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Original Issue

Toronto's wailing wall

The normally decorous horsy set is still simmering over the snafu at the Royal

A fuss about a fence disrupted the usually brisk pace of the Royal Winter Fair Horse Show in Toronto and strained relations between Canadians and Americans as they haven't been since the days of "Fifty-four forty or fight!" The incident occurred during the international puissance class, that dramatic event which usually demands both high and wide jumping. Traditionally, the tied horses finally jump off over a spread fence and a vertical obstacle, the latter usually a formidable-looking wall. In Toronto, however, three rails were placed in front of the wall by order of a committeeman and over the objections of the course designer. But none of the riders or coaches made a formal protest at the time the course was walked, so the class went on and the wall went up.

It was at 6 feet 9 inches for a jump-off between the two survivors—Canada's Tommy Gayford on Blue Beau, the horse that had cleared 7 feet 1 inch at New York's National, and the U.S.'s Frank Chapot on San Lucas. Gayford, still shaky from a concussion suffered in a prior spill, went first, but Blue Beau pulled down the blocks from the wall. San Lucas then cleared the wall but knocked down one of the poles in front of it. And then the fun began: Were they tied again with a knockdown apiece, which the Canadians claimed, or was San Lucas the winner since he had cleared the wall? Riders, teammates, coaches and committee members swarmed up the stairs and all over the jury box, arguing with feeling, logic and colorful gestures. They looked like the Keystone Cops in pink coats.

The Americans protested that the fence, with the poles, was illegal. The Canadians protested the American protest, since the U.S. riders had entered the class and jumped the wall. The course designer, as a protest against the orders to place the rails, refused to have anything to do with the rest of the show. The Canadians then protested the third-place horse, a U.S. jumper, on the grounds that it had not been properly entered. In my opinion, the poles should not have been placed in front of the wall—but I also think the Americans, having failed to protest before the event, should have kept still afterward.

Meanwhile, though tempers did not cool, the show went on, and it was late in the evening when the winner of the puissance was announced: San Lucas and Frank Chapot. The applause from the largely Canadian audience was mild.

Although the decision went against Gayford there could be absolutely no doubt about his win in the international stake on the show's closing night. Unfortunately, Blue Beau had gone lame, but Gayford's teammate, Gail Ross, offered him her reliable favorite, Pinnacle, as a mount for the event. Gayford had never ridden the horse before but had a clean round, as did seven others. Three of these were weeded out on the first jump-off and Gayford and Pinnacle, the last to ride, went into the second jump-off, which was against time. He was clean again, beating out Mexico's Captain H. Zatarain on Goliat by a split second.

The night before, the Mexican pair had won the North American Championship, a new event on the international schedule, authorized for the first time by the FEI. Unfortunately, after a good build-up of qualifying classes, the championship itself was somewhat disappointing. Missing from the competition were Mister Softee and David Barker, the European champions; the horse had been sick and was not shown until the final qualifying event. He won that but missed qualifying for the championship by one point. Goliat, a greyhound-lean gelding with catlike ability, had been only a mild threat throughout the international circuit, but that night he was the only jumper to turn in two perfect rounds for the title.