In Hungarian saddle

You might think that England is the home of horse-racing, but even in the Ancient Rome supporting and gambling fever raged, just look at the huge size of the Circus Maximus in Rome. But it would be hypocrisy to say that horse- and chariot racing became popular only because of the sight and the love of horses. The opportunity for booking and winning – as it was also a kind of gambling – was at least as important. You can have a look into the history of the Hungarian horse-racing. 

Gallop vs. trotting – some basic terms

There are two types of horse-racing inHungary: the gallop and the trotting (or harness race). The most eye-catching difference between them: the rider sits on the horse in case of gallop, while he sits in a sulky in case of trotting, and he is called ‘driver’. Categorising does not end here.

The aim of dressage – as a horse sport – is the harmonic development of a horse’s stature, motion and skills. By professional training, horses’ muscles become loose, their motions become dynamic and flexible. On the other hand, show-jumping puts a horse’s jumping skills and obedience on a test besides different tasks.

From the omnibus yard to Tattersall

A_ltenyszts_emelsre_alakult_rszvnytrsasg_ellap_923061.jpgIn an urbanising Budapest, as omnibuses – public transport vehicles pulled by horses – spread, an increasing number of horses were needed; and horse breeding was a highlighted sector anyway in the aspect of national economy.

In 1877, the Public Limited Company for Raising Horse Breeding was established. Although the board of this long-named company consisted of respectable personalities like Ernő Blaskovich (owner of Kincsem), many people were afraid that its name would be longer than the existence of the initiative.
What did the forming of the company mean in practice? Primarily, they wanted to motivate breeders by organising fairs, expositions and races. Their headquarters was – what a coincidence – at the Omnibus yard on Kerepesi Road. In fact, citizens of Pest just called the place Tattersall. It received its name from the English stock-breeder Richard Tattersall, but personally he did not have anything to do with the Hungarian establishment. Tattersall got his fame with trustworthiness first of all. He also created a system that was suitable of keeping saddle horses as well as organising fairs and breeding. Thus, creditable stud farms selling and keeping horses for rental, which were similar to his, were called Tattersall all over Europe.

One year later in 1878, a horse expo and auction were organised here with great success, on which Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth appeared as well. Later on, the first horse-race was also organised here, including show-jumping, dressage and ribbon-chasing game. By 1883, the building of a new trotting racetrack was necessary.

The trotting racetrack

127833.jpgAs it usually happens, some changes occurred and the Equestrian Sport Association of Budapest was formed. Two-thirds of the three-acre land was taken over by the Trotting Track Association of Budapest, which meant that the Trotting Track was separated. Earlier, one criterion of a deal with the capital city was the construction of a modern equestrian hall, for which tenders were invited in 1931; Ferenc Paulheim Jr. won the competition. The new trotting racetrack and a related building complex were finished by 1933, with a real stunt: electric lighting. In 1939, the country’s first open jump-garden was created here.

By the end of WW 2, almost everything was destroyed. In the following years the Trotting Track was treated rather badly. No wonder, equestrian sport has always been a sport of gentlemen, and only the real fanatics went to the races. The covered equestrian hall was pulled down in 1952, only the main building remained. In the 1960s, the building complex was taken over by the Agricultural Ministry and inherited the name National Riding Hall. In the 1960s, there were no real challenges, but there was a wonderful horse Imperial, whose run was viewed even by János Kádár.

The birth of the original National Riding Hall was connected to the National Equestrian Association. Its founders were: Baron Miklós Wesselényi, Count István Széchenyi and Count István Károlyi. The Association entrusted Miklós Ybl with the design of the building in January 1858, and Ybl put in a claim for a building permit as early as in April. The Riding Hall stood behind the National Museum, on the place of today’s Radio.

The Trotting Track was last used in 2004; a mall was built on its place. The newly opened Kincsem Park is now the place of events like trotting and gallop races. Only a life-size bronze statue and a part of the spectators’ terrace built in 1933 remind us to the past of the location. However, the Tattersall did not disappear completely; the National Riding Hall survived and glows almost with its old grandeur.

Translated by Zita Aknai


Dr. Fehér Dezső-Török Imre: Százéves a magyar ügetőversenyzés (1883-1983), Mezőgazdasági Kiadó ­ Magyar Lóverseny Vállalat, 1983.


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