Sitting in the stands or standing by the rail at regular A-circuit shows, you’ve enjoyed more of the drama unfolding in the ring thanks to his seemingly effortless stream of insight and information. If you’ve been a competitor at his shows, you’ve had a better experience–ribbons or no–because, as show manager, he worries about the details.
All this and more is Peter Doubleday. His business card reads “HAVE VOICE WILL TRAVEL”–and travel he does, leaving his home in Southern Pines, N.C., for weeks at a time, hitting the road to the roster of major shows he announces and in many cases manages. (We caught up with him early one morning in his under-the-announcer’s-grandstand office at the Devon Horse Show. There, as well as announcing, he masterminds–with co-manager David Distler–10 days of classes spanning junior equitation, hunter breeding, jumpers and coaching.
In addition to his pleasantly modulated voice, Peter brings to every show his unique and famous library of fat ring binders bulging with indexed and constantly updated info about competitors and horses. And he brings the management attitude that, however well it’s already been done, it can be a little better the next time. In his manager role, this slender, soft-spoken, dark-haired guy in the immaculate shirt and tie is everywhere and doing everything (including picking up stray trash with unflagging enthusiasm).
Always Trying for Better
Some people shy away from the “perfectionist” label, but Peter embraces it. For him, being a perfectionist in his job is all about the constant search for fresh new ideas, “trying to make all these horse shows better that I’m involved in.”
Pausing to snatch a bite of the morning bagel he rarely gets to finish, Peter points to the upcoming Grand Prix of Devon as one small example. Devon is special, he says. With its elegant main ring closely flanked by food, shopping and carnival arcades, and an intimate–some might say cramped–setting that puts audiences and competitors in close proximity, it’s a particularly “spectator oriented” show. To build on its audience appeal, he’ll not only insure that a whole crew comes in this afternoon to replenish any less than tiptop flowers in the lush garden at the announcer’s end of the Dixon Oval and around the jumps; he’ll check that all the containers are clean, and that the fences are washed down before the course is set.
Although Devon’s grand prix night is a focal point of the show, Peter’s every day as a manager centers on attention to detail. One reason his management style works, he feels, is willingness to delegate. “I don’t bother the people that work under me as long as they do what they need to do.”
Smooth and Steady
Whether dealing with management problems or announcing a class, Peter maintains a remarkably even tempo. In the booth, during an evening that includes classes in equitation, hunters and driving, he doesn’t miss a beat–first entertaining the audience with information about competitors in the ring, then switching to the barn microphones with updates on the progress of the class. As the ribbons are passed out, he seamlessly gives thumbnail bios of dignitaries making the awards. When trash blows into the ring during the driving, a quiet word with the ring crew via walkie-talkie takes care of it.
When Devon weekend ends, Peter will pack up the notebooks and the voice and take the unrelenting pursuit of excellence in detail to the next show. The only real break during summer’s pell-mell show season is one week dedicated to simply being at home in Southern Pines. “I relish it–just to go home, mow the grass, sleep late, play some golf, whatever.”
But even that interlude is vulnerable to the demands for Peter’s talents. In 1999, for example, instead of going home to Southern Pines, he headed north and west to Winnipeg to announce the Pan Am Games.
Excerpted from “Have Voice, Will Travel” in the April 2001 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. Read more about the rich history and bright future of the Devon Horse Show in our June 2006 issue.