A few weekends ago, I traveled to Devon for the first time with the dressage ladies from my barn. They go every year, so I wanted to go and see what all the hype was about. All of the ladies are very nice and I enjoy their company, so I was sure no matter what it was like that it would be a fun day. And, to top it off, one of the ladies was able to get a limo bus for us to drive down in. It was already so much more glamorous than Rolex, and we hadn’t even gotten there yet.
My expectations weren’t exactly high, to say the least, but I think that overall it was a good experience. When we got there, the first thing we did was eat, of course. I got a Philly cheese steak which was pretty good. I couldn’t find any chicken tenders which I usually eat at horse shows, so I was pretty disappointed, but that was okay. I also got hand-cut french fries and a lemonade that were both very good. Thankfully, not all the food was super expensive; the stand that I got my lunch from sold hot dogs and hamburgers. However, there were other stands that had fancier, more expensive meals… (not a surprise.) We finished eating lunch at about 1 pm, and then headed to the shops.
I have to say, the shops were just a tiiiny bit different than the shops at events. Every other store we went in was either jewelry, sparkly t-shirts (no regular t-shirts, of course), or $300 jackets that were basically just zip-up hoodies. Just a few of the things we found were: sparkly bell boots and shiny cross count- I mean dressage boots, whips with bling on the handle, faux fur shawls and coats, and blingy browbands galore. I got through maybe about four jewelry stores until I really started to miss rummaging through the discount bins at the Horseloverz booth.
One of my favorite parts of visiting the stores were the dogs… there were so many cute dogs everywhere! I compiled all the dog pictures I took in a gallery so you can get a sense of the atmosphere:
Fortunately, just when I was starting to feel like I had already gone through all of the shops at least twice, something great happened. I was wandering near the warm up ring and around the barns when I spotted her: it was four-star Eventer Lainey Ashker doing a video interview! I awkwardly waited until she was finished, and then I walked up to her and introduced myself. I told her I was an eventer here with my dressage trainer and she laughed and gave me a hug.
She told me about her rides the previous day, and how her horse Fuegs was very good and did everything right, but his movement just can’t beat the bigger warmbloods (side note- I didn’t realize how little he was until I stood next to him!) We also talked about how it’s the same in eventing too- I told her how I ride an off the track thoroughbred at the Beginner Novice/Novice level, so it’s hard to compete against the big warmbloods or “made” horses at that level. She gave a very good piece of advice when she said to “let them beat you at that level, but once you get to Intermediate and Advanced you’ll be beating them!” She compared Buck winning with Archie Rocks at Plantation, because even though he was in 14th place going into cross country after dressage and show jumping, he could get close to the time in the less-than-perfect conditions, which is how he won.
As the sun started to set, we watched the horses from the morning rides do their victory canters (not gallops) around the Dixon Oval, and we were finally nearing the highlight of the night: the freestyles. It turned out there were only eight freestyles! And those were really the only rides we came to sit down and watch. So that was a little disappointing. The first four freestyles were not that fun to watch, they didn’t have very good music and the rides weren’t overwhelmingly impressive. The remaining four were entertaining though, the more well-known people went, and the music and rides were better choreographed. The rides where the music matched up perfectly and horse and rider were in sync were very cool to watch. Overall, it was fun, but I guess having been to events like Rolex, Fair Hill, and Plantation, it was a bit underwhelming. Next year I think we are going on Friday so we can see more rides, which I think I’ll enjoy.
In the meantime I’ll continue rummaging through sale bins at events looking for the best deals. And in two weeks you can find me at the Fair Hill 3* watching the event riders tear around the XC course. I’ve invited the dressage ladies from my barn to join me!