WILMINGTON, OH—An adult amateur rider at the Midwest Equestrian Center was forcibly removed from a flat class this week for heckling her fellow riders in the 36 & Over Adult hunter under saddle class.
Tonya Darting was ultimately asked to leave the ring by the judge after she persisted in whispering obscenities, making disparaging remarks, and generally acting a menace to her fellow competitors.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” said Clancy Harrigan, whose well-moving horse, Tenenbaum, was widely considered the hack favorite. “It seems like she targeted me from the start. We were just trotting along the rail, and she was passing me on the inside, and I just heard her hissing in my ear, ‘Hey, Clancy, you suck!’
“I thought I had imagined it, but then she said a few more things that I wouldn’t want to repeat here, and off she went to harass the next person.”
Following the class, as many as six riders reported malicious interactions with Darting, who caused one to break to the trot when she rode by, gesticulating wildly that her horse was on the wrong lead. Another competitor was forced to pull up after Darting whispered in passing that her horse was lame. A third participant, who had the unfortunate luck of being halted next to Darting in the lineup, suddenly began to sob, and walked her horse out of the ring before the results were announced.
At press time, that competitor communicated that, on the advice of her therapist, she was not ready to speak aloud about what had been said.
“This is the very opposite of sportsmanship and it runs contrary to everything we stand for in the sport. I’m appalled that it happened in a class I happened to be judging,” said Judge Thomas DeMann. “Ms. Darting’s behavior is completely unacceptable at a horse show of this caliber—at a horse show of any caliber, really. Or a rodeo.
“I’d say she’d be better off taking up MMA, but even they have standards for this kind of thing.”
DeMann said he eventually realized what was happening when he noticed that not only had one of his riders exited without leave, but a few others seemed to be sniffling and struggling to hold back tears. Darting, who pinned fourth in the class, was ultimately stripped of her ribbon and asked to leave the show.
Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated through the national governing body, and an investigation is pending as to whether Darting may have committed similar acts in under saddle classes in the past. It’s reported that Darting was shouting incoherently as horse show security escorted her back to her trailer.
It was hard to make out, said one witness, but I’m pretty sure she said, “Cash me outside!”