The Devon, Pa. horse show, largest in the East, was almost unmanageably bigger than ever this year, with 1,299 horses and ponies entered in the eight-day affair, and no exhibitor had a bigger or better show than Mrs. Victoria Armstrong of Brampton, Ont. Her ponies trotted off with 16 blues, three championships and two reserves.
These awards were won in very good company. As Trainer Bill Robinson pointed out, there may be more entries at, say, Springfield, Ill. where it usually rains ponies, but there will not be better quality shown anyplace. A lot of the Devon quality came from Canada. Canadians like to show at Devon because it is one of the few events in the U.S. that offers classes for Hackney horses; so they come with their horses, and they bring their ponies, too. Mrs. Armstrong showed horses for many years, also, but now keeps only ponies. Her husband and his brother breed and race trotters, their stable rating among the best in the Standardbred field. Armbro Flight was last year's world-champion filly trotter and Canadian Horse of the Year and finished second in the Hambletonian. This year Governor Armbro is one of the early Hambletonian favorites.
Mrs. Armstrong's operation is on a somewhat smaller scale. She has 18 ponies, including broodmares, and generally prefers to buy good young prospects. Her Politician, who was the champion Hackney pony stallion at Devon, was purchased last summer at Springfield. Although Politician was tied out of the ribbons in that show, there was something Robinson liked about him, and Mrs. Armstrong agreed. The pony has never been out of the money since. Another, Fashion's Miss Alice, winner of three events at Devon, was discovered about a mile from home in Brampton. She competed only 11 times in 1965 as a 3-year-old and won 11 blues. Mrs. Armstrong, a handsome graying grandmother now, has been showing for over 20 years, but she leaves most of the driving these days to Robinson or her eldest daughter, Mrs. Helen Southgate.
For those who love a horse in harness, Devon this year offered a class of quite a different type—a private driving marathon. Vehicles generally seen only in the illustrations for Victorian novels were on display, including basket phaetons, an English road coach, a French governess cart, a slat-sided game cart and a unicorn hitch to a gentleman's shooting brake. Judging from the number of rigs that turned out (there were 16, one carrying Morgan Horse Breeder and Actor James Cagney as a guest), driving is enjoying a healthy revival.
While directors of the American Horse Shows Association were converging on Devon for one of their meetings, an insurgent group was also assembling there Calling themselves the Committee for the Improvement of the AHSA, these people are requesting drastic changes in the Association's constitution so that exhibitors will have more voice in horse show affairs. They include William C. Buchanan, Mrs. Jean L.A. du Pont, Elkins Wetherill (president of the Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington Stock Exchange) and Richard E. McDevitt. Obviously this is no wild bunch of rebels, but some of the AHSA directors reacted as if they were being chased by anarchists with sputtering bombs. AHSA President Albert E. Hart Jr. noted that there were existing channels for handling complaints and suggestions, but the feeling among the insurgents is that those channels are fairly well-choked with moss and red tape, and I agree.
The Committee's proposals to the Association were mild enough. One asked that directors be elected for varying terms, as in any large organization; another that the annual financial report be published in Horse Show, the AHSA magazine. Finally, the committee suggested that all proposed rule changes be published at least 90 days before the annual meeting so exhibitors would know what was on the slate for discussion.
The AHSA should take seriously all these proposals. When communication between management and exhibitor breaks down the result is often the kind of chaos that disgraced the Devon show itself two years ago.