Myopia Hunt Club: Horses, Hounds and Heritage
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|Charlie Jacobs riding his horse, Snoopy, at the I Love NY Horse Show Grand Prix in 2011|
“I think of myself as a fierce competitor,” says Jacobs, who has competed in show jumping events for more than 30 years. “I’m not there for awards, to look at hats or sip mimosas. I’m there to ride horses, jump and be competitive. If we are successful when it’s over, I’m going back to the barn to celebrate with the people who made it happen for us.”
Jacobs was raised on a horse farm in upstate New York, and he continues the family’s equestrian tradition with his three children and his wife, Kim, all of whom ride and follow the competitive show jumping circuit year-round. For Jacobs and others who share this lifestyle, their love of horses supersedes even the thrill of victory and prizes. “There is a certain draw to the animal—the majesty of the horse, its athleticism, beauty and raw power,” he says. “When you share that passion with others, you go to venues that put the care and safety of the horse first. It takes years to develop a real connection and bond with your horse, and that’s why you have to take care of it. You have to look after the investment—and it’s not just money; it requires a lot of time and energy.”
Jacobs’ horses provide a therapeutic benefit as well. “For me, it’s time spent focusing on something I love to do,” he explains. “After a long day at the office or when something is on my mind, if I can spend a half hour working with the horses and caring for them, I’m in a whole different place.” Jacobs’ devotion to his animals is so strong that he had one flown to Canada so he could ride during a break in the action at the Stanley Cup finals.
An Equestrian Tradition
With its big purse and hundreds of competitors, the Putnam event bears little resemblance to the first Myopia Horse Show in 1896, which is documented along with a detailed account of club history in Edward Weeks’ Myopia: A Centennial Chronicle 1875–1975. The event was dubbed a “society lark” in the local papers, but master R.M. “Bud” Appleton, whose portrait hangs in the club’s wood-paneled bar, managed to attract 125 horses.
In those early days, the most coveted trophy a rider could win was the club’s Master’s Cup, in memory of Master Frank Seabury, who served from 1884 to 1891. The first Master’s Cup was awarded in 1899 to Appleton, who succeeded Seabury. Appleton rode a horse named Gloucester, which he purchased for $50 from a taxi driver he hailed on Gloucester Street in Back Bay.
Hounds flank Myopia member Heather Player during a foxhunt
Polo is another longstanding tradition that lives on at the club. On Sundays from May until October, drivers along Route 1A in Hamilton pass a simple sign announcing POLO TODAY AT 3 PM. For $10 per person, you can park on the edge of the polo fields and picnic just steps away from the powerful ponies as they charge for the goals. The first polo in Massachusetts was played in the summer of 1887 at Gibney Farm in Hamilton, a property that the Myopians initially rented and eventually purchased. In his memoir, Myopia Songs and Waltzes, the club’s first president, Marshall K. Abbott, wrote: “The so-called Polo Ground, a rough pasture rolled for a week or two, was not worthy of the name. If the ground was bad, the game was worse.” The following year, the first public polo exhibition at Myopia drew some 200 people, though the club’s wit, Jack Wheelwright, credited Salem’s brass band with “the best playing” of the day.