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At the International Horse Show in Aachen, Germany, all eyes are on Nautical, a golden palomino colt, who is competing for the United States Equestrian Team against the world's best. Nautical's path to fame is long and difficult: Nautical is born at the South Springs ranch in New Mexico and bred to be a cow horse, not a jumper, spending most of his first two years running free on the range. In search of food, he pays frequent visits to an Indian village near the ranch and is named "Injun Joe." In his third year, he is rounded up with other horses and taken to the ranch for training as a cow horse. After being broken in, Injun Joe works rounding up cattle, but also demonstrates a natural gift as a jumper. When his owner decides that he could become a jumper, Injun Joe is trained by a retired Cavalry officer, Colonel Anderson Norton, and his daughter Sue. Later, Injun Joe is sold to a Virginia couple, who ride him in their fox hunts, but he proves too uncontrollable and is sold to a man who begins to train him as a show-ring jumper. However, because Injun Joe does not like his unscrupulous new owner, he resists the training and is whipped, then left alone, half-starved, for several months. Believing Injun Joe is now submissive, his owner tries again, but after being thrown twice, sells him to a small riding academy with amateur riders. Time passes and Injun Joe is taken over by a professional jumping horse trainer. Injun Joe grows to enjoy the training and is spotted at a small Eastern show by Hugh Wiley, a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team. After Wiley brings Injun Joe to the attention of coach Bertalan de Nemethy, the horse joins the amateur team at its Greenwich, Connecticut, headquarters, where he receives expert care and training. Injun Joe makes friends with Wiley's award-winning horse Master William, and together they train for international competitions. Injun Joe is renamed Nautical and is ridden by Wiley. The team, composed of four riders and horses, flies to Paris, where they participate in a major competition against riders from French Morocco. Nautical does well, but does not place. The team then moves on to the event in Aachen, which is attended by fifty thousand enthusiasts and offers several special attractions, including German carriage horses and Belgian horses pulling beer wagons. Although the horses are not permitted to experience the jumping course until the day of the event, their riders may study it. Nautical, ridden by Wiley, does very well with only one fault, and places third against sixty-eight entrants. He is also a great favorite with the crowd, due to his handsome appearance and style. Unfortunately, Master William goes lame just as the team heads for London, where he and Wiley won the King George V Gold Cup the previous year. Wiley decides to ride Nautical in the competition, and after a brief vacation at Ostend, on the Belgian coast, where Nautical enjoys running in the surf, the team heads for the White City Stadium in London and the Royal International Horse Show. A palomino horse is rarely seen in this type of competition, and once again, Nautical becomes a great favorite with the audiences. By the end of the week's competition, Nautical and a great Spanish contender, Toscanella, are tied for first place, and a jump-off over fourteen fences is required. Toscanella goes first and hits only one fence. In order to win, Nautical must execute a perfect round, and after he performs this feat, Wiley receives the cup from Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. From his humble beginnings, Nautical has become a true ambassador for the United States.