When you slide the unlock button to switch off the marimba at 4:30 A.M. there had better be something wondrous waiting for you. In this case, it is the glorious sunrise over the Cheshire stables in Unionville, Pennsylvania.
Wednesday evening, May 29, at the Dixon Oval, featured a grab-bag of events designed to enlighten and entertain spectators who think of The Devon Horse Show as primarily a hunter/jumper venue. But it is much more than that, and in fact the logo of the show, founded in 1896, is a hackney pony reflecting the show’s origins in the meeting of wealthy landowners on “The Main Line” to improve the quality of horses and ponies pulling carriages and buggies. Equestrian disciplines competing at The Show are as varied as Saddlebreds, Roadsters (trotting horses), Hackney Horses and Ponies, Friesians, Coaching and Carriage Pleasure Driving in addition to Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation. There is a thriving Country Fair in conjunction with The Show featuring 63 vendors of all sorts selling clothes, hats, jewelry, furniture, toys, games, pottery and antiques, food, arcade games, a ferris wheel and a merry go round. Dressage in honored with a six day show of its own in the September. So when 7:00 rolled around on Wednesday evening there was a full schedule of events including jumpers, side saddle, hackney ponies, five and three gaited horses and coaching. Buried within that list was class 366, the Five Gaited Special at 9:20 P.M. The organizers had put together a class bound to get some attention. Riding “five gaited horses” were 5 of the top jumper riders in the country
Not long after arriving in Louisiana, it became clear that Bobby was the only one who could get along with our best mare, who had been a stakes winner. Perhaps it was because he was too polluted for fear, but Bobby was the only one who could get in the stall with her. So naturally, he was put in charge of her. It wasn’t long before he started calling her Alice, after his ex-wife. She would pin her ears and swing her butt to the door as he tried to duck under the webbing
As the horses were being unloaded from the trailer, it became apparent that the Hispanic fellas had decided not to make the trip. A couple of years before, a Mexican groom had killed a black racetracker in a knife fight on the backside. At the Fair Grounds Racetrack in New Orleans, it was well known that Mexicans were not safe. I was immediately promoted from hotwalker to groom, leaving my former task vacant. As is customary at the racetrack, we hired the first person to walk in the door asking for a job. It’s an easy business decision: if the new guy doesn’t work out, not to worry.
Ducking a torrential downpour, I decided to stay in the covered arena to watch a couple more classes. I had stopped in to the Morgan show this morning, to make sure the horse that I treated last night for a little stall accident went ok. You’ll be happy to know that the horse went great. I saved another one! Or something like that. I go to horse shows all the time, but this was the first time I had been to a gaited horse show since I went on a date to the Shelby County Fair nearly 15 years ago.