Skip to main content
Original Issue

Gabriel of the Show Ring

The colorful gentleman on the opposite page, Clarence L. Craven, has sometimes been mistaken, beaver hat and all, for a lion tamer. Actually, he is dressed and ready to perform his duties in one of the most esoteric professions in sport: that of ringmastering horse shows. Known throughout the horse-show world by his childhood nickname Honey, this red-coated man with the horn is the final arbiter of behavior in the ring, a man who must not only have a thorough knowledge of tack, harness, protocol and dress but also a quick eye to make sure the judges' cards tally and are signed—in short, a man of talents as carefully particularized as his dress, which is a personal embellishment on the guardsman's coat of old English tradition.

Honey Craven, who started his horse-show career as a professional jumping-horse rider, got into ring-mastering by accident—30 years ago he was drafted as assistant to a ringmaster, but had to take over when the boss turned up drunk. Since then, he has perfected himself to the point where he is now the model to whom all ringmasters, be they aspirants or practicing, inevitably turn. He travels all across the country to officiate at some 30 shows yearly (such as the event at Dayton, Ohio, next week), refusing a couple of dozen more for lack of time—he still has to tend his regular job of selling harness in Boston. But at home or on the road, he spends an hour a day practicing on the gleaming symbol of his profession, the slender, four-foot coach horn on which he blows the ancient call that sets the modern show in motion.