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Year of the dagger at Devon
Alice Higgins
June 21, 1965
The Devon (Pa.) horse show, scene in 1964 of a near riot by rebellious exhibitors (SI, June 15, 1964), this year featured the stabbing of a trainer just outside the show ring. Despite such unscheduled activities and the fact that there were more horses (1,239), more days (eight) and more spectators than ever, the huge, complex event ran in commendably brisk fashion.
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June 21, 1965

Year Of The Dagger At Devon

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The Devon (Pa.) horse show, scene in 1964 of a near riot by rebellious exhibitors (SI, June 15, 1964), this year featured the stabbing of a trainer just outside the show ring. Despite such unscheduled activities and the fact that there were more horses (1,239), more days (eight) and more spectators than ever, the huge, complex event ran in commendably brisk fashion.

Some of the show's polish can be credited to Jim Fallon, the newly named manager, and to the improved facilities on the grounds. In addition, after years of complaints about the "same old Devon courses," the jumpers were offered brand-new designs, which received a mixed welcome from exhibitors and members of the show committee. "Another four dollars shot," groaned Treasurer Frank Ellis as the crack of a breaking pole reached his ears. Not only did it seem that an exceptionally high number of poles and standards were splintered, but that more horses than usual had falls. Even the indomitable Untouchable and Kathy Kusner went down, but the chestnut gelding still emerged as the show's champion jumper by a healthy point margin.

It was, in fact, very much Kathy Kusner's show. Riding Patrick Butler's three top jumpers—Fire One, That's Right and Untouchable—Kathy and a Butler horse won a blue each of the first four days, and on one occasion Butler jumpers finished one, two and three. "I just love to read the morning papers these days," said Butler on Friday after Untouchable had won the Puissance Class at 6 feet 6 inches.

But that night the Butler luck changed, if you can call placing second a failure. Although Untouchable won no more blues, he was in the ribbons in the last three classes and very easily was the jumper champion. Another Butler horse, Fire One, was the reserve after a jump-off. Oddly enough, not a single open class was won by a professional rider. Danny Lopez, Frank Chapot and Jim Day each won one of the three classes that Kathy did not.

The Conformation Hunter Division was totally dominated by one horse, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Cunningham's Cap and Gown. The superb bay gelding retired four challenge trophies, got a second leg on two others and, of course, was champion with more points than any horse had ever amassed at Devon. His only defeat was in a special (no point) lady's class where he was second to Isgilde, an easy-moving bay mare of uncertain age, who won her 42nd Working Hunter championship for Owner Sallie Motch.

Raymond Firestone, whose attention was divided between Indianapolis and Devon, came up a winner in both places. His Noble Savage, with Dave Kelley aboard, won over a field of 78 in the Green Working Hunter Division. A gray son of Native Dancer, Noble Savage had been a flop on the racetrack and was rejected by the USET. Now at last he has found his metier, with a tricolor ribbon to prove it.

The stabbing on Wednesday was apparently the open flaring of a feud that had been smoldering for months in the best Trail of the Lonesome Pine tradition. Early in the year, Wendell (Tinker) Jones was fired as trainer by Greystone Manor Stables, but before he received his last paycheck he had fired Forrest Gibson, the second trainer. When Redd Crabtree arrived to take Jones's place, he promptly rehired Gibson. The daughter of Greystone's owner, Ruth Louise Stoltzfus, announced her engagement to Charles Jones, Tinker's brother, and quit riding her father's horses. All was quiet until the Lancaster show, which preceded Devon. There Tinker bumped Redd on a Greystone horse in one class, and he ran into him again at Devon. On the rail Gibson shouted at Tinker, who yelled back and later leaped off his horse and onto Gibson. What happened next varies with the witness, but Tinker was stabbed—a superficial wound in the side—and Gibson, pleading his innocence, was arrested, although no weapon ever was located. Jones went to the hospital, and Gibson was released on bail. The Devon fans can hardly wait for next year.

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