The Chronicle of the Horse is celebrating its 75th birthday in 2012. For seven weeks we’ll bring you a decade-by-decade look at the history that has filled its pages since 1937.
In the 1990s, the Chronicle was there for the highlights, such as two Olympic Games and three World Equestrian Games, as well as the lows like the horse insurance killings involving Barney Ward, George Lindemann, Paul Valliere and several others. And because things in the horse world never truly change, familiar controversies like amateurs versus professionals, pony measurement, television coverage of equestrian sports and the helmet debate continued.
A popular horse care column appeared almost every week with advice on everything from building safe fences to getting rid of tapeworms. Industry experts like Cherry Hill and Eleanor Kellon VMD contributed. Frequent columns on sport horse breeding and dressage theory also dotted the pages.
Today the Internet has largely changed the way classified ads are published, but the Chronicle’s pages were filled with them in the 1990s. Eight to 10 pages of ads for horses, jobs, real estate, dogs and transportation guaranteed you’d find what you needed there.
Humor played a large part in the magazine, too. Articles by Cooky McClung would always get a chuckle, and cartoons by Custer Cassidy offered a fun view of the life of a horse owner.
Dawn Of A New Age
The first issue of the new decade covered several new changes to elite horse sports. Topics discussed at the Fédération Equestre Internationale meeting in Barcelona, Spain, included forming a committee to advise the FEI on footing (more and more advertisements for footing companies popped up in this decade as riders became insistent on good riding surfaces) and to create guidelines for organizing committees, as well as introducing a freestyle test at the European and World Dressage Championships.
By mid-1990, talk turned to the inaugural World Equestrian Games in Stockholm. In the August 24, 1990, issue, Chronicle President Peter Winants wrote his impressions of the world championships in an editorial.
U.S. riders brought home three medals; Becky Hart and RO Grand Sultan earned individual gold in endurance, Bruce Davidson and Pirate Lion brought home individual bronze in eventing, and the vaulting team earned bronze.
By the end of the year, war was brewing in the Middle East, and like many Chronicle editors of the past, John Strassburger offered his thoughts on the trouble outside of the horse world.
In June 1991, Winants officially retired, and Robert L. Banner succeeded him. In his June 28 editorial, Strassburger wrote, “Naturally this is a melancholic time for the entire staff and many, many readers and friends. The size of this page prevents me from relating countless anecdotes about Winants’ down-to-earth ways or more about the many things he’s done here. He doesn’t even know I’ve written this—three days ago he handed me a four-paragraph piece on Banner’s arrival for In The Country and humbly thought we’d let him go with only that. We will miss Peter Winants’ unflagging enthusiasm for any sport or task, direct analysis of any problem, and, above all, unfailing cheerfulness and good humor. To him, every day ‘just couldn’t be better,’ as he says.
Starting in the late '80s and continuing into 1990 and 1991, the American Horse Shows Association struggled with the decision to require ATSM-approved helmets. In a Jan. 4, 1991, editorial, John Strassburger offered his opinion. Some riders complained that the helmets were too heavy, too expensive or not available everywhere.
In February 1990, the AHSA voted to delay the new helmet rule requiring all juniors and all competitors in eventing to wear one, for one year. In 1991, they finally reached a compromise, recommending all riders wear ATSM/SEI-approved helmets and allowing juniors and eventing riders to continue to wear their now obsolete Pony Club standard helmets.
The debate raged on throughout the 90s, prompting numerous letters to the Chronicle from concerned readers.
Scandal In The Horse World
In February 1991, news broke that Tommy Burns and Harlow Arlie were arrested after undercover investigators from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services watched them break a horse’s hind leg with a crowbar. Thus began a multi-year investigation into equine insurance fraud that the Chronicle covered in depth. Perhaps the most controversial of those convicted was Barney Ward, father of then rising star McLain Ward. After Barney pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud leading to the deaths of Charisma and three other horses, he served 33 months in federal prison and three years supervised release. He was suspended from AHSA shows for life. Barney wrote a Horsemen’s Forum in The Chronicle’s Nov. 19, 1999 issue in response to an editorial by John Strassburger. What followed was a slew of letters to the magazine, most expressing their outrage that continued well into the year 2000.
On With The Show