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Ireland’s Nations Cup: Mexico Scores Historic Aga Khan Victory

by | Aug 11, 2018

It has been 37 years since Mexico sent a team to contest the 2018 Aga Khan Cup, the perpetual trophy of Ireland’s Nations Cup. The sell-out Dublin crowd at Ballsbridge arena saw their home team start brilliantly before fading in the second round, but the Mexican effort sealed victory when Ireland’s Cameron Hanley and the mighty Quirex gently rolled a pole…

Mexico wins The Aga Khan Trophy for the first time

Mexico Sends First Team to Dublin in 37 Years, Wins FEI Nations Cup

Return of History

It’s great to see former show jumping nations back at the top of the game. Italy, one of the original top show jumping countries, has also had a recent resurgence, winning its own Nations Cup this past spring for the second year in a row after decades of near-total drought.

Hopes are also high that Japan will reignite its formerly formidable presence on the world scene, with the Olympic Games in Tokyo returning Baji Koen, host venue of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Not incredibly high hopes, but still. It would be great…

Mexico is particularly interesting, because almost nothing has been heard of the colorful nation after their spectacular run during the late 1940’s and 50’s. Their top star, the popular if controversial Humberto Mariles, was a sensation then on his one-eyed superhorse Arete.

Mexico’s International Rise and Fall

There were many facets to Mariles, but as a rider he had sincere passion and a special gift that his horses responded to. He won both the Individual and Team show jumping Gold medals in 1948, and brought a serious analysis to the game that has seldom been seen since.

“When you are young … you ride with your heart,” Mariles claimed. “Then around 30 you start riding with your intellect.” He also relayed a French quote: “A man only begins to understand riding when it is time for him to stop.”

Mariles still has admirers in Mexico; though again, the man was controversial. After his victorious string of riding successes, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder. Released by presidential pardon in just 5 years, he was arrested in Paris in 1972 for drug smuggling, and died in prison before his trial.

There is much more to the story though. Mariles lawyers were said to have the man’s exoneration evidence in hand. Mariles died in controversy too, from pulmonary effects, or as others say, by poison.

There are many dubious heroes in humanity, and winning in one area of life doesn’t guarantee victory in another. What can be said is that Mexico’s daring sportsman was a horseman who honored his sport and his mounts. When his great partner, Arete, was destroyed after a stable accident with another horse, Humberto Mariles personally dug the animal’s tomb in the Mexican Olympic Sports Center.

The Politics of Mexico’s Decline in Jumping

The real end of international success for Mexico in show jumping came from the 1952 election of President Ruiz Cortines, a man with no love for horses or the development of Mexican excellence in the saddle. Mariles’ hard work was defunded, dismantled and lost. Their winning army jumping team was disbanded, and Mariles was transferred out of cavalry to a meaningless position.

Mexico didn’t even send a team to the 1956 Olympics in Stockholm, and has been a minor player ever since.

So the sudden reappearance and surprise win of Mexico in Dublin is a welcome re-entry for a once-proud equestrian nation. This means that either there is public support and a strong updraft of Mexican talent, or another corrupt autocratic regime is in place that likes horses.

In keeping with the Clean Round! mission, we hope public interest has since grown into real support, and that Mexico is back to stay. Consistency is the key in jumping success, so we will see…