October 2, 2016 -- If Dressage at Devon 2016 had a theme song, it was “O Canada!”
The Canadian national anthem was played repeatedly throughout the show, as riders from north of the border won early and often.
They were a huge presence, while the top U.S. riders were few and far between at the FEI levels.
The Grand Prix Freestyle, always a highlight of the show on Philadelphia's Main Line, had only nine entries--the smallest number I can remember in the decade or so that I've been attending. Five of them were Canadian. The win went to a rider from yet another country, Judy Reynolds of Ireland on Vancouver K (77.550), who has won all four of her classes over the last two weeks (the GP and freestyle at Central Park last weekend, and the same at Devon) following up on her successful appearance at the Olympics.
Her freestyle was performed to music older than she is (“King of the Road, “The Age of Aquarius”) that she got from 2000 Dutch Olympic team silver medalist Coby van Baalen. Judy revealed she had to go to the Shazam app to find out the titles, as required for the Olympics, because she didn't recognize the songs.
The Devon freestyle was a qualifier for next spring's FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha, for which Judy hopes to return to this country. She's already done a lot for the image of her discipline in Ireland, a hotbed of eventing and show jumping; dressage, not so much.
Mikala Gundersen, a U.S. based Dane, finished second (74.750) in the freestyle to her “stripper music” (“Welcome to Burlesque”) on My Lady, who at 16 is not ready to retire and will be pointed toward the World Cup.
The top American was Tuny Page on Woodstock, who was second in the Grand Prix qualifier for Freestyle, but dropped to third (74.150) in the freestyle to music from “Amistad” after her horse resisted in the first piaffe and went up on his hind legs. Aside from that, it was a nice test; his pirouettes are a special highlight.
Although U.S. riders outnumbered Canadians in the Grand Prix Special, six to two, those Canadians took the top two spots. Jill Irving, who also won the Grand Prix for the Special, was number one with Degas 12 (70.255), while Canadian Olympian Megan Lane was second with San D'Or, (67.882).
I asked Canadian Jacquie Brooks (you know her for her great Hallelujah/Les Miz freestyle on D'Niro) why she thinks the elite U.S. riders were scarce at the show this year. Click on the right-pointing arrow to hear what she had to say.
Tina Irwin, who runs a stable in Ontario with her husband, Jaimey, took the Prix St. Georges, the Intermediaire I and the I-1 freestyle, which wrapped up the show today.
Aboard the lovely Laurencio, neither weather nor her place in the order fazed her. It was particularly tough for the PSG on Friday, with 40 in the class on a cold and wet afternoon.
Click on the right-pointing arrow to see a video of what Tina had to say when Wendy Wisz asked her about PSG day.
Jaimey was third to his wife in both the PSG and the I-1, but he got closer in the I-1 freestyle, where he was second on Donegal V (74.925) and she ran away with the class after being marked at 77.175 percent. Cue “O Canada.”
Why the big Canadian turnout?
Jacquie explained, “We don't have fall CDIs (international dressage shows) at home, so we're very grateful for the Saugerties (NY) and Devon shows because it's our fall tour. We like to come for the full time and hang out and really prepare for these shows,” she said.
But there's more to the Canadian success than a focus on the fall shows. Jacquie told Wendy Wisz why she thinks the Canadians did so well at Devon. Click on the right-pointing arrow to see the video of Jacquie talking about her thoughts o the subject.
There are so many reasons besides the competition itself to enjoy Dressage at Devon, even with what the Irish (ie Judy Reynolds) would call “soft” weather. There were times I felt I was working within a rather chilly cloud, as it often misted heavily rather than rained, though it did that too.
But that didn't stop anyone from shopping. You can buy everything from practical plain white saddle pads to riding boots decorated with flowers on a white background (not really practical), loads of jewelry and tack of every description, with or without bling.
What I enjoy most is catching up with people I haven't seen in awhile. I checked in with Heather Blitz after watching her ride on Ozzy Cooper in the I-1. (She didn't do the I-1 freestyle with Ozzy because he didn't have a freestyle yet. That was also the case for many of the other riders in the I-1.)
Ozzy impressed me. He's leggy and Heather is tall, so they made a nice picture, particularly with her brown tailcoat and boots complementing his coat.
He's got quite an interesting story. Click on the right-pointing arrow to listen to Heather tell it.
Naturally, I asked Heather about Paragon, the 18-hand chestnut with whom she did so well for several years. Things went downhill in 2015 and he hasn't shown for more than a year.
“He's a little on vacation right now,” said Heather, who added it is “undecided” as to whether he will come back to the show ring. Heather owns Paragon, whom she delivered and trained, so it's entirely up to her what happens with her 2011 Pan American Games individual silver mount.
Be sure to check out the photos from D at D on www.facebook.com/dressagetoday. There's a funny one of the ring crew in drag. They always do that, but they upped the ante this year by posing as Disney princesses. You'll never look at Snow White again the same way.
And I have a shot on Facebook of a tribute being paid to international 5-star judge Lilo Fore after she officiated at her last CDI. She has “aged out” according to FEI standards, which only allows an extension after the usual retirement requirement of 70 to 72, and Lilo reached that. On the bright side, said event organizer Janine Malone, Lilo can still judge national shows and will be more available for them than she usually is.
I'm changing disciplines again, so next up for me is the Fair Hill International Three-Day Event. You can read about it Oct. 16, and there will be photos online at Practical Horseman's Facebook page.