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Devon Continues Its Grand Tradition

by Leeann Mione

DEVON, Penn. – The 112th edition of the Devon Horse Show, benefiting Bryn Mawr Hospital, drew Saddlebreds, Hackneys, roadsters, Friesians and carriage driving competitors to Dixon Oval to compete in front of Judge Dick Obenauf May 22–June 1, 2008.

So much has been said about why owners, trainers and exhibitors should make the trip to Pennsylvania for this show and fortunately, for another year, a dedicated group of longtime supporters, as well as some new barns, heeded that advice and brought their horses and ponies.

Not only do the horses get to show in front of huge, knowledgeable and appreciative crowds, but the Dixon Oval is perhaps one of the most beautiful rings to showcase the world-class stock that appears there year after year. In fact, this year boasted record attendance and Thursday night alone, nearly 40,000 people converged on the show grounds. That number was up from an average of 38,000 people.

“Promotion, promotion, promotion” has been a topic that has been discussed for years in the quest for the show horse industry to attract more people. Devon is one of the very few shows remaining that brings those kinds of numbers to watch the show horses. And, they don’t just watch; they are knowledgeable and they love a good horse or pony, whatever its breed.

“I’m surprised that more people don’t come to this show,” said trainer Tom Sworm. Sworm brought his group from Michigan to Devon for the first time and they teamed up for a great show including the Three-Gaited Stake and Amateur Park Stake wins.

“I’ve never been to a show where they’ve been lined up 10 deep along the rail, leaning over the rail to get a better look, cheering us on. It was thrilling. I wasn’t sure how the mare [Hallelujah Chorus] would handle it, but she loved it. The applause seemed to follow us around the ring. Why would you want to show somewhere where there’s only a very few people in the seats watching when you can show in front of a crowd like this?” Sworm added.

Big crowds, wonderful ambiance and incredible quality of entries, combined with great hospitality make this show so very enjoyable, inside the ring and out.

Annika Bruggeworth and Kimberly Deola, of Friesian Season, sponsored their “Welcome Party” Thursday night for all who wanted to come enjoy free food, free drinks and music to dance to. The party wasn’t a fundraiser, it was simply a party to say, “Thanks for being here” to the owners, trainers and exhibitors who made the trip.

A wide assortment of food, an open bar with champagne and a DJ to keep the music playing and the crowd dancing made it a great way to end a night of incredible equine competition that concluded with the $100,000 Budweiser Grand Prix featuring some of the country’s best jumpers.

Friday evening, after the show, the exhibitors’ party was held. This party also offered great food, an open bar and a live band. Door prizes, raffle items, scholarships and trainers’ incentive awards were presented.

The horse show once again put up the money to fund the various prizes and it is due to the “Friends Of Devon” that the money is provided. This small group, including one of Devon’s biggest supporters Minna Hankin Mintz, works tirelessly year after year to encourage attendance by the Saddlebreds, Hackneys, Friesians and roadsters.

Nealia McCracken received $1,500 as the trainer bringing the most number of horses. Her North Wind Stables group was 14 entries strong and they went home with numerous blue and tricolor ribbons by the end of the week.

Jan Lukens received $1,000 for bringing 12 horses and her group also came away with several top ribbons. Janet Hicks picked up the check for $500 that was awarded for the most ponies brought to the show. Not only did the ponies of Rodney Hicks Stables earn several blue and tricolor ribbons but Janet Hicks drove Miss Excellence to the Hackney Pony Pleasure Driving Championship win for the fourth year in a row. She retired the trophy last year.

Kaitlyn Grom received a gift certificate from Ross Simon Jewelers for her win in the Ladies Five-Gaited Pink Ribbon class.

Jessica Moctezuma and Elizabeth Dirth each received $1,000 scholarships, donated by the show.

A live and silent auction to benefit Saddlebred Rescue, which gets some of its best exposure at Devon, included all kinds of great items. Box seats for Lexington, Louisville and the Shelbyville Horse Show, bronzes by Linda Owen, artwork by Weezy, an “electronics” basket filled with a huge assortment of gadgets and a cashmere throw were just some of the great items that had many of those in attendance opening their wallets and pocketbooks. Door prizes included a Swarovski crystal necklace, six glasses from the WCHS and a rubber duck covered with lottery tickets.

Even the rain that came Saturday afternoon didn’t hamper the action. By the time the show started Saturday evening, the rain was over, the sun came out and the weather was picture perfect. The final championship session, which featured the amateur stakes, closed out a great week of competition.

Friday night was “open stake” night and the Five-Gaited Stake proved to be a great end to the session. Gary Guz, Larry Hodge, Mike Spencer and Helen Robertson brought their powerhouse mounts to the ring to compete for the tricolor.

Judge Dick Obenauf had already named Callaway’s Mystical Moment the winner of the open qualifier for Misdee Wrigley Miller and when he turned in his card after the stake class, Larry Hodge headed to the far end of the ring for the presentation. Mike Spencer and Yippeekiyokiyey exited with the reserve tricolor for Minna Hankin Mintz.

The ladies gaited class also featured a great group and the ladies rode hard in an effort to be named the winner of the UPHA Ladies Five-Gaited Pink Ribbon class. Whimsicality and Kaitlyn Grom were named the winners and represented Revelation Farms in the winner’s circle.

Misdee Miller was on board Lakeview’s Rare-A-Phi for the win in the Amateur Five-Gaited Stake to follow up their win in the amateur qualifier. Brittany Kale, riding Spirit Of New York PSF from first time attendees Mercer Springs Farm, finished her week with the reserve grand championship title.

Perfectly Designed, with owner and trainer Jan Lukens up, closed out the five-gaited division with the blue ribbon win in the junior/novice class.

Golden Market was just one of the top entries making an appearance at Devon for the first time. David and Kristen Cater brought horses from New Hampshire and their group had a very successful week. Golden Market was the Three-Gaited Reserve Grand Champion behind open winner and grand champion Hallelujah Chorus. David Cater showed for owner Catherine McCool and they claimed the blue in the junior/novice class earlier in the week.

Robin McKenzie Vuillermet teamed her Callaway’s Born With Style to the Amateur Three-Gaited Stake and qualifier wins to add two more top ribbons to the Mercer Springs total.

Owned and bred by Hillcroft Farm, Hillcroft Claret was the Ladies Three-Gaited winner, with Misdee Miller up, and they also claimed the reserve streamers in the amateur stake.

Holly Wilson and Milady A La Lucie represented Mercer Springs in the winner’s circle with their junior exhibitor blue ribbon.

Smith Lilly took on the competition in the Open Three-Gaited Park Stake with Cape Grace for owners Roger and Stephanie McMahon and they came out on top after having previously won the open qualifier. David Cater rode CF A Rare Genius to the reserve title for owner Catherine McCool.

CH His Supreme Reflection, showing under the direction of Tom Sworm, topped the Amateur Three-Gaited Park Stake with Jacqueline Manzo. Manzo rode for owner Kimberly Jones. Perfect Vengeance and Kaitlyn Grom won the amateur class and returned in the stake to be named the reserve grand champions under the direction of Michael Richardson for Robert and Kim Grom.

Seaforth’s Bonnie Lass claimed the tricolor win in the Fine Harness Stake for Margot Harwood, followed by Annika Bruggeworth’s Sultan’s Zorba for reserve. Bonnie Lass also won the open class to add another win to Harwood’s total.

Castledream and Misdee Miller made their amateur debut at Devon last year and they were back again this year to win the Amateur Fine Harness Championship and qualifier under the direction of Kalarama. Hawkwing and Margaret Biggs were the reserve grand champions from Jan Lukens Stables.

Smith Lilly drove Fashionista to the win in the junior/novice class for Dr. Nancy Trent to close out the fine harness division.

The Devon crowd always loves the roadsters and the big oval is a great place to showcase the speed and talent of the roadster horses and ponies. Jimmy Robertson did a great job of directing Rum’s Last Shot and Obenauf named them the winners of the Road Horse To Bike Championship and open class for Jennifer Robertson. Owner Charles Jones drove MV’s Bones to the reserve tricolor.

Kilbro’s Be Impressive, with owner/trainer Rodney Hicks handling the drive, headed to the presentation area to pick up the tricolor after they got the nod from Obenauf in the Roadster Pony Stake. Kristen Cater drove Dun Haven Highly Impressive to reserve for Spann Equine LLC.

Heartland City Boy and Kayce Bell teamed up to win the open roadster pony class, showing from Infinity Stables and it was another Infinity-trained entry that swept the amateur division. Turbo Blue and Lori Boyd Van Gorden won both classes for Ann Boyd. Don Spann handled the drive with Highly Impressive and they finished in the second spot for the amateur stake.

Kathy Comeau drove her pony Truly Naughty By Nature to win the Amateur Harness Pony Championship under the direction of Rodney Hicks. Patricia Kilcullen and The Dutchman, from Sweigart Stables, were the reserve grand champions after winning the qualifier. Hicks himself was in the buggy for the winning drive in the UPHA Harness Pony Classic with Heartland Unique Fashion.

Brook Sweigart kept the wins coming for Sweigart Stables when Unique’s Starlighter won the Hackney Pony Championship and open class for Clarence Sweigart. Sharon Francis, from Rodney Hicks Stables, drove her pony Strictly Business to the reserve tricolor. Marjorie Kenney and The Marksman added two more wins to the Rodney Hicks Stables total with the amateur championship and amateur qualifier wins.

Miss Excellence won her pleasure driving qualifier with Janet Hicks before returning to win the stake. Heartland Take Watch and Lara D’Alessandro claimed the reserve streamers in the stake.

The Hackney Horses of Hillcroft Farm had an incredible week at Devon including two wins by Brickell Master Matthew. Trainer Todd Draheim drove to win the Hackney Horse Championship and open class for Misdee Miller.

Intriguing Masterpiece and Louise DeBlois put Jan Lukens Stables again in the winner’s circle when they won the Five-Gaited Show Pleasure Championship and qualifier.

Amy and John Haller’s homebred youngster Radiant Princess Of Monaco, won the UPHA Park Pleasure Classic with Smith Lilly riding.

The pleasure divisions were well filled and competitive which was great to see. Obenauf had his work cut out for him to pick the order of finish in great class after great class.

The Three-Gaited Pleasure Championship hosted eight teams and the big crowd cheered their favorites. When the card was turned in, Obenauf’s favorite was The Smooth Operator. Jessica Moctezuma rode for owner Dr. Geraldine Meanor to the impressive victory. Julianne Butler and The King’s Talent, also from North Wind Stables, finished with the second place tie for owner Nealia McCracken.

Annika Bruggeworth and her Madeira & Bourbon finished on top in the adult qualifier. Cater Stables entry New York’s Time Square took the blue ribbon with Elizabeth Dirth in the junior exhibitor class.

Tangled Dreams and Laurie Behr teamed up to win the Show Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier under the direction of Lukens. Midtown Magic, also from Lukens Stables, was reserve in the stake with owner Claudia Fletcher driving.

The Country Pleasure Championship was the largest class of the show with 12 entries and the Grom family continued their great week at Devon with the victory. Tara Grom rode Uwharrie’s Patriot Sage to the win after having won the adult class earlier in the week. At First Sight and owner Jacqueline Manzo took the reserve streamers back to Tom Sworm Stables. El Patron made several appearances during the week to represent North Wind including the win in the junior exhibitor class for owner Penny Stuart.

Anita Simpson most likely figured the trip to Devon was worth it when Obenauf named her horse Really Worth It the winner of the Country Pleasure Driving Championship and qualifier under the direction of Mercer Springs. April Pomaroy helped Windy Hill have a busy and successful week. She drove Windy Hill Farm’s Super Star to the reserve grand championship.

The four horses that competed in the western pleasure division were all put in the ring by Nealia McCracken and they finished in a different order both times. Nancy Trent rode her horse Ultimate Fire to the winner’s circle to pick up the tricolor in the stake. Erte and Alexandria Simpson were right behind for the reserve grand championship. El Impressario and Jessica Moctezuma won the qualifier for co-owners Marge Brown and Nealia McCracken.

The hunter country pleasure division debuted at Devon last year and for the second year in a row, it featured a strong group in both classes. Donali Livinghouse and Centerfold’s Ring Of Fire won the qualifier under the Sweigart Stables banner and they returned in the stake to claim the victory as well. Winter’s Rembrandt, with Ashley Young riding, took second place in the stake for owner Mary Elias.

Kristen Cater met Jessica Moctezuma in the winner’s circle after she was named the Saddle Seat Equitation Grand Champion. It was the second equitation win of the week for Moctezuma and instructor Cater. Lauren Hogge earned the title of equitation reserve grand champion under the direction of Carolyn Folkers and Karin Folkers-Smith.

The Friesians were a big hit with the Devon crowd and they were well represented by a strong group in all three of their classes.

Annika Bruggeworth and Gooitzen Fan Teakesyl claimed their first win for Friesian Season in the amateur qualifier when Obenauf put them at the top of his card. They did it again when they returned for the Friesian Under Saddle Stake. Mindy Vanhellemont and Loek B were next in line for a championship ribbon and represented Tom Sworm Stables. Franz Fan ‘E Hurddraversdyk and owner Charmane Delisle closed out the Friesian division with their blue ribbon win in the open under saddle class.

Hillcroft Farm, led by trainer Todd Draheim who perhaps at the end of the week regretted his words, had a dream week at Devon. Draheim said he would shave his head if the Hackney Horses of Hillcroft Farm won the coaching championship. He should have seen it coming after they won the Open Tandem, Unicorn/Four-In Hand Carriage Marathon and Carriage Pleasure Drive Championship Drive Off Sunday; the Four-In-Hand Road Coach Appointments class Monday; the open unicorn hitch class Tuesday and the Four-In-Hand class Wednesday night. When Misdee Miller was asked to remain in the ring Friday night after the coach horn competition by announcer Peter Doubleday, Draheim’s fate was sealed. Hillcroft Farm was named the Coaching Grand Champions.

Devon has been lauded and applauded by those owners, trainers and exhibitors who have supported it for years and by those who come to Devon for the first time. Hopefully new barns will continue to make the trek to Devon to experience the thrill of competing with world-class horses and ponies in front of the big crowds in such a beautiful setting. Those who work so hard to keep the various show horse and pony divisions part of the schedule will no doubt be back again next year to take advantage of all the great things that only Devon can offer.

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