013) American Horse Publications editorial awards finalist and two-time consecutive AHP winner for Freelance Equestrian Journalism led Equestrian Press support and athlete interviews at the 1996 Olympics and has provided publicity consult to an elite stable of clients including Equus Film Festival-NYC and Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association while maintaining a strong editorial voice in today’s equestrian lifestyle and sports media. Learn more at www.lapomeroy.com.