Edna Reynolds was probably shaking in her boots watching her daughter, Betty Oare (née Reynolds), enter the ring. But Oare wasn’t scared. Just 21 years old, she didn’t know enough to be intimidated as she entered the Dixon Oval in Devon, Pennsylvania, in May of 1962, even if the course that greeted her differed from her norm. Already well known in the hunter ring, Oare made a slight deviation that day as her then-beau Ernie Oare charged her with a task: ride his Thoroughbred Count Cadence in the green jumper division.
“Ernie and I weren’t even married yet, but he was still in school at Chapel Hill [North Carolina],” said Betty. “I think I’d gotten out of school. He and [my brother] Bucky had not quite finished what they had to do, but he had his jumper with us to go to the shows.”
Betty’s father, J. Arthur Reynolds, was a well known horseman, and his daughter rode for him, but she didn’t compete the jumpers. “I’ve only done jumpers a few times in my life, just different eras,” Betty said. “But I was the one that had to ride because Ernie wasn’t going to get there until the second day of the horse show.”
She’d never jumped Count Cadence before, but she went in for the old-fashioned knock-and-out class or touch-and-out class (the details have grown a little fuzzy over the past 58 years). After going clear, Betty found herself in a jump-off with U.S. Equestrian Team stalwart Frank Chapot. Though still in the green days of his international career, Chapot had already earned a gold medal in the 1959 Chicago Pan American Games and a silver in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The class, which boasted 35 entries, also included show jumping luminaries such as Benny O’Meara and Neal Shapiro, who would go on to win individual Olympic bronze and team silver in 1972 in Munich, Germany.
“Those people, to us, they were the top of the group. They were in that world, and they were the stars,” said Betty.
“We jumped off. Those classes just went until somebody made an error, I guess,” she continued. “Pretty darn exciting, I’ll tell you that. That was really exciting. Frank Chapot, goodness gracious. I mean, of course, that was a long time ago, but he still was already a very famous jumper rider and a great rider. Sometimes they say ignorance is bliss, so maybe I just didn’t know enough to be totally scared to death, but I just went in there and did it.”
And after two or three rounds—each time the fences rose—Betty earned a Devon blue.
“I was glad that was the last class I was going to ride in the jumpers, and Ernie took over after that, but that is honest to goodness a real story,” said Betty. “I was very young and had done the hunters, and I loved the horse. I knew him, but I’d never schooled him over jumper jumps or anything; it was Ernie’s thing. So I probably just didn’t have sense enough, but I did have a lot of sense to know that Frank Chapot was a particularly well known, great rider and what a feat it was for me to have a blue ribbon against him.”
Missing the Devon Horse Show this week? We are too, so we’re traveling back in time to bring you some of the highlights from this 124-year-old horse show.