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Quick change in Florida

A pair of sequined shorts almost short-circuited Miami's dazzling horse show

Two women withclothing problems made most of the news at the Miami horse show at Dinner KeyAuditorium last week. One of them was Miss Diane Eckman, a 19-year-old blondewho owned only one horse and barely any costume. The other was Mrs. AlanRobson, who had so many horses and so many costumes to go with them she hardlyhad time to change between classes.

Miss Eckman wasfirst to claim the spotlight. When the horse show fathers glimpsed a newspaperphoto of the 19-year-old blonde in a home-made parade costume featuringsequin-trimmed shorts, they said firmly—"No!" Diane pouted andcountered with the traditional threat: "I'll sue!"

Diane's lawyersaid his client had sat up night after night, sewing and sewing 2,500 sequinsand 1,000 rhinestones onto the pink-and-blue fringed outfit. But the officialsshowed no pity, pointed to the rule book which specified that apparel worn inparade classes was to approximate that of the old West or the Spanishstyle.

Before l'affaireDiane actually got to court, a compromise was reached. Show Manager John Bowersdecided Diane could wear a divided skirt which stopped just below the knee,thus permitting her to show some bare leg as well as the horse. The leg lookedfine, but unfortunately it was the horse that was to be judged, and hefinished' eighth in the eight-horse stake class.

The tricoloredchampionship ribbon in that event was won by Mrs. Robson's The Royal American.Since Mrs. Robson shows not only in the parade division but also in the westernpleasure-horse and three-and five-gaited classes and drives harness showponies, she is likely to make more changes of costume in an evening thanBroadway's Auntie Mame.

Besides theparade championship, Isabel Robson won the western pleasure horse championshipastride her handsome quarter horse, My Chum, and the harness pony championshipwith her high-stepping Albelarm Iona. Her Albelarm Acquaintance won the adultamateur three-gaited, and the mare's full sister, Irish Glory, owned and shownby 14-year-old Candy Shaffer, won the juvenile equivalent. Young Candy, likeMrs. Robson, was also one of the show's standout performers, winning thethree-gaited pony championship with Mischief at Midnight and the reserve honorson The Extravaganza in the five-gaited amateur stake.

The prospect of aclash between Albelarm Acquaintance and Irish Glory in the three-gaited amateurstake provided the show's real anticipatory excitement. When the time came,nine other walk-trot horses were in the ring with them, and the sisters'expected two-horse battle turned into a three-cornered affair. The crowd wasnotably silent as the judge handed in his card, but there was a great ovation amoment later when the announcer proclaimed the winner and new champion: CandyShaffer's Irish Glory. Albelarm Acquaintance, alas, was third behindFascinating Rhythm.

Everyone tookthis decision very well except a horse named King Creole. Before Candy couldride out to accept her award, the King jumped over the rail into a box full ofspectators, losing his Owner-Rider Anne Smith in transit. The horse promptlyleft the box the same way he entered, but with a metal folding chair caught onhis right foreleg. Assorted officials and 10 horses scattered wildly (one morerider was parted from her horse) as King Creole, chair and all, galloped downthe center of the ring. The chair broke into pieces, the horse was caught, andthere was no serious damage except to Candy's and Irish Glory's big moment.

In the hunter andjumper division the competition was not as rough as among the saddle andwestern horses. There was only a handful of decent stock in each division, andLaurie Ratliff, the 15-year-old Wunderkind from Pass Christian, Miss. (SI,March 3, 1958) won just about everything in sight. Some of the horses in thesedivisions would have been more useful in a bottle of glue.

It must be said,however, that the show as a spectacle was more opulent than ever, thanks inpart to the promotional efforts of James D. Norris, a Miamian by adoption whohas gained more notoriety in the square ring. The crowds were large, if lessknowledgeable than in the past. A good many people identified with Norris'other interests apparently came out of friendship for Jim, whose name appearedin the program 15 times.


LONG AND SHORT OF IT, Mrs. Alan Robson (left, on My Chum) won three championships, while Miss Diane Eckman won nothing but publicity in banned shorts.