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June 19, 2012

Costumed Fun At Washington

Anne "Kurbunny" Kursinski played the March Hare to Jay Land's Mad Hatter in the Fancy Dress Relay at the 1984 Washington International (Md.). Photo by Detwiler Photo.

Nov. 18, 1988

Costume classes are still crowd favorites at the fall indoor circuit. This report from 1988 recounts the class from Washington, where the costumes referenced the upcoming Presidential election and the recent Seoul Olympic Games, which were plagued by allegations of doping in many sports (but not any equestrian ones). Sadly, the account lacks any accompanying photos.

The Washington International was invaded by “celebrities” ranging from Popeye to Michael Dukakis for the Fancy Dress Rotating Pair Relay, Oct. 28, but Greg Louganis (a.k.a. Greg Best) and Joe Fargis stole the show.

Though the object of the class was for pairs to jump a course relay-style in the fastest time, the skits between made the show.

The United States Equestrian Team show jumping team went back to the Olympics in their skit. Katie Prudent hoped to collect samples as a USOC Nurse while partner Leslie Lenehan sported the one-legged running suit made famous by “Flo-Jo.” However, they were eliminated for jumping out of sequence.

Joe Fargis and Greg Best had better luck, though it didn’t look like it when they entered the ring. Greg (Best) Louganis appeared in lycra shorts and a T-shirt with a partial diving board embedded in his head. Fargis led a horse no taller than his thigh into the arena as the announcer introduced them as Joe Fargis and Touch Of Class.

“We had to get her off of those steroids,” Fargis explained.

Their troubles ended there. They had a clean, quick round and won the class and the best skit award.

“It’s probably the most fun I’ve had all year long,” said Best. “How many shows can you go to in a T-shirt?”

Seven out of the 11 teams were American. Lurch (Chris Kappler) and Morticia (Debbie Shaffner) from the Adams Family paid a visit and went home with second place. The Scarecrow (Laura Kent) and Lion (Margie Goldstein) stopped by from the Emerald City. They finished fifth and were given their respective missing body parts from the Wizard of Oz in their skit.

Dukakis (Beezie Patton) and Bush (Debbie Dolan) were uncharacteristically quiet as they galloped around the course. Dolan and Patton had Bush and Dukakis dolls strapped to their backs, and the attached arms and hand bounced over the jumps, each holding an American flag. The candidates must have been worn out from the campaign—they had 16 jumping faults in 71.0 seconds, only good enough for eighth place.

Popeye (Peter Leone) and Olive Oil (Armand Leone) bobbed in for a try at the course. Popeye fell and his horse, Rioza, went running off. Olive Oil finished the course, but the team was eliminated.

The only French pair, Henri Prudent and Herve Godignon, had their own version of the Olympics—this time the winter events in Calgary, Canada. Two assistants entered the arena dressed as trees and then to the audience’s great amazement and amusement, Prudent cantered in towing Godignon, dressed as a skier in a purple jacket and riding breeches. Godignon struggled to stay upright as he was pulled around the ring. Then the Olympic test came as he jumped a ramp between the “trees.” The jump went fine, but the turn after it didn’t.

The audience cheered when the announcer asked if they wanted another try. Godignon got back on his feet and was towed by Prudent over the jump again successfully. The skit earned the French team the most imaginative costume award and their jumping round got third place.

This article was first published on Nov. 18, 1988, in The Chronicle of the Horse. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.

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