A lifelong horseman, equine therapist and barn manager extraordinaire, he’s been an integral, if seemingly invisible, component of the U.S. teams for four decades.
Hannum grew up near Unionville, Pa., riding steeplechase horses and later hunters and jumpers. I always was interested in leg work and the care of the horse,” Hannum said. “Tendons and suspensories and all that just fascinated me. I thought, ‘If I can do something to help these great athletes, that’s what I want to do with my life.’
In the 1960s, he got his proverbial “big break” when a horse he groomed, Ilion, was named to the team with rider Frank Chapot. Hannum traveled with the horse all over the country, from the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden (N.Y.) to the Washington International (D.C.), where he won the President’s Cup.
Hamman then moved on to working at European shows and eventually the Olympic Games.
Soon, Hannum found himself not just grooming, but also forging new territory in the horse-care field. As his equine therapy knowledge expanded over the next quarter-century, Hannum helped design and test everything from hydrotherapy tanks to magnetic wraps and blankets, and he traveled up and down the East Coast teaching clinics on holistic and homeopathic therapies and promoting acupuncture and chiropractic work.
“He’s always been a leader in bringing up the innovations,” said USEF President David O’Connor, who also rode on two Olympic teams overseen by Hannum “He’s been at the head of all of that, bringing it to all of us and educating us, and that’s been beneficial to the well-being of our horses.”
IN 2008 , Hannum’s one-of-a-kind mind clicked again as the U.S. team was preparing for the oppressively hot and humid conditions in Hong Kong, China, before the Olympic Games. “We were always worried about the cooling down of the horses, and one evening I was just sitting around, and all of a sudden it dawned on me,” he recalled. “I could make a machine that could be set up in the middle of a field and have it pump water out into something that wouldn’t spook the horses, but make them relax and drop their heart rates.”