A member of the United States equestrian team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Shapiro won a silver medal in the team jumping event and the bronze medal in the individual jumping event.
Shapiro, whose father owned a few horses, began riding as a child in the early 1950s on Long Island. He said: "...I was pretty much self-taught. I listened to whoever I could listen to and watched everyone - I picked up information whenever and wherever I could." By the early 1960s, Neal emerged as one of America's top show jumping riders; and in 1964, he won the Professional Horseman's Association Championship with Uncle Max (a former rodeo horse) and won the Reserve Championship with Jacks or Better; it was the first time a rider had won both events.
Shapiro later said, "[Uncle Max] came out of the Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey where he was a saddle bronc. He always remembered that when the saddle was put on and the girth tightened - his job was to get the rider off. Getting on was always a problem. There were times I had to take flying leaps to get into the saddle or drop down from a car hood or roof or even drop down from the hayloft of a barn while Max was led underneath. He wasn't a mean horse or was he difficult to ride once you got on."
In 1965, Shapiro began training with the U.S. National Team and the following year, made his first trip to Europe. He said: "Europe was another education. I never thought there could be such courses. The size of the jumps, the lengths of the courses, the distances...what a difference from the very elementary grand prix's in this country (U.S.)." The experience was a positive one, and by the early 1970s, Shapiro had vastly improved, evidenced by his two medals at the Munich Games. By this time, he was also interested in harness racing; he got his trainer's and driver's licenses in 1969 and drove full-time from 1977-1998. Shapiro competed with the U.S. National show jumping team until 1976.
Birth and Death Dates:
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Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)