Public Spectacle: Six Top Riders Jump on Historic Boston Commons for a Cause

August 25, 2011 -  At the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets, a free event stirred up crowd interest and gave the public a taste of fine riding talent to promote a fundraiser for the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit and the upcoming Putnam Boston Jumper Classic to be held September 8-11, 2011 at the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, MA. Putnam Investments serves as the title sponsor for the show, which features a $50,000 Grand Prix.

Olympians Peter Wylde and Leslie Burr Howard, along with accomplished Grand Prix riders Charlie Jacobs, Schuyler Riley, Nick Della Joio, and Bill Lowry, generously, showed their versatility to jump anywhere with five of the six hopping on borrowed, unknown mounts.  “This is an opportunity for us to make history by demonstrating the wonderful sport of Show Jumping in such a prominent, outdoor city location,” said Peter Wylde. “I have competed all over the world, and coming home to jump on Boston Common is truly fulfilling for me.”

The surprise iconic moment came when Charlie Jacobs, who is Principal of the Boston Bruins, the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions, took the opportunity aboard his own trusted horse Quidditch II, to merge two of his sports passions by jumping the 118-year-old Stanley Cup. “It was a lot of fun,” mused Jacobs who had to get permission from the Hockey Hall of Fame to do a raw jump (no plexi-glass protection!) Jacobs did practice with Quidditch II at his farm in Buffalo with a similar shaped object and fence.

He chose his 2010 WEF circuit champion and CN Derby winner even though the mare was just back in work from a year lay-up recovering from ankle surgery after an injury last summer. “Normally, she’s a 1.50 meter horse, so I knew she could handle a jump about 1.45 meter and jump on grass.” Instead of a traditional ground line, the Cup rested on a three inch black platform. “I knew she’d be brave, the yellow piping on the airy black plank got her attention and focus.”

The fun, spirited exhibition tied-in as a perfect prelude to a fundraiser for the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit scheduled on the nearby Roof of the Taj Boston Hotel. State budget cuts mean the unique role that police horses can provide in urban governance is in jeopardy.

The Rangers Role

Established in 1983, the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit patrols the nine parks known as the Emerald Necklace, which encompasses over 1000 acres. Once funded by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD), budget cuts removed horses from the payroll. Horses and seasonal rangers are now supported by a public-private partnership.  At one time, BPRD stabled over 16 horses with 35 employees but the squad is now reduced to only 6 mounts and 12 staff members. This creates a heavy demand to cover both the vast acreage and many events.

Horse power has many advantages over traditional police as their higher visibility allows them to see and be seen, as a noticeable presence and deterrent for safety and security. They can navigate terrain inaccessible by vehicles and quicker than officers on foot. They also perform conservation duties and help educate the public about the parks.

The Rangers ride in a military seat using double reins. Trainees become proficient at the walk, trot and canter, are taught to back, side pass, turn on the fore, haunches and jump. The Rangers, an integral part of Boston’s historic park system, not only provide safety and security but serve as friendly ambassadors and an attraction for all. For more info: or on FaceBook at The Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit.

Photos by Tracey Emmuel