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Quick change in Florida
Alice Higgins
February 23, 1959
A pair of sequined shorts almost short-circuited Miami's dazzling horse show
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February 23, 1959

Quick Change In Florida

A pair of sequined shorts almost short-circuited Miami's dazzling horse show

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Two women with clothing problems made most of the news at the Miami horse show at Dinner Key Auditorium last week. One of them was Miss Diane Eckman, a 19-year-old blonde who owned only one horse and barely any costume. The other was Mrs. Alan Robson, who had so many horses and so many costumes to go with them she hardly had time to change between classes.

Miss Eckman was first to claim the spotlight. When the horse show fathers glimpsed a newspaper photo of the 19-year-old blonde in a home-made parade costume featuring sequin-trimmed shorts, they said firmly—"No!" Diane pouted and countered with the traditional threat: "I'll sue!"

Diane's lawyer said his client had sat up night after night, sewing and sewing 2,500 sequins and 1,000 rhinestones onto the pink-and-blue fringed outfit. But the officials showed no pity, pointed to the rule book which specified that apparel worn in parade classes was to approximate that of the old West or the Spanish style.

Before l'affaire Diane actually got to court, a compromise was reached. Show Manager John Bowers decided Diane could wear a divided skirt which stopped just below the knee, thus permitting her to show some bare leg as well as the horse. The leg looked fine, but unfortunately it was the horse that was to be judged, and he finished' eighth in the eight-horse stake class.

The tricolored championship ribbon in that event was won by Mrs. Robson's The Royal American. Since Mrs. Robson shows not only in the parade division but also in the western pleasure-horse and three-and five-gaited classes and drives harness show ponies, she is likely to make more changes of costume in an evening than Broadway's Auntie Mame.

Besides the parade championship, Isabel Robson won the western pleasure horse championship astride her handsome quarter horse, My Chum, and the harness pony championship with her high-stepping Albelarm Iona. Her Albelarm Acquaintance won the adult amateur three-gaited, and the mare's full sister, Irish Glory, owned and shown by 14-year-old Candy Shaffer, won the juvenile equivalent. Young Candy, like Mrs. Robson, was also one of the show's standout performers, winning the three-gaited pony championship with Mischief at Midnight and the reserve honors on The Extravaganza in the five-gaited amateur stake.

The prospect of a clash between Albelarm Acquaintance and Irish Glory in the three-gaited amateur stake provided the show's real anticipatory excitement. When the time came, nine other walk-trot horses were in the ring with them, and the sisters' expected two-horse battle turned into a three-cornered affair. The crowd was notably silent as the judge handed in his card, but there was a great ovation a moment later when the announcer proclaimed the winner and new champion: Candy Shaffer's Irish Glory. Albelarm Acquaintance, alas, was third behind Fascinating Rhythm.

Everyone took this decision very well except a horse named King Creole. Before Candy could ride out to accept her award, the King jumped over the rail into a box full of spectators, losing his Owner-Rider Anne Smith in transit. The horse promptly left the box the same way he entered, but with a metal folding chair caught on his right foreleg. Assorted officials and 10 horses scattered wildly (one more rider was parted from her horse) as King Creole, chair and all, galloped down the center of the ring. The chair broke into pieces, the horse was caught, and there was no serious damage except to Candy's and Irish Glory's big moment.

In the hunter and jumper division the competition was not as rough as among the saddle and western horses. There was only a handful of decent stock in each division, and Laurie Ratliff, the 15-year-old Wunderkind from Pass Christian, Miss. (SI, March 3, 1958) won just about everything in sight. Some of the horses in these divisions would have been more useful in a bottle of glue.

It must be said, however, that the show as a spectacle was more opulent than ever, thanks in part to the promotional efforts of James D. Norris, a Miamian by adoption who has gained more notoriety in the square ring. The crowds were large, if less knowledgeable than in the past. A good many people identified with Norris' other interests apparently came out of friendship for Jim, whose name appeared in the program 15 times.

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Diane Eckman 1 0 0
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