It was more like a scene from a Dickens novel than a Philadelphia Main Line horse show. Blue lightning streaked and thunder crackled as a cold wind lashed curtains of rain across the ring. In the distance a coach approached, its lights blinking through the storm, four dripping bays snorting and throwing mud in all directions. Ringmaster Sergeant Joseph Mulranen, his red coat slicker-covered, lifted his bugle and sounded a nonhorse-show tune: the Navy Swimming Call. Thus went the seventh day of the 65th Devon Horse Show, the first big eastern show, under conditions that would have brought the World Series, the Masters—or most horse shows—to a sudden halt.
But most American horse shows do not have Mrs. Frank Haydon on the scene. The day Devon started, Cynthia Haydon was collecting ribbons at the Richmond Royal Horse Show in England. A jet flight later she was in Devon for her first class, driving the hackney horses of Mr. Chauncey Stillman.
When the storm broke later in the week, she was atop Mr. Stillman's park drag (a private coach-and-four) handling the fractious hackneys with the no-nonsense look of the headmistress of St. Trinian's. "It rains in England, too," Mrs. Haydon announced. "Let's get on with it!" So on they went into the flooding ring, the top-hatted footmen sitting behind with arms stoically crossed as Mrs. Haydon put the four-in-hand through the driving test marked by painted barrels. On her heels came the coach of Mr. and Mrs. James K. Robinson Jr., last year's winner, its top jammed with soaked guests, among them the show's president, Lawrence Kelley. His gray flannels drooping, Kelley stood at the rear of the coach sounding calls on an English mail-horn as the judging and the storm continued. When the competition was over, Mrs. Haydon received the trophy from Miss Adele Statzel, who, deciding to abandon dignity and save shoes, made the wet presentation in her stocking feet. Meanwhile, huddled atop the rival coach, watching his own winning four-in-hand, was Chauncey Still-man. Mrs. Haydon does not allow passengers when she drives.
Although the coaching classes are not new at Devon, the division for the hackney horses has been revived after so long a time as to seem new. Hackneys, numerous in the great days of coaching, have been steadily vanishing from the show ring in this country, although still popular in England and Canada. Here it is the hackney pony rather than the horse that is much in demand, and a check through the equipment brought to Devon by Still-man gives a clue as to why there are so few exhibitors in the horse division. In order to show his hackneys Stillman brought two gigs, two phaetons, two viceroys and the big Brewster park drag. As drivers, Stillman imported not only Mrs. Haydon but also England's Bob Kundle, who has been at the reins now for 50 years and will next drive in Melbourne. Exhibitors from Canada came similarly equipped and added to the international flavor. But it was a horse from the Hawthorn Mellody Farms of Libertyville, III. who won the championship for single horses. Mr. John Cuneo, the farm's owner, is one of the last of the hackney horse breeders in this country.
Although the hackney division provided Devon with a bit of nostalgia, the jumpers, both green and open, brought, the most excitement and some surprise winners. The $1,000 jumper stake, for example, was won by Natchez, who did not win another ribbon all week.
Normally, the jumper division is considered the almost exclusive province of the male professional rider, but some ladies and amateur riders did an unusual amount of winning. In the special FEI class (which was televised in the New York and Philadelphia areas) William Robertson, a 20-year-old amateur making his debut in open jumping, rode his French Thoroughbred, Le Bon Chat, to victory after two jump-offs. Just five weeks ago Bill Robertson was unable to make his horse go forward. He got some coaching from Olympian George Morris that obviously paid off. Le Bon Chat and Robertson's other horse, Swords Play, were in the jump-offs all week.
In the green jumping, two other amateur-trained horses were frequently in the jump-offs but never quite made it to first place. They were owned and trained by Marcia and Alicia Bradford, twin sisters so nearly identical that for about half the week spectators thought that one girl was riding two different horses. The twins came to Devon by a devious route—they were born in Hollywood, moved successively to India, China, the U.S., Switzerland and England, and have spent the last five years in Ireland. They plan to continue campaigning their Irish horses throughout the East, and although they won no Devon tricolors, Marcia's Tartar King had won the green jumper championship at Farmington just the week before.
The Devon green jumper title was brilliantly captured by a palomino horse named Yellow Fever now owned by Mrs. F. Eugene Dixon and ridden by Mrs. Joseph Ferguson.
Picking a champion
Devon is justly famous for its hunter classes, and although this year the entries in that division were lighter, the quality did not suffer and the show was better balanced. (There were nearly 950 horses and ponies entered.) In the green conformation hunter division, Mrs. Elizabeth McIntosh of Waverly Farms had the special pleasure of picking a champion. Her King Murmur and Early Times tied for the title. All ties for first place must be broken—except when the horses are under the same ownership. Mrs. Mcintosh chose to name her 3-year-old chestnut gelding King Murmur the Devon champion.
The saddle horse division was well represented, and on the night of the big storm the gaited horses gave the lie to the saying that they are fragile and can't be worked too hard. Seven appeared for the amateur five-gaited stake, their long tails tied up out of the mud and looking like movie queens with their hair in curlers. Despite the heavy going, all did their five gaits in both directions. The best of the mudders was Mrs. A. S. Kelley's Fair Warning, who had won the ladies' class earlier.
The Dodge Stables' Rhythm Time was the junior five-gaited winner in one of the nicest junior stakes ever seen at Devon. Making her show-ring debut with Trainer Earl Teater in the saddle, the 4-year-old mare battled for first with Frank Bradshaw's My-My. Both are the offspring of champions—My-My's dam was Easter Parade, and Rhythm Time is out of Sweet Rhythm, a many-times champion who died last fall. Her sire is the world-famous Wing Commander. Rhythm Time gives every indication of living up to her royal heritage. She is Sweet Rhythm's last foal, and Earl Teater's newest stake winner. It is pleasant to recall that Sweet Rhythm was the first stake horse Teater showed for the Dodge Stables, in 1945.