By Olivia Esse
Memories of Devon
I was excited to go to Devon this year, my first time back since 2007. I had shown the ponies there quite a few times, and I have such fond memories from those years. I will never forget how excited I was when my first year at Devon, 2003, I moved to the top of the Small Pony Stake Class on Budweiser. My trainer was crying tears of joy. We had to jog that class on the path next to the ring because the ring was too muddy. I remember the pony hunt teams, riding around in tandem to the American Idol theme song. I remember riding the ferris wheel with my very scared trainer, and winning stuffed prizes at the carnival games that are still in my room. The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has always been a fun tradition, and I knew this year would be no different.
When we arrived the weather forecast included highs in the 90s with a chance of thunderstorms. Seemed pretty paradoxical to me, as I was used to cold and rainy weather at Devon. Thankfully it never stormed, but it was hot and humid all weekend, which was quite draining (especially in the flat phase of the Maclay). But I enjoyed the sun – it felt like summer. The “Devon blue” stands matched the pale blue sky, the lines for homemade ice cream were never short and the tea sandwiches were refreshing in the shade of the picnic tables. In the warm evenings the fair rides lit up, music was playing, and there were large crowds for the classes still going on.
Stepping in the ring, I felt part of a great tradition, a celebration of showmanship. This was, after all, Devon’s 115th year! There more than anywhere I feel that I am part of a show. I am not just competing in front of a judge, with my trainers and the other riders at the gate. There is a real audience, some horse people but some who came simply to enjoy the fair and to watch the show jumping, a fascinating and old-fashioned sport. The rails are lined with kids in face paint and families in full Devon gear, marveling at the beautiful horses going by. Although they occasionally spook a horse, I really appreciate how interested they are – their energy adds to the excitement. I want to perform for them whenever I am in the arena. I can’t remember the last time I walked into the ring at a big show to see the stands even halfway filled.
The Dixon Oval was a joy to ride in. It is nice and spacious, great for galloping around and hunting the fences, feeling my shadbelly tails flapping in the wind behind me. Between studying for AP exams and being sick, it had been a while since I had shown, so I was rusty and at times would over think my rides. My rounds weren’t my absolute best, but I earned some good prizes – a second, a couple thirds, a couple fifths – so I was quite content. Jogging was a bit of a drag in the muggy weather, but when I would get to the top of the ring and stand in line for my prize I often found myself looking toward the other end of the ring. The sign over top of the gate reads, “DEVON HORSE SHOW WHERE CHAMPIONS MEET.” Maybe it sounds a bit mushy, but the statement rings true – I do feel like a champion no matter what prize I win or don’t win at this horse show so steeped in tradition. To have the opportunity to compete there, against such great riders and in front of all those spectators, is something I’m not only proud of but I cherish.