Horse Sense

Equestrian show riding requires grit, determination, and passion. For anyone to corral these qualities is an achievement. For a child barely of kindergarten age, it is nothing short of remarkable. From the time Janet first set her in a saddle as a toddler, Jackie showed an innate understanding of horses and displayed her deeply competitive nature. But riding was more than a sport. It became an escape from the misery of constantly fighting parents. As an adult, Jackie used riding as a way to be alone with her thoughts and moods.


Under her mother's careful and methodical tutelage, Jackie learned the art of show riding. She began competing when she was five, taking third place with Janet in the family event at the East Hampton Horse Show.

In 1937, she won the children-under-nine division at the Southampton Horse Show. A year later Jackie earned a blue ribbon at the East Hampton Horse Show and the following summer won her class at the 1939 Southampton. Jackie's skill filled her father with pride, and riding became one of their shared passions.


In May 1965, Jackie competed with her mother and her eight-year-old daughter, Caroline, in the family class at the annual St. Bernard's School Horse Show. The trio took second place. It was the only time the three would ever compete together and the last time Jackie rode with Janet at an equestrian event.

After the separation from Jack Bouvier, Janet had less time to devote to riding, although Jackie continued to compete. She won four blue ribbons at the 1941 East Hampton Show, and her horse, Danseuse, was singled out for the number of championships she had won with both Janet and Jackie. Jackie also participated in the 1940 and 1941 National Horse Shows held in November at Madison Square Garden. In 1944, she emerged as the undisputed teenage equestrian on Long Island, winning shows at Southampton, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, and Smithtown.

After Janet married Hughdie, Jackie's interest in competitive riding cooled and as a result, Jackie eventually dropped out of the show circuit. But riding remained a significant part of her life. At Merrywood, she rode nearby trails and also participated in some local foxhunts.

Janet and Jackie pose with their horse, Stepaside, at the East Hampton Horse Show in 1937

Photo Credit: Morgan Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jackie with Danseuse at the Vassar Horse Show in 1939

Photo Credit: Morgan Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


While she was married to Black Jack, Janet had four horses that were stabled at Lasata. Jackie's favorite horse was the chestnut mare whose name meant “female dancer.” Jackie called her Donny. Jackie won most of her competitions on Danseuse and became deeply attached to the mare.


“They were so close and then this horse, Danseuse, was the trio in their relationship for a good ten years. My father, the horse and Jackie. I have a book … with nearly every letter he'd written to each of us — at least half of it was about this horse and the next step of what hunt team she could go into, what class she thought she could do next year at the Garden.”

— Lee Radziwill, in America's Queen

When she left to attend a three-year college prep boarding school in Connecticut, the Major agreed to have Danseuse boarded at the local stable. Jackie would go for long rides on Donny through the countryside, and in the winter, the mare would pull Jackie and her school friends in a sleigh through the snow.

Donny was with the family for more than twenty years, and when she died Jackie wrote an emotional tribute to the mare, calling her a lady who knew how lovely she was.

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