Any good foxhunter will keep his cool if hounds are running nearby as he canters along, but while show hunters evolved from that time-honored tradition, few of these horses have experience jumping with a dog at their heels. Back in 2008, however, Liza Boyd and Scout experienced just that while competing at the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania) in the green conformation division.
It was a beautiful Memorial Day, and large crowds turned out to enjoy the spring weather and watch the nation’s top hunters. Scout had jumped the first five fences when a whippet escaped his owner’s grasp and made a beeline for the ring.
“As I was cantering to the oxer-oxer in-and-out, I saw a glimpse of a white dog running through the ring. I thought, ‘Well, this’ll be interesting.’ I jumped through the in-and-out, and he jumped it great,” Boyd told the Chronicle at the time. “As I went into the corner, the dog caught up to me, and at one point it was grabbing at Scout’s tail, and then it came up by his shoulder.”
With just one fence left, Boyd briefly considered pulling up.
“I think for maybe half a second [I thought about it], and I was like, ‘No! You’re winning! Keep going!’ And I think that’s just, the competitor that comes out,” she said. “If he had not have been having a really perfect round then I would’ve pulled up. But at that point, he had had no rubs, and he felt great. He’s a great jumper, so I knew he was top of the pack at that point in the class. And I trusted him. Any other horse maybe not, but I knew his personality so well I wasn’t concerned. I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to forget about this and focus on the winning round.’ ”
The dog ended up jumping a fence behind Scout, but the round finished without incident, and the then-7-year-old warmblood of unrecorded breeding was called back on top. They moved to second following the model portion of the class, but it became a running joke for the remainder of the show—and several after it.
“Scout was really, really, really slow,” Boyd said. “It was hard to get him in front of your leg. He wasn’t cranky, but he was just slow. And he was having a super nice round, and I could tell he was going really well. I remember thinking in my head, ‘I don’t want to pull up because then I’ll have to do a redo, and I’ve really got him going, and this dog is helping us,’ because it was encouraging him to go even faster, so he was better.
“I remember [my father Jack Towell] would always say, ‘Where’s that whippet when we need it? We need that dog back; he makes Scout extra good,’ ” Boyd joked. “For all of us competitors, it was sort of the talk of the back gate at that point. Everybody’s stressed on a day like that—Day 1 of the professional divisions at Devon—it was good comic relief for everyone.”
Boyd had been riding Scout for about six months at the time after Caroline Clark Stoney purchased him from Archie Cox at indoors the previous year as her newest amateur-owner hunter. Following their round, Boyd credited Scout’s cool response to Kendra Schultz, who groomed for Stoney at the time.
“Kendra has a Doberman and a basset hound, and when she rides in the fields they’re always jumping in front of and running beside him, so I told her she trained him up for me pretty well,” Boyd joked.
Now owned by Mattie Worsham, Scout is still competing in the adult amateur division, winning tricolors in January in South Carolina before shows were halted due to the coronavirus.
Missing the Devon Horse Show this week? We are too, so we’re traveling back in time to bring you some of the highlights and memorable moments from this 124-year-old horse show.