In an event rife with championships, the first champion of Dressage at Devon, Halleluja, said it all. The three-year-old Oldenburg took the Filly Championship on Tuesday afternoon. Competitors, judges, officials and spectators who have learned to greet Devon with iffy weather also said “Hallelujah!” for the uncharacteristically blue skies and sunshine that set a fine opening stage for the CDI***/CDI-Y held at the Devon Horse Show Grounds outside of Philadelphia, PA.
The Breed Division of this six-day event is widely considered the most complete Breed Show outside of Europe. This year entries were up only slightly, but the addition of the Grande Georgian Georgian Grande, the Cleveland Bay and the Native Ponies of the British Isles bumped the number of classes during Thursday’s individual breed classes to 33.
Tuesday’s competition focused on colts and fillies, Halleluja was named show champion filly, as well as Young Horse Champion. Iron Spring Farm’s Dutch Warmblood Andorra earned the Cosequin®/USDF Filly Championship. Hilltop Farm’s Cabana Boy, the three-year-old Hanoverian by Contucci, took home the Cosequin®/USDF Colt Championship. Three-year-old American Warmblood Raison de Joie, bred by Dreamtime Farm, was Colt Champion.
Hanoverians Rule Wednesday at Devon
Wednesday was a golden day at the show, with Hilton Farm’s four-year-old Hanoverian stallion Liberty Gold making his presence known. “As sweet and quiet as a nice gelding,” says trainer Erin Sweeney, the grand chestnut stallion showed not only quality temperament, but quality form and movement as he trotted all out in front of the appreciative judges and spectators. He was the winner of the Four Year and Older Stallion class, the Stallion Championship, the Mature Horse Championship, the Stallion Championship, the Cosequin®/USDF East Coast Final Stallion Championship and The Grand Championship. He also topped the Four and Five Year Old Stallion/Gelding Materiale class. The Cosequin®/USDF Mare Championship was won by Hilltop Farm’s Con Dia, a four-year old Oldenburg by Contucci.
Wednesday evening, US-bred horses were celebrated with Dressage at Devon’s own Born in the USA Awards. Conceived by Dressage at Devon Breed Show Secretary Lori Kaminski and breeders Ilona English and Rachel Erhlich to acknowledge the success of breeders in the USA, Dressage at Devon ceremoniously honors the top scorers in 15 categories, adorning them with red, white and blue sashes, and offering prize money. The 2005 Born in the USA Champion was Pikko del Cerro, by Pik L, bred by Horses Unlimited. Reserve Champion was Armani, the 2005 colt by Rousseau.
Breeding for Dressage
Thursday was a day that honored diversity, and 35 breeds and registries had the opportunity to show off their best. “Dressage is a sport for all horses,” said Co-Chair Melanie Sloyer. “Our individual breed classes offer a chance for horses of all shapes and sizes to participate.” The day was capped off with the colorful Parade of Breeds, featuring the winners from each of the classes.
Thursday afternoon also kicked off the Performance Division with the first of the FEI Dressage Tests specifically for young horses. This year, a test for four-year-olds was added in addition to the five and six-year-old classes. “We’re excited to be the first show in the nation to offer this test,” said Co-Chair Jim Hall. “It’s a natural bridge between our breed and performance divisions, and a fitting first step for our North American Breeders Futurity (NABF).” Thursday’s class was considered a warm-up for Friday’s NABF Championship Finals.
Scott Hassler, Training Manager of Hilltop Farm, Inc., and a promoter of both the NABF for five and six-year-olds and the new NABF Four-Year-Old class, said, “Having the four, five and six-year-old horses competing at the same location and in front of a large public audience as well as top international trainers and judges is an outstanding opportunity. I am extremely glad to see Devon take action to promote the young horse competition and development in this country.”
The NABF finals were held on Friday. Jacqueline Brooks topped the six-year-olds with a 78% on her own Hanoverian gelding Balmoral, winner of the 2004 NABF Five-Year-Old Championship. This year’s Five-Year-Old Championship went to Tami Glover on Pacino. Jules Anderson and Leopold earned the Championship in the Four-Year-Old class.
Friday was also the start of the Grand Prix competitions, with the qualifier for the Special in the afternoon, and for the freestyle in the evening. Foreshadowing his win in the Special on Sunday, Lars Petersen and Success topped a field of 14 the qualifier for the special with a 68.583%. They were followed closely by Dr. Cesar Parra on Leonberg (67.667%) and Heather Blitz on Arabella (67.375%).
Friday evening, 15 riders in the qualifier for the freestyle vied for 12 spots, and, again, the winners reflected the line up for Saturday evening, with George Williams and Rocher first (71.417%), Cindy Ishoy and Proton second (68.333%) and Dr. Cesar Parra and Galant Du Serein third (66.458%).
Saturday Night, Freestyle Night
The highlight of Saturday, and perhaps the whole show, was the Grand Prix Freestyle. A gorgeous Indian Summer evening, the crowds spilled over from boxes and grandstands, and filling every available spot from which to watch the top twelve riders from Friday’s qualifier compete. To music as diverse as Captain Kangaroo, Fifty Cent and Led Zeppelin, riders piaffed, passaged and pirouetted with their horses.
The stars of the night, from the moment they set foot in the arena, were Williams and Rocher, who the crowds greeted with enthusiastic applause. The duo put in a near flawless ride that showed off the mare’s brilliant extensions and elasticity, her signature oversized ears flopping all the while. They earned an admirable 77.850%, making Williams the first ever three-time Grand Prix Champion at Dressage at Devon. “I think she is stronger than ever,” said Williams, adding, “and I think there is more there.”
Just coming back from an injury, Proton put in a strong ride with Cindy Ishoy, earning a 74.925%. Dr. Cesar Parra was beaming about his third place finish (72.750%), saying, “The first time we were at Devon I was bucked off. From that, to being third behind these two great riders is wonderful.”
Jennie Loriston-Clarke, from England, and one of the five judges for the freestyle, commented that she has noticed an increase in the degree of difficulty in the freestyles. “Sometimes moves are put in combinations that are spectacular,” she said, noting Parra’s collected walk to piaffe to extended walk. “If it works, it is absolutely excellent.”
American Junior Riders Championships Concluded on Sunday
On Sunday, the USEF Junior Dressage Team Championships concluded with the Individual Test. The 12 competitors, ages 14 to 18, had qualified for the championship with high scores in Junior Tests throughout the year. They were placed on three teams in a handicapped format to equalize the competition. The 12 girls expressed a mix of excitement and intimidation at riding in the legendary Dixon Oval. “It was scary, but fun,” explained Amanda Stearns, with team mate Noel Williams adding, “you really felt you had the support of the crowd, like they were riding with you.” While Thursday’s ride was considered a warm-up, scores from Friday’s Team Test and Sunday’s Individual Test were combined, with the lowest score from each team, each day, dropped, and averaged to determine the winner.
While individual standings varied with each test, Noel Williams followed in her father’s footsteps by bringing home the blue both Saturday (66.752%) and Sunday (73.128%). Her team, Team Liberty earned the gold medal with an average score of 66.319. Close behind, was silver medaling Team Independence with a 65.576% average score and Team Freedom with a 64.330% average score.
In addition to riding the test, the girls cultivated team spirit with late night gab sessions, a pizza party and crafting team paraphernalia. They had an opportunity to meet with and get tips from judges Anne Gribbons and Uwe Mechlem as well. Riding in the Dixon Oval, before the crowds, was “indescribable,” said Williams, a sentiment echoed by her teammates. The competition was sponsored by Collecting Gaits Farm, The Dutta Corporation and Performance Sales International.
Sunday also finished the Grand Prix competition with the Grand Prix Special. The top three riders reflected the international flavor of Devon, with Lars Petersen (Denmark) on Success (71.840%), Katherine Bateson (USA) on FBW Kennedy (71.040%) and Ashley Holzer (Canada) on Gambol (70.680%). Holzer had, in her words “an amazing week.” She also placed first in the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle and the Prix St. Georges on Maxamillian.
31st Dressage at Devon Made 40,000 Spectators Happy
Throughout the competition, spectators were treated to a variety of special exhibitions as well. The most flamboyant was Sabine Schut-Kery’s Baroque Horse Carousel, featuring four black Friesians and four white Iberian horses performing intricate patterns choreographed to music. Announcer Brian O’Connor once again delighted crowds with his tongue-in-cheek dressage demonstration astride his inflated pony. Local pony clubbers showed how the heart-stopping game of PoloCrosse is played. Thorncroft’s own Mainstreamers Drill Team rode a coordinated drill on six ponies, teaming riders with and without disabilities. Thorncroft Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Inc. is the beneficiary of Dressage at Devon.
Outside of the Dixon Oval and Gold Ring, more than 60 vendors offered goods from chocolates to antique china, and shadbellies to slippers. The little, blue shops of the tree-lined Festival area were complemented with fast food, home baked goods, gourmet sandwiches and meals, and the Beer Garden and Wine and Cheese Shops.
Co-Chair Jim Hall noted that Dressage at Devon enjoyed tremendous sponsorship support for the 2005 show. “Without the generous support of each and every one of our sponsors, this show could not go on.” At the top level, Platinum Sponsors included The Haverford Trust Company, Dodge Ram Mega Cab, Dressage Today/Practical Horseman and TD Waterhouse Investment Services, Inc. “We’re thrilled with the success of this show,” said Hall. “We saw top competition and amazing horses, judged by some of the world’s top judges. We also saw close to 40,000 happy spectators and shoppers. The blue skies were just icing on the cake.”
Dressage at Devon is presented by the Delaware Valley Combined Training Association. The 32nd Dressage at Devon will be held September 26 through October 1, 2006. For more information, go to www.dressageatdevon.org. Complete results at www.horsesdaily.com.