Woof, woof, woof-woof. Grrrrr! Uh-oh! I apologize for forgetting there for a moment who is in my audience and addressing you in the far-more-rich language of us canine Americans. I do hope you will excuse my oversight, but I am SO excited by this my tenth anniversary trip to Dressage at Devon. While it has been my joy and my pleasure to write to you dear fans of Dressage Daily on many occasions, I don’t believe I have ever corresponded from the site of the absolute first horse show that I attended when I was a mere pup. It was here in Devon, PA, that I first met my beloved editor (Mary’s) two Corgis, Tasha and Trooper. And it was here that I began to hone the fine skills of staying out from beneath a horse’s hooves (always a good idea). Thus, after my absence of several years from these pages of Dressage Daily (and because Larry – that is what I call the chap many of you know as “Father Mack” – is too busy hobknobbing with the swells here at Devon), I again take quill in paw to tell you of some of the goings-on in the world of horses and their canine companions.
Lest I be accused of running off at the mouth (which some less sophisticated people could confuse with foaming at the mouth), I will break down my impressions of Dressage at Devon in its most recent incarnation into catgories of “Paws Up” and “Paws Down.” (I know – because this is Devon – that there will be more of the former than of the latter.) Let’s get on with it, then!
Four Paws Up
• As Cole Porter’s dog, Andy, wrote, “Begin the Beguine.” Rather than the dance of which Andy wrote, for journalists privileged to attend this horse show the beginning has got to be Ginny Simon and her crack team of media specialists. From the moment an equestrian journalist sets his or her petite foot on the Devon grounds, Ginny and her squad do their best to meet the majority of our needs. So I give a humongous woof out to Ginny for sending the press releases by which you, dear readers, have been kept abreast of the breed and now the performance competitions at Devon. Why, this great lady, when she realized there were no snacks or treats for journalists of the canine persuasion, went out and bought some. That’s what I call above and beyond the call of duty.
• Yes, the performance divison that is currently underway definitely earns the highest score a rational dog can award. From the four year old classes up to Saturday night’s Grand Prix Freestyle, the competition at Devon is amongst the best to be seen on the shores of these United States. While I have yet to master the art of communicating with hounds from other nations (the [to my ears] extraneous “eh’s?” and elongated vowels of even my Canadian sisters and brothers throw me for a loop), I find it really exciting to meet dogs (and riders) from beyond our borders. Why, this year we have a rider from Korea, Dong Seon Kim, who aspires to ride for his homeland at the Olympic Games in Brazil. (I wonder if his fellow citizens produce kimchi dog biscuits? If they do, I bet it is delicious! Simply food for thought.)
• Tommy Turvey (A self-described “Equine Extremist”) and his team of talented horses keep both the canine and human bystanders on our tippy-toes. This gentleman and those equine coworkers started their three days of exhibitions with a display of the oldest equestrian sport known to man (whose knowledge is not nearly so deep as is the case with us dogs), Roman riding. Admittedly, staying upright on one’s feet while astride two horses is considerably easier when we have four feet, so Mister Turvey leaves this dog deeply impressed.
• Now that he has completed his “European Retirement Tour,” Axel Steiner (one of – if not THE – favorite dressage judge in my pantheon of judges) still favors premiere US shows with his acumen. Even when I leave to the side for the moment the fact that Axel is married to the talented artist and photographer, Terri Miller, he is one impressive fellow. If and when you stop running around the country to bestow your wisdom upon us, we will all miss you, Mister Axel!
• The ladies’ hat competition on Fridays is always one of this dog’s most-looked-forward-too events. (Is that okay English grammar? I can never be sure.) This year the group of properly chapeau’d ladies seemed to me a bit smaller than usual, but what they may have lacked in quanitity they made up in quality. Why, there was even a dog wearing a miniature version of her owner’s hat who trotted out into the Oval. At the risk of seeming to be filled with an overweening pride, I believe it was no accident that the owner and pulchritudedness pup were awarded the loving cup.
• Larry tells me that it really isn’t fair to all the rest of the terrific vendors who fill out the enclosure here at Devon when I want to pick out two for special mention this year. (I will make it up to the other great merchants in future years.) The super family who follow the horsy crowd from show to show and are “Show Chic” earn my admiration because they bring the best member of their family, the standard poodle whose name is “Arlo,” to all of these shows. Aside from the fact that Arlo’s legs seem to me unconscienably long, he and his tribe are really nifty. The other tradesperson who I love is the president/owner/operator of Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates, Ms. Phyllis LeBlanc. I remember as if it were only yesterday my first year at Devon when Larry snatched a Dark Horse chocolate goody out of my mouth. I love you, anyway, Ms. Phyllis.
One Paw Down
You have, no doubt, already noted that there are no events at Devon that merit a “two paws down” score. This is simply such a high class show . . . well, there it is. Take my personal dislikes with a grain of cat litter if you wish.
• Only ONE water dish for the entire show grounds!?! Are you guys and gals kidding me? Oh, sure, responsible dog owners will be seen carrying a collapsable water bowl and a bottle of H2O, but will it break the bank to spring for a few more containers from which we parched pooches may refresh ourselves? Those awesome volunteers who help make Devon much of what it is will do their best to keep us safe from dehydration.
• This may be perceived as gilding the lily, but a comfort station or two (plastic bags with a clearly marked waste container nearby) will put an end to the askance looks to which our human owners/handlers are occasionally subjected. We’re not talking rocket science here, folks. It’s just a stand with some plastic bags, after all.
• I am going to stop there before the show’s management thinks that we dogs are asking for the moon. (Although we will still bay at that celestial body.) You boys and girls are doing a darned good job. Anybody out there doubt my word? Just go back and read those “Four Paws Up” events.
If you or someone in your dogs’ circle of friends (have your canine companion pass the word to dogs attached to all those tails they will sniff in the days ahead) have any questions about Dressage at Devon and its extremely dog-friendly dispositon, drop a note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will get back to you via return mail as my daily routine permits. Until I may have the pleasure of hearing from you or my sister and brother canine Americans, I remain