From Eventing to Dressage at Devon - A Career Change Brings Out a Rising Star

Monday, September 22, 2014
Posted by Sarah Evers Conrad

Meagan Davis and Royale. Photo by Stefan Neary
Meagan Davis and Royale. Photo by Stefan Neary

As Meagan Davis prepares for this week’s Dressage at Devon, she cannot help but think, “What if Royale hadn’t disliked Cross Country?” Not every person finds their calling in life early on. Some people may go through multiple careers before finding the right one. The same thing can happen with horses. Such is the case of the now up-and-coming dressage horse Royale, who is owned by Scott Durkin, and ridden by dressage trainer Meagan Davis. 

The now 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Routinier x Infinitive x Ironman) Royale was sold by Tami Fleming Crawford to a student of Holger Bechtloff’s and Nancy Rosen. Holger was very excited about Royale’s potential. ”He was bred as an eventing horse by Seahorse Eventing and then raised by Paula Shook. But eventing wasn't really what Royale was suited for. "He rarely won his eventing competitions," said Meagan. "His previous owner said that he wasn't confident in cross-country, and after five years, she decided to sell him as a dressage prospect."

A change in career to dressage has brought out the best in Royale, who has surprised both Scott and Meagan. “Royale has excelled beyond our expectations in the last eight months,” said Meagan. “He went from schooling Second Level to scoring over 70% in his Fourth Level tests. He has confirmed 4's and 3's tempiis, passage, and pirouettes.” Royale and Meagan plan to compete in the Small Tour in the 2014/15 Wellington Dressage season.

Meagan Davis and Royale. Photo by Stefan Neary
Meagan Davis and Royale. Photo by Stefan Neary

Meagan began showing Royale in July 2012 at the Sussex Dressage Show I at Second Level. Since then he has competed at venues such as NEDA Fall Dressage Festival, the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, the Gold Coast Dressage Finale I and II, the White Fences Polar Express, and the Centerline Events at HITS on the Hudson, to name a few. Scott has also shown Royale in First Level under Meagan's tutelage, and he is quick to compliment her.  “I understand her style,” he said. “She's direct, smart, intuitive, and assesses your level and does not send you out competing in a level you shouldn't be competing at.”

Scott describes Royale as very animated, very safe, and a deep thinker. “He loves dressage, and he gives you so much each time you're on him,” he said. “I have to admit, 'Does this horse make me look thin?' was one of the factors in buying him. He's huge—17.2 hands and giraffe-like when he's not 'in a frame.’”

Royale is boarded at Meagan's farm. Meagan, who has been riding dressage since she was seven, had success as a junior and young rider. In 2010, Meagan won the USEF National Dressage Championship for Young Riders. She also qualified to compete as the sole representative for the United States in the FEI Young Rider World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany. She became the first and only American to compete in the A Final. She and the Danish Warmblood Bentley finished 7th in the world.

Meagan turned professional in 2012. She currently has Young Rider and Adult Amateur clients and horses that train and compete at all levels, from Training to Grand Prix. This past summer, Meagan coached the winning team at Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival. 

In the winter season Meagan resides at her family’s Longview Farm South in Loxahatchee, FL. During the summers, she leases Longview Farm North in Stone Ridge, NY. 

Meagan Davis and Royale. Photo by Stefan Neary
Meagan Davis and Royale. Photo by Stefan Neary

Meagan recalls that her proudest moment with Royale so far was in February 2014 when she rode down the center line in his first Fourth Level test at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and National Show, hosted by the Palm Beach Derby, where they scored a 72.000% from Axel Steiner. They won their class that day. They also won their Third Level classes at that show.

Meagan has had the opportunity to work with some of the best trainers in the world and is currently training Royale with Bent Jensen and Henk Van Bergan. Both Jensen and Van Bergen feel Royale has unlimited potential. Their training consists of ring work, hacking, and schooling in the fields. “Royale likes variety, as do all my horses. It makes happy horses,” Meagan said.

Now that Royale has found his calling, he comes across as a happy and loving horse that tries hard for his “people.” Meagan describes him as having a lot of heart. “He always works hard and rises to the occasion,” she said. “He is a mush and a sweetheart. He loves his people and licks you to death.” 

They were most recently seen at this past weekend's NEDA Fall Festival and the USDF Region 8 Championships where they placed third out of 35 competitors at Third Level with a score of 70.000%.

Their next challenge is this week's Dressage at Devon Horse Show, held September 23-28 in Devon, PA. Spectators will be able to watch this big, beautiful chestnut gelding with a blaze as he and Meagan put all their hard work to the test. Keep an eye out for this rising star as horse and rider shoot for a win at one of the country's most prestigious dressage events.