Kristy herself said that she and Frankie Bird, who was rooming with her at the hotel, were so involved in riding that they had passed up their freshman year in college to compete at the American Royal in Kansas City and the Good Hands in the Garden. Typically, she had loved horses since she had been a toddler. One morning when Kristy was eight her Welsh pony slipped on ice and she broke her arm. This upset her greatly—because she was afraid her father would make her stop riding. She hid out with her broken arm until evening. When she was 11 her mother began driving her to Mrs. Crab-tree's for lessons every Saturday, rain or shine, a round trip of 240 miles from Cincinnati.
As for winner Dana Lyon, she also has been riding from the time she could walk. "She'd go to an amusement park and ride the pony, 11 tickets for $1," her mother recalls. "She started lessons when she was three. I decided that if she was going to ride, she should have instructions, and the saddle seat is the basis of all riding. Once a child learns that, she can ride anything she wants."
Dana and her mother did not fly to New York until Friday evening because of Dana's classes at SMU. Her father James (whom she describes as "mostly a banker") stayed at home to watch her sister play field hockey. Besides, Mrs. Crabtree explained, "He's terribly allergic to horses. Poor thing, he came to Kansas City to see Dana ride and he had an attack."
Ordinarily Dana would have spent the first evening at the National with Kristy and Frankie and the rest of the girls, but the airline had lost her luggage. By the time she got to her room she was so on edge that she stayed up to soothe her nerves with an old Elvis Presley movie.
The elimination for the Good Hands started at 11 the next morning. Since there were 35 entries (three of them boys), the riders were split into two divisions, call-backs to appear in the afternoon for the final. The riders paraded around the ring as an assistant announcer intoned at intervals, "Canter, please, canter" and then "Walk, please, walk." The judge, Chat Nichols of St. Charles, Ill., wearing a business suit, watched from mid-ring. He marked the riders for their hands, seat and control while Coaches Robinson and Crabtree were down on the rail clutching the chicken wire, peering through and offering guidance to one or another of their passing girls. "Watch yoh feet, honey," Jim B. would call out, turning to explain, "Jus' givin' 'em a little help."
When the call-backs were announced, 13 in all, none of the boys had made it and Jim B. had been wiped out, but Helen Crabtree had four, including Dana, Kristy and Frankie.
Saturday afternoon, shortly after the Meyer Davis Orchestra finished playing Bulldog, Bulldog, Bow Wow Wow and Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodby and other selections apparently deemed appropriate for the Fine Harness Horse class, the saddle-seat girls came back into the ring. They trotted, walked and cantered and then Mr. Nichols, resplendent now in top hat and tails, had each of them perform the same intricate exercise: a serpentine at a canter, returning at a trot, without stirrups, demonstrating diagonal changes. Down by the rail Mrs. Crabtree watched through the chicken wire. Frankie Bird, her first girl, came by. "Good! Good! Beautiful!" she said. "The first one who's done it right." Kristy passed, and Mrs. Crabtree told her, "Do four." Then to Dana, "Dana, for God's sake, be careful."
The girls lined up in center ring while Nichols marked his card. "They all did beautifully," said Mrs. Crabtree, "and Dana made an exceptional ride. They all changed diagonals on every fourth stride, and if any one of my girls wins, that's one of the reasons why. Other kids did three or five, but when they say four, they mean four."
The numbers of the placements were announced: Dana first, Frankie third, Kristy fourth. Dana, Mrs. Crabtree pointed out, had now swept the Big Four this year: Lexington, the Kentucky State Fair at Louisville, the Medal Finals at the American Royal and finally the Good Hands.
Back in the stalls a misty-eyed Dana posed with her chestnut gelding, Last Revenge. Kristy sat off to the side, teary. "They're all crying because it's their last ride," Mrs. Crabtree said. Mrs. Crabtree herself was smiling. "Three out of the first four. And the horse that was second I just bought."