Father Mack's Impressions from Devon

They neglect the advice of Doctor Emmett Brown (“the encounter could create a time paradox, the result of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!”) offered in all three installments of “Back to the Future.” They refuse to heed the cautionary tale of Hermione Granger when she dabbled with time manipulation (via her Time-Turner, thank you J. K. Rowling) in “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” When will these people learn?!?

I am writing, as you may have guessed, about Mary Phelps, her stalwart husband J. J. Hathaway, and their aide-de-camp Astrid Appels. Those of us who had the pleasure of covering Dressage at Devon for a variety of publications would occasionally pinch ourselves in the course of that week as proof that we were not dreaming. One minute any or all of these whirling dervishes would be seen alongside the Dixon Oval, and the next time we looked they were across the way snapping photos as fast as the ear could hear by the Gold Ring. I could swear that Scotty on board the Enterprise beamed Mary up from the far end of the Oval and deposited her in the pressroom just a second before Robert Dover was introduced to the assembled journalists. Talk about endangering the space-time continuum! Whew.

Lest someone think that this is a “puff piece” written by one journalist about a group of like-minded scriveners, I hasten to point out that Mary, J. J., and Astrid are just three of the siroccos we all see at each and every horse show. Okay, so the Dressage Daily RV wasn’t parked alongside the show ring at your region’s last USDF show (with Trooper and Gizmo gazing out the window as you trotted past on the way to your Level One test). But I am willing to bet that your husband/wife/significant other, your best buddy from the barn, and a gaggle of friends and acquaintances were there to root for you and your equestrian partner in sport. Even if you or I were not riding at the show, we still must be impressed by the women, men, and children who resemble perpetual motion machines as they dash tests from the judges’ cubicles to the show office. And don’t even try to keep track of the lightning flashes that mark the pathways of the planning committee members as they hotfoot their way across the show grounds.

My point is best made by a biblical author in the book of Sirach (a.k.a.: Ecclesiasticus, “the Preacher”): “Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations.” (Sirach 44:1) Whether it is folks from the Phelps-Hathaway hutch on the national and international stage /or/ the folks in your neck of the woods who make your local shows a reality, they are all individuals worthy of praise.

by Father Larry David McCormick

Father Mack is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Fordham University, New York, and is a well known devotee of fine beers and horses. He travels all around the world to watch top level dressage. We met Father Mack the first time at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, and he is an annual visitor of Dressage at Devon. Father Mack's wife Ruth is a devoted dressage rider. She owns a lovely formerly licensed Brandenburg gelding called Quantschen Gluck (by Quando Quando) and a lovely Appaloose/Friesian cross.

Horsesdaily "On the Scene" at 2005 Dressage at Devon