History Intertwined: The ASPCA Maclay National Championship

November 12, 2021


The ASPCA name is synonymous with dog and cat welfare, but did you know that our origins lie in preventing cruelty to equines? In 1863, Henry Bergh, who would later go on to create the ASPCA, was on assignment in Russia as an American diplomat. While there, he stopped a carriage driver from beating his fallen horse. The encounter had a profound impact on Bergh, and he returned to New York City with a newfound mission to improve the lives of animals. He firmly believed that all animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment and deserved to be protected under the law.

The ASPCA was the first, and at the time only, humane society in the United States. Since our establishment in 1866, the ASPCA has innovated ways to better protect animals. In fact, one of the organization’s early programs was an equine ambulance service for carriage horses in New York City.

In 1883, another organization began making its mark on the equine world in a different way. The National Horse Show was founded in New York City’s Madison Square Garden by an influential group of sportsmen. From its inception, the event drew in the nation’s best equestrians and captured the imagination and admiration of the public.

Sharing a place of origin and a passion for horses, the two groups would eventually intertwine–Alfred B. Maclay was an ASPCA board member and President of the National Horse Show. He wanted to provide an incentive for junior riders to focus on their horsemanship and riding skills. In 1933, he brought that vision to reality with the ASPCA Maclay National Horsemanship Championship, an event that continues to this day.


Each year, thousands of talented young riders practice their horsemanship for the chance to qualify for the national championship. The riders participate in a jumping competition called equitation, where they’re judged on their ability to effectively communicate with their equine partners. True to the ASPCA’s vision of humane treatment for all horses, the competition promotes soft, skilled riding that benefits both horse and rider.

Learn more about the history of the ASPCA.

The 2021 ASPCA Maclay

The National Horse Show welcomed 178 horses and riders to the ASPCA Maclay National Horsemanship Championship on November 8, 2021. Each participating horse and rider qualified for the finals through a year-long process culminating in a regional competition. For many of the competitors, simply qualifying to compete was a goal achieved and dream come true.

The talented riders tackled a challenging course of jumps in the first phase of the competition. The course of jumps tested the riders on their ability to seamlessly communicate with their equine partners, with challenging turns and changes of pace. From the initial 178 competitors, 24 riders emerged as early leaders. They returned for a second course over fences and a phase on the flat, where they were asked to demonstrate basic riding skills without jumps.


The top four riders emerged to compete without stirrups, and 16-year-old Zayna Rizvi was crowned the winner of the 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship. Rizvi thanked her supporters and team for making this career-changing win possible, but most of all, she wanted to make sure everyone knew what a special partner she had in the sport–her #RightHorse, Finn.

The historic ASPCA Maclay Finals proved yet again that its original mission to inspire a focus on horsemanship and love for the horse remains true.

Our Work Today

In 2021, both organizations remain dedicated to the horse, and our equine work continues to transform the world for horses.

Several layers of ASPCA programming are designed to support horses as they transition between homes and careers throughout their lives. Our safety net programming provides community resources to help keep horses safe at home or give them a safe place for relinquishment and rehoming. Our equine adoption program, The Right Horse Initiative, works to increase the number of horses finding adoptive homes each year through a vetted network of partners and concentrated marketing efforts. The safety net and equine adoption initiatives are supported by our ongoing policy work and efforts to reduce cruelty and respond to disasters.


Learn more about our multifaceted approach to supporting horses.

Be a part of the ASPCA’s rich history and join our efforts to help horses by massively increasing horse adoption. Visit myrighthorse.org to learn more about adoption and share the profiles of horses with your digital community to help find them homes. Or, join our Advocacy Brigade to ensure the humane treatment of all horses.