A sprightly, graying gentleman in a tweed wool jacket, bow tie and felt hat makes his way through the horse show grounds. "Hello, Joe," he is hailed over and over again--by riders, trainers and show officials.
Others who don't know him on sight recognize Joe Scharoun as soon as he opens his mouth. In 25 years in the announcer's booth, the La Habra man has come to be known as "the voice" of county horse shows.
"Number 114 enter the gate, please; number 68 on deck," came that trademark voice during a jumper class at the Orange County Fairground Equestrian Center last month. Almost anyone who has competed at local shows during the past two decades knows the name and the voice.
"Why, you're Joe Scharoun," said a woman at a recent show, poking her head into the announcer's booth. She hadn't ridden in the show ring in 20 years, but she remembered his voice from her days at the Fullerton Recreational Riders shows.
And Scharoun, in turn, has come to know hundreds of competitors over the years. He remembers many professional trainers--including hunter-jumper trainer Mark Mullen and Western trainer Glenn Gimple--when they were youngsters competing in their first shows.
"The horse show world has become like an extended family to me," Scharoun said. "I enjoy my association with horse people, and I appreciate the fact that they've accepted me, even though I'm not a rider."
Curiously, he has never owned a horse or competed in a horse show, although he grew up riding rental horses in Syracuse, N.Y. When he moved to California in 1962, he joined the Fullerton Recreational Riders club "just to be around horse people and horses."
One day at a horse show he was asked to pick up the microphone and give instructions--and something clicked. Management asked him to announce their next horse show--and they haven't stopped asking since.
Scharoun will spend about 30 days this season announcing all sorts of shows, from his longstanding bookings with the Western Horse Exhibitors Assn. in Fullerton and every show at the Orange County Fairground Equestrian Center to several breed and association shows.
"I think I've announced just about every breed there is," he said. "Arabs, quarter horses, appaloosas, Tennessee walkers, miniature horses, you name it."
With exotic breeds often come exotic names, particularly Egyptian-line Arabians. Scharoun takes pains to learn the proper pronunciation of the name of each horse--and rider--before the show.
"People who are meeting me for the first time pronounce my name 10 different ways," said Scharoun (whose name is pronounced Shah-ROON). "I know what it feels like to have your name mispronounced, especially over a loudspeaker."
Because he announces both English and Western shows, Scharoun must also know the idiosyncrasies and terminology of each division.
"Horses have the same gaits, but they are called different things," he said. "For instance, I have to be careful not to ask English horses to lope (instead of canter) or Western horses to trot" instead of jog.
His mission in announcing shows, he said, is to convey enthusiasm to the riders and spectators: "I feel strongly that whether there are six classes or 66 classes in a show, the person who rides in the last class of the day deserves the same enthusiastic response for his win--even if there are only eight people left on the show grounds watching the class.
Sometimes, however, Scharoun has to temper his enthusiasm. He receives the results of the class before anyone else, so if a close friend is a winner he has to conceal his excitement until it is time to make the announcement.
"I try to be equally enthusiastic for all winners," he said. "I cannot be more enthusiastic for my best friend than I would for anyone else."
Does he have a favorite breed of horse or type of riding?
"I love them all," he said. "The horses in whatever show I'm announcing at the time seem ideal. Then next week I announce a different breed show, and I think that's the perfect horse."
Horse show announcing is his only avocation, he said: "No golf, no bowling for me. This is it. I just come here, they hand me a mike and I do my hobby--and get paid for it. What more could you ask for?"