Each week on #HallOfFameThursday, Horse Network recognizes members of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame with an inductee’s plaque, historical photos and, on the first Thursday of every month, an article written by a Show Jumping Hall of Famer. As this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo unfolds, Hall of Fame Thursday continues with a series honoring riders and horses in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame who rode in the Olympics. This final installment is a story on Gem Twist, Show Jumping Hall of Fame class of 2002, written by Hall of Famer Frank Chapot (Class of 1994).
For me and my family, Gem Twist was the horse of a lifetime, not only for his myriad of accomplishments, but also because he was bred and raised at home on our farm in New Jersey.
He was by Cheeca Farm’s great little horse, Good Twist, also a Hall of Fame horse, who had carried me to so many victories in the 1960s and early ‘70s. Good Twist traced back to the wonderful Bonne Nuit Thoroughbred line that has nearly disappeared today. He was out of a Thoroughbred steeplechase horse given to us to breed by a great friend.
To his many fans worldwide, Gem Twist was the super-horse of the century. Affectionately known as “America’s Great Grey,” he had all the attributes of a great show jumper—speed, scope, and carefulness. He also had an electrifying style and presence that made people flock to the ring to watch him perform. This horse simply loved to jump and the higher he could fly over the top of a jump, the better. He understood the game, and always went into the ring to win, every bit as much as his rider.
While many horses succeed because they click with one rider, Gem remained a consistent winner throughout his career with three riders—Greg Best, Leslie Howard and my daughter Laura who did so much to keep him going in his later years.
Gem Twist’s fame and achievements brought much attention to the sport of show jumping in America. At the end of his career, crowds flocked to ceremonies honoring him at USET Headquarters in Gladstone, at Madison Square Garden in New York City and at the American Invitational in Tampa. He was honored with the creation of a Breyer model horse which is still a prized find on eBay even today.
In my mind, there’ll never be another horse like him!
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