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If major league hitters refused to play ' any more games until they were allowed four instead of three strikes—and seemed to be getting away with it—the situation in baseball would be roughly the same as it is today in the horse show world. A boycott by participants has been called, and it is working.
George Jayne, a tough gentleman from Palatine, Ill. who trains jumping horses, is leading the rebellion against the American Horse Shows Association (the sport's ruling body) because of two rules he and his followers find objectionable. The first concerns the scoring of jumping horses. Under traditional American rules, if a horse touches a fence a fault is scored. Under international (FEI) rules, touches do not count, but the time a horse takes to go around the ring does count in the scoring; furthermore, all riders are required to weigh in at 165 pounds or carry lead. Jayne prefers the American way in which speed does not count. Time classes, he maintains, lead to dangerous jumping and accidents, thus discouraging the amateur owner from competing. And at most shows the weighing out and in is badly managed and often becomes a farce. But the AHSA refuses to modify the international rules by dropping the time and weight requirements.
The second point of issue concerns the AHSA's demand that all Class-A horse shows must offer two international class jumping events. The rebels feel that Americans who have no interest in such events should not be forced to participate in them.
As a result of the boycott, 14 shows in the Midwest have canceled their international classes. At the Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Horse Show last month, which did offer international events, one class would have been canceled because of lack of entries, if the management had not bowed to Jayne's boycott and dropped the time and weight specifications. But if Jayne is winning converts in the Midwest, he is making no headway among the big eastern shows. In fact, supporters there of the international rules are putting on more international classes than ever, and even complete international shows. As a final retaliation, the New York National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden plans to drop the American three-day touch-and-out event for jumpers, a longtime fixture at the Garden, and substitute for it a three-day international competition. Jayne's reply is a threat to sue the AHSA on the ground that it is a monopoly. For good or ill, the deep and longtime resentment of the professional trainers toward the international set—essentially, of Midwest versus eastern control of the sport—is out in the open.
Aside from the Grosse Pointe Horse Show's trouble with George Jayne, the four-day event, this year celebrating its golden anniversary, lacked vigor and excitement, moving for the most part at a very tired pace. The saddle-horse division was so lightly filled as to be almost nonexistent, yet management changed the schedule for one evening and held three saddle events in a row, an impossible situation for the exhibitors. There were long pauses, during which spectators were obliged to watch the ring being dragged, in order to give riders time to change horses and clothes.
Although there was a great deal of quality in the hunter division, the performances were, for the most part, very poor. Exhibitors complained that the courses had too many vertical fences. They also blamed the scheduling, which put many of their classes at sundown, just when the glare raked the eyes of both horse and rider. Knockdowns and ragged jumping were the result.
Despite this, Mrs. J. Deane Rucker's Cold Climate, a handsome chestnut machine of a hunter, turned in some brilliant rounds and, repeating his Devon triumph, was the conformation champion. In the process, the 6-year-old gelding retired two challenge trophies for his elderly Michigan owner.
On the brighter side, the recent Pin Oak show in Houston demonstrated what a superb spectacle can be presented to the public when there is no dissension between management and participants. It was run with pace and precision, and standing-room-only crowds were present every night for four nights to see well-filled and closely competed classes. Among the stand-out winners was Mr. and Mrs. Don Decker's two-time world champion three-gaited mare, Delightful Society, who added another championship to her impressive list. And W. C. Madlener's fine harness horse, Colonel Boyle, was in a class by himself. The Colonel appears to be headed for another undefeated season this year.
Second to Colonel Boyle was that great old show horse, The Lemon Drop Kid. Back in Trainer Jay Utz's hands, Lemon has made a heart-warming comeback; he is as sharp-eared as a colt just being introduced to the show ring. While he may not be the Lemon of his brilliant years, he is still good enough to lick anyone but Colonel Boyle, and he twice defeated his old rival, Calcutta.
There was another kind of comeback at Houston, this one more amusing than dramatic. During the amateur five-gaited class, Joan Robinson Hill's mare, Precious Possession, had an accident that most exhibitors of saddle horses dread. She lost her flowing, blonde—but, alas, false—tail in the middle of the class. By the time repairs were made, much of the class was over, and the mare was tied third. But later in the Amateur Stake, with tail firmly attached, Precious Possession made an excellent show and won the Amateur five-gaited championship.