Four new inductees were celebrated at the sold-out 10th annual Jump Canada Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Gala, presented by BMO Financial Group, on Sunday, November 6, 2016, at the Liberty Grand in Toronto, ON. Elizabeth Bordeaux (Builder – Individual), Glen Owen (Horse – Equitation) and Marion Atkinson (Groom), respectively, were profiled in the past three issues of The Warm-Up Ring. We now learn more about Hugh Graham. Inducted in the category of Rider, Graham’s fascinating career resulted in the longest, and perhaps the most entertaining, acceptance speech delivered in Hall of Fame’s history!
Rider: Hugh Graham
Hugh Graham’s career with horses is both long and storied.
It was a sign of things to come when a 12-year-old Graham, with no previous riding experience, broke and trained his family’s newly acquired pony, Thunder. He was first drawn to rodeo, winning multiple titles throughout high school, including being named the 1968 Ontario Rodeo Association’s Champion Calf Roper as well as Champion Junior Steer Rider. A fractured leg brought his rodeo career to an end but, as they say, when one door closes a window opens.
A job working under 1968 Olympic team gold medalist Jim Day at Sam-Son Farm in the 1970s cultivated Graham’s interest in show jumping. Graham won his first grand prix in 1973 and, in 1982, was named to the Canadian Equestrian Team. The following year, he was a member of Canada’s silver medal team at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, riding Abraxas.
Graham made his Olympic debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics riding Elrond as a member of Canada’s fourth-placed team. In Graham’s next major games appearance, Canada would strike gold at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Illinois, thanks in part to his pivotal clear round riding Wellington.
In 1990, the same year he competed in the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm, Sweden, Graham worked with Seymour and Gloria Epstein to establish KingRidge Stables in King, Ontario, which quickly grew into one of Canada’s preeminent sport horse stables. One of their most prolific grand prix horses was Money Talks, who Graham rode to back-to-back victories in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, AB, in 1994 and 1995. With another KingRidge-owned horse, Undercover, Graham was a member of the 1995 Pan American Games team in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was named to the Canadian team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
At the time of his induction to the Hall of Fame, Graham and the Epsteins were still enjoying a successful partnership more than a quarter of a century later. Graham continues to oversee the training and management of KingRidge Stables, including its breeding program and young horse development.
Further evidence of Graham’s horsemanship skills can be found in the thoroughbred racing world. In 2005, he took over the management of his father-in-law Morgan Firestone’s racing program, including the training of a horse named Mike Fox. Two years later, Graham led Mike Fox into the winner’s circle following his victory in the 2007 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine racetrack in Toronto, ON.
A veteran of Olympic, World Championships and Pan American Games, Graham has also represented Canada at four World Cup Finals and has ridden on 23 Nations’ Cup teams. In total, he has won grand prix events riding 36 different horses!
A true all-round horseman who has excelled in multiple disciplines throughout his career, Hugh Graham was warmly welcomed into the Jump Canada Hall of Fame in the category of Rider.