He's a familiar face at Devon. As a matter of fact, if you were at Devon you saw him every day. Alan Keeley has been the ring master at Devon since 2004. Interesting job, but how does one become the ring master at Devon? Keeley was happy to share his story.
Growing up in Michigan, Keeley rode Hunter/Jumpers. He began working as a coach guard for Cary Kennedy in 1984 and was soon appearing in horse shows, winning at Walnut Hill, as Keely describes it, "I was the best of the worst." It did however inspire him to improve his tootling skills and by 1986 he was winning the coach horn competition at Royal Winter Agricultural Fair in Toronto with coaching legend Bob Weaver.
At 27, Keeley's life changed trajectories. In 1989, at Devon, he was introduced to Judy Richter of Coker Farm by a mutual friend. Keeley likens it to "a golfer meeting Arnold Palmer. When Judy believes someone has talent, she makes things happen."
He was offered a position as her road manager and maintenance manager on her farm. Sight unseen, Keeley pulled up stakes and moved to Bedford, NY. In 1990, he made a gutsy move and auditioned for the Hampton Classic live at their Grand Prix. The ploy worked and the following year, he was ring master.
From there Keeley's reputation, and work load, grew. Being the sole proprietor of his own excavating and land maintenance business has enabled Keeley the flexibility he needs to travel to the shows he loves, and spend most of his time home with his wife and two young girls. Keeley limits himself to his five favorite shows; the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, Lake Placid, Old Salem and Devon.
Keeley is very sentimental about Devon noting, "I've wanted to be at of Devon all my life. I really wanted to plant my feet in the ground here and do something to give back to Devon and show how grateful I am to part of it."
In 2006, Keely composed and dedicated the official call of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, which he opens the show with every night. The man with the horn, red livery and the smile that graces countless winner's circle photos truly is part of Devon, and Devon is truly fortunate to have him.