Right she was of course, and the Chronicle gave Michaels her due when she won USET-West later that year (and in many future issues).
In The Galloping Lanes
At the 1980 Kentucky Three-Day Event, “a diminutive rider on a small pinto…grabbed the hearts and cheers of the Lexington crowd,” donning Pinto Power T-shirts in support of the eventual winners of the modified advanced division, Torrance Watkins and Poltroon.
Poltroon would win individual bronze in 1980 at the Fontainebleau Three-Day Festival CCIO (France), which served as the alternative Olympic Games. While Jimmy Wofford and Carawich won individual silver there as well, the United States fell out of medal contention when the rest of the team failed to finish.
By 1981, the United States had its first CCI, at Chesterland (Pa.) with Rolex Kentucky joining the ranks the next year. (In 1984 the Chronicle was still explaining what this new “CCI” designation means to readers.) The last horse ran around Chesterland in 1988; by the next year the Fair Hill CCI (Md.) gave riders a fall goal.
One name ruled the Rolex Kentucky leaderboard throughout the 1980s: Bruce Davidson. He won in ’83 with J.J. Babu and in ’84, ’88 and ’89 with Dr. Peaches. Wofford took a turn in ’81, retiring from competition shortly after he won for the second time with The Optimist in 1986 to work in governance, becoming president of the AHSA in 1989.
In 1988, Rolex Kentucky was a tough course. In response to hue and cry that U.S. riders needed tougher courses at home to be competitive abroad, Patrick Lynch upped the ante, with 14 falls, 10 retirements and four eliminations to show for it. (“This makes Badminton (England) look easy,” said Watkins.) Coupled with disappointment over the Olympic selection process, most combinations left the park with a bad taste in their mouths.
Strassburger summed up the morose mood, saying, “It seemed like a good idea, but now that it’s been done, perhaps it’s time to admit we cannot have a Badminton or Burghley (England) in this country. Leave the huge courses to the English and their perfect footing and climate. We don’t have enough horses or riders or owners or sponsors to sacrifice more every year.”
Horse Show Land
In the 1980s, the fall indoor circuit kicked off in Maryland with the Baltimore Jumping Classic. (“Baltimore, ever since the World Cup Finals were held there in 1980, has always had tremendous potential. And I’d still say the same. Baltimore has the potential but nothing has ever happened,” said Morris in 1989.)
In a 1984 state-of-the-sport interview, Victor Hugo-Vidal lamented that the hunters on the East Coast were lighter than in years past, and that equitation riders were doing less homework and learning on the road. (On the plus side, he said, the crest release was out of fashion.) Hugo-Vidal supported the growing number and popularity of the adult amateur divisions saying, “If that keeps up, and the adult amateur divisions encourage people to show, I’d even like to see an over-40 division. If you love the sport, you don’t stop loving it just because you grow older.”
After ages of grumbling about chasing points in an effort to earn Horse of the Year awards, the American Horse Shows Association trotted out the Increment System for the 1987 season, which had been years in the making. At the 1986 Annual meeting, the chart received mixed reviews. (“A positive step forward. Let’s get on with it,” said Jim Green of Tennessee; “We’re against it, period,” said Gary Baker of Maryland.)
The Chronicle received plenty of letters opposed to the proposal, but the AHSA’s public relations spokeswoman, Kathy Fallon, said the majority of petitions the Association received favored the proposal. Whatever the initial reaction, the decision ushered in decades of disagreement over whether that system awarded points equitably, starting the year after it was passed.
Children’s hunter championship photos were becoming regulars in the show results alongside those from other divisions, and AHSA Pony Finals was a growing event, gaining momentum as riders like Laura Chapot and Marley Goodman get their first championship wins of their career under their belt. (One dispatch from the 1984 event described a 102-pony victory gallop!)
During the 1980s dressage grew from the third to second most popular discipline behind hunter/jumper. The decade started with 8,000 U.S. Dressage Federation members and 61 Group Member Organizations (up from fewer than 3,000 members and 28 GMOs when the organization started seven years prior.) By 1988 they had more than 22,500 members.
The base of the sport grew the fastest, but the standard at the top trended upward. The mean score for the 12 horses at the selection trials before the 1984 Games was a 59.55 percent in the Grand Prix and 60.14 percent in the Grand Prix Special, and by 1988 the averages were 61.32 and 62.32, still far off the likes of the king of the sport Reiner Klimke.
Corinne Fentress Gray attended the International Dressage Festival in Goodwood, Sussex (Great Britain)—the 1980 alternative Olympics—to watch her daughter Lendon. She reported for the Chronicle with the cheeriest news for the folks back home being that U.S.-bred Turmalin and Swiss rider Christine Stuckelbuerger won the Prix St. Georges.