Friday, October 4, 2013

Dressage at Devon 2013, Saturday and Sunday

Another trend that was obvious in the schooling area at Dressage at Devon was that everyone was wearing safety helmets.  The new USEF rule requiring helmets for everyone on the show grounds while mounted went into effect April 1, 2013.  (see below)

Protective Headgear Rule Change for Dressage to Go into Effect April 1, 2013

RELEASE: February 19, 2013

Lexington, KY- The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) wishes to remind all dressage competitors of the rule change to DR120. This change goes into effect on April 1, 2013 and necessitates the usage of protective headgear by anyone mounted on the grounds at all USEF dressage competitions.

DR120 has been amended to require protective headgear as follows:

From the time horses are officially admitted to the competition grounds by competition management, anyone mounted on a horse at any time on the competition grounds including non-competing riders, riders on non-competing horses, and those competing in all classes and tests, including Para-Equestrian tests must wear protective headgear as defined by this rule and otherwise in compliance with GR801. Any rider violating this rule at any time must immediately be prohibited from further riding until such headgear is properly in place. Protective headgear is defined as a riding helmet which meets or exceeds ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI(Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and carries the SEI tag. The harness must be secured and properly fitted.

If there are questions regarding this rule or the use of protective headgear at USEF dressage competitions please contact Hallye Griffin by email at or by phone (859) 225-6918.

For me it was the first time seeing this rule in effect.  The usual array of baseball hats and bare heads have now been replaced by helmets of every variety.  Watching the Prix St. Georges on Friday all of the riders that I saw were wearing protective head gear except Tom Dvorak, who wore a top hat.  In 2011 the rule first excluded riders over 18 years old competing in FEI classes only both in warm up and the competition arena.  So I am confused as to to why Mr. Dvorak was wearing a top hat.....I looked at the USEF rule and do not see an exclusion.  Or does the rule exclude CDI competitions?

Another sign of the times is this notice, posted on the grandstand.

I did not notice that this rule was being enforced, however.  We always leave bags, jackets, coolers etc in our boxes unattended as it is easier than carrying all of one's belongings while walking around the show grounds.

Saturday, September 28, 2013
The show grounds awaken early, but the crowd is slow to develop.  I love how as the sun begins to brighten for the start of the day the sounds of the show grounds springing to life increase in pace and intensity.  At first the sounds are somewhat muffled, almost sleepy although hands are busy preparing horses for the day ahead.  The trade fair too must get ready for the busy Saturday ahead, and the clanking of food preparation accompanies the delightful aroma of the breakfast fare.

As the morning wears on spectators pour in, beginning to swarm the warm up area and competition arenas.  Traffic control has increased on the back field, especially at the point where riders exit the Dixon Oval as it crosses one of the high spectator traffic areas.  People, often unaware, stop to speak to long time acquaintances whom they only see at DAD and forget that they are blocking the entrance.  Even the schooling areas have morphed over the past decade.  The three areas are better defined by fencing offering opportunities for spectators to observe riders preparing for their tests.

By 10 AM those not able or willing to secure reserved seats for the evening's musical freestyle (the event is always sold out) begin securing spots on the benches and bleachers lining the Dixon Oval.  An assortment of blankets, coolers and bags (obviously that security declaration is not being enforced!) lay claim to spectators visiting other areas of the show grounds for later that night.

As the sun sets, the air becomes crisp and lights illuminate the arena.  There is a certain electricity that buzzes through the air and the midway becomes packed with standing room only spectators.  My husband and I have been attending freestyle night for years.  Enduring cold, pouring rain and anything else that Mother Nature could throw at us.  But alas, this year my sore throat and fever worsened and I passed along my two precious box seats to a fellow boarder and her young daughter.  New to dressage I wanted to offer them the opportunity to see quality dressage with the fan friendly musical freestyle format.  For me, I was forced to be content watching the show on my laptop, where fortunately the USEF was live streaming.

Even from the screen of my MacBook I was able to see the crowd build as the 7:45 start time grew close.  Enviously, I could almost smell the cool, early autumn air, wishing I was there laughing and chatting with friends...
The festivities began with a retirement tribute to Rocher.  George Williams led her around the Dixon Oval to say farewell.  The Diva of Devon was retired several years ago, but this was a fitting tribute to the mare with the floppy ears and oozing with charisma.  I didn't realize that George had not seen her for four years.  That must have been an emotional reunion.  I remember watching them win the freestyle three times.  That big girl owned the arena, and I loved how when leaving the ring on a long rein she would look up into the stands at her fans.  Indeed she is a diva!

The majority of the rides did not disappoint, obvious even from my small vantage point of the lap top screen.  A few riders chose to do the one tempis on a curve, always a daring move and not always successful, as we saw.  It does take great courage to do this but I really believe that you must be certain that your ones are really correct.  I hate when riders sway from side to side as they ask for the changes and for someone trying to do this movement on a curve, it really throws the horse off the mark.  That's just me arm chair quarter backing!

While I don't always like the choice of music by some individuals, that is the beauty of the freestyle: individuality.  It is wonderful when you see a pair really and rider both feeling the music.  To me that is one of the most important qualities.  As a former ballet dancer watching horse and rider embrace the music elevates the quality of the test.  Sometimes choreography is spot on and some times not so much.  It does offer the opportunity for each rider to play on the horse's best gaits and movements, but I find that sometimes the test becomes trot or canter heavy when there is a particular weakness.

Lars Peterson won with a 76.97% followed by Ashley Holzer and Breaking Dawn with a 76.52%.  Tina Konyot rounded up the top 3 with a 72.87%.  Riders ranked 1-7 all scored above 70%.  All 15 horses who entered the qualifier on Friday night qualified to ride their musical freestyle on Saturday night.  Apparently that was not expected so with the half time show the night finished later than preferred.  The township has an ordinance regarding what time these events should finish at night.  The Devon show grounds border residential areas as well as businesses, so these restrictions are understandable.

While the majority of the rides that I watched were top quality, others made glaring mistakes.  Sometimes this means new choreography, new partnership or first time under the lights at DAD.

Sunday, September 29, 2013
Feeling a little better in the morning I decided to go to Devon for the last day of competition.  I was hoping to watch some 4th level, the Grand Prix Special and the Intermediare I freestyle.  The freestyle was to start in the afternoon and I anticipated perhaps wearing out by then!  Isaiah and Michael also came but drove separately because Isaiah had a baseball game in early afternoon.  They would watch with me for awhile then wander around.  Isaiah loves to watch the farriers work so he found the show farrier and watched for awhile....the farrier was making hoof picks and gave one to Isaiah.
Needless to say, Isaiah was thrilled with his gift.

The Grand Prix Special had some really nice rides.  I enjoyed Ashley Holzer's test immensely!  There were a couple of small errors, but for the most part correct and accurate.  Catherine Haddad Staller also had a very nice test.  Some of the others had some technical issues, and I really do hate when the rider does the piaffe and nothing is happening underneath.....
Some issues with changes for some horses but not as many as in the PSG on Friday!  Most of the issues seemed to be rider driven, although in for a couple it looked like the horse was not completely confirmed at the level.

Watching riders in the warm up I observed quite a bit of over riding.  Driving, driving, driving, swishing tails and pinned ears.  Not everyone, of course, and in some cases a quick boot or whip tap is sometimes necessary to get a horse to pay attention.  I am referring to that constant nagging that makes the horse ignore seat and legs.  And this can area havoc on the horse's back long term.  I specifically would watch horse and rider combinations that in my opinion looked correct in warm up then move to the arena for the test.  Same for those who were not looking so happy in warm up.  The results corresponded as you can imagine.  Sometimes it is rider nerves that cause over riding in competition, but not always.

So I made a discovery among the vendors this year: Goshen Donuts!
These donuts melt in your mouth!  I am not a huge donut fan but I am in love with their mini donuts. Apparently they do not have an actual store, but just go to events.  I will have to find out where they will be next!

Friday, October 4, 2013
out of the fog.....
Suki....don't worry....she cannot get stuck in that space!

And Nikki

Suki was keeping her from coming to the gate....


  1. That is indeed a very informative article. I always give my students lessons on health and safety issues at the workplace. This blog has given me more points to tell my students in next class. Thanks a bunch!

    Arnold Brame

    1. Thank you for your comment! I think safety is often underestimated. Courtney King Dye is a dressage rider who fell from a horse who simply stumbled and she was not wearing a helmet. This resulted in her suffering from a brain injury, remaining in a coma for several weeks and long rehab. This in part prompted the rule change. I was struck even more by this when I read the following article: