Devon Fall Classic - Day 2 Begins

On a crisp, cool Devon morning the jumpers took off to a flying start.  The first class of the morning was the Meter 1.20 class.  Topping the class was Poco 3 ridden by Dianne Little of Wayne, Pennsylvania. Poco bested the competition and garnered applause with his enthusiastic hind end style-kicking out over fences in his extra effort to leave the rails in the cups. 

Taking home the red ribbon was To the Moon, ridden by Darlene Dandlin with third going to Zodiac ridden by Sonia Krohn.  

Then the young jumpers took over the ring.  In the six year old jumpers, Amanda Flint topped the field on Cantissimo VDL with second going to Devin Ryan on Boucanier and third to Bob Kraut on Kemba.  In the Meter 1.3 class, top honors went to Christina Johnson on Ulana, who took the lead midway through the class on her speedy bay and set a time no one could touch.  
The red ribbon went to Kim Prince on Windbreaker with the yellow to Joe Fargis on Isabella.  The seven year old jumper blue ribbon went to Candle Light ridden by Sonia Krohn with Lisa Jacquin riding Figo to second and Seth Vallhonrat riding Quidam to third.  In the eight year old jumper class, the last to go was the best as Joe Fargis won by one one-thousandths of a second on Last Dance.  Settling for second was Kevin Babbington on Cedric 42.  Tracy Magness took home the yellow ribbon on Dante Z.   

The Tao of Joe Fargis  

Walking into Joe Fargis' barn at Devon, the overwhelming feeling is one of calm and order.  Everything, from the horse, to the hose, to the hoof pick, is in its place.  This discipline clearly emanates from the Olympian himself who admonishes riders to "always put the horse first."  When asked about his secret to success, Joe says, quite simply, "doing your homework."  After spending the morning collecting ribbons on various young jumper horses, including a blue ribbon on Last Dance, Joe explains that his success comes not from the few minutes in the ring in front of the public eye but rather from hours of preparation at home.  

His system for developing young horses is simple-basic dressage, gymnastic exercises, and low jumps.  When asked to explain the differences between preparing a green horse and riding an experienced Olympic mount like Touch of Class, Joe simply smiles and says "I don't prepare any differently.  Every horse gets what that horse needs and the appropriate amount of attention."  How has Joe built his current string of promising young horses?  He says he looks first for horses with a good mind.  He explains, "you want a generous horse, in other words, a horse who wants to do what humans ask."  He also looks for a horse with the basic instinct to jump clean and avoid rubbing fences.  Finally, he emphasizes the need for sound and healthy horses.  

Ever the gentlemen, when asked how competing in the Devon Fall Classic compares to some of his other accomplishments Joe says "I have a good time no matter what."  Clearly, his system works and it's reaping the benefits for Joe with his numerous mounts at Devon.  
And in the Afternoon...                 
The afternoon jumping sessions highlighted the accomplishments of non-professional riders.  First to ride were the low adult amateur jumpers.  Scheherazade Wasty was first to enter the ring on her Forget Me Not, and she set a blazing path that held through 29 additional rides.  Closest was Krystina Conway on her Nike, who settled for the red ribbon.  Rounding out the top three was Jennifer Brennan on Fiumes.  The high adult amateur jumpers were next in the ring.  Early in the order, Wendy Chapot Nunn set the pace with a clear jump-off in 19.116 seconds, a time that held through most of the class.  

Vicki Lowell, fourth from the end of the class on the horse Peace, bested Wendy's time and took home the blue ribbon.  Wendy settled for the red.  Chelsea Frame took home the yellow on her own St. Patty.  Next the jumps went up for a combined class of low juniors and low amateur-owners.  When Harrison Shure walked into the ring on his gleaming gray, not a hair out of place, it was clear the pair had done their homework.  That homework paid off with a blue ribbon for Harrison and his aptly-named horse-- Count on Me 5.  Joy Slater collected second place on Silvester.  Third went to Tracey Weinberg on Lawinia.  Harrison re-entered the Dixon oval to accept his blue ribbon and pose for an award photograph taken by Al Cook.  

The Man Behind the Lens 

Photography isn't just a profession for Al Cook, it's a passion and his enthusiasm is contagious.  Al started taking photos at age 10 using a Pax M3 German 35 millimeter camera.  He began to photograph horses as a matter of convenience after the recession in the 1970s forced him to reevaluate his career path.  A friend and local tack shop owner agreed to mentor Al in the world of horse shows and he was immediately hooked.  He began by shooting Morgan horses at breed shows.  

He recalls tenderly one of his first "paying gigs"-a 4H fair show.  As he recalls "I knew how to take portraits, so I went around taking portraits of competitors for $12.  By the end of the day, I had about $150."  It was then that Al realized his skill could translate into a viable living.  Although he continued to photograph breed shows for many years, he has also photographed key hunter jumper shows including the Washington International Horse Show and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.  

Being selected to photograph the Devon Fall Classic marks Al's first time as an official photographer at Devon, and his excitement is palpable.  So is his enthusiasm when describing his most important photography assignment-taking photos at his daughter Emily Cook's upcoming wedding.  With a wink, he confided that, to the bride's chagrin, he'll probably even sneak an iphone photo as he walks her down the aisle.  After the wedding, those same strobe lights will be packed up and transported to Penn National ten days later.  Al's contagious positive energy translates into beautiful and exciting action shots that capture the dynamic athleticism of jumper horses as they ride for the blue at Devon.   
Photos: Amanda Flint on Cantissimo VDL;  Christina Johnson on Ulana; Joe Fargis; Vicki Lowell on Peace and Al Cook.