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June 19, 2014

Devon Is An Adjective

Devon is like no other horse show.

I'm not a hero. I'm not a Superwoman. I’m a lawyer, a mom, and a rider. And not necessarily in that order.

Lawyer simply means I went to school for a long time, took a lot of tests, and have eight extra letters after my name (do not ask me in what order they go). It means my work life ticks by in six-minute increments that must add up to 2,300 hours each December.

Coincidentally, the minutes go by much faster during three distinct times of year—USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, indoors, and Devon—when I can stream horse shows live from my desk. Clients have become accustomed to my sporadic clapping and whooping during conference calls.

My profession is one in which I get paid to “know it all” even in situations where I know very little. This is my excuse when my “professionalism” comes out in social settings. Or in my riding lessons.

I am the biological mother of only one two-legged being, a 2-year-old Ninja-Houdini cross. He lacks fear and I lack the ability to catch him. Fortunately for me, he’s also very sweet and I get lots of help corralling him. He does ride, but I hope it is not his “thing” for reasons I will explain in a later post, about our first leadline experience incident.

As a rider, I’m a competitive amateur-owner. Competitive in this context should not be confused with “good.” I simply mean that I go to horse shows and compete in them. I pay money to do this.

No one gets nervous when they see my name on the order of go. The in-gate does not get quiet when I’m “laying one down.” The “owner” part of “amateur-owner” is another way of saying I have to buy a horse before anyone will let me ride it. I’m waiting, but that rich owner with a string of nice horses has not yet come knocking.

Finally, I should clarify that contrary to what my friends and co-workers think, I do the hunters. They do not understand the distinction between the Thursday night grand prix at Devon and Friday morning at Devon. I jump pretty little jumps with ground lines, lots of foliage and a color spectrum about as wide as my pinky finger.

I would not know what to do with colored poles or water. I tend to shy away from fences taller than myself or my horse, and I prefer to be told precisely how many feet there are between the in and the out of any line. Though I have always wanted a pair of white breeches…    

I don't have the worst job, I don't have the most kids, and I am certainly not the most decorated amateur. This might explain where I am coming from in my observations about the Dixon Oval, and competing at Devon this year.

My pre-Devon post indulged in sarcasm and exaggeration to serve the self-deprecating humor of the post. I am every bit an amateur, but I do have ribbons from Devon. It’s taken me two decades, but two of them are even blue (and yes, they’re first-place-blue, not 10th-place-blue). However, unlike my fellow amateurs that gifted their Devon ribbons to spectators, I’ve taken out insurance policies on mine and they’re preserved for all eternity in a flame-retardant box frame.

Freshly recovered from Devon 2014, I look back to my post about the Dixon Oval and realize I placed so much emphasis on “The Oval” and not enough on what makes it so overwhelming: Devon.

It is the literal epicenter of Devon. My nerves and I (and my wallet) put Devon up on a pedestal. Every March, when my Devon Anxiety starts to kick in, my husband reminds me that Devon is just another horse show, that I’ve been riding at Devon since I was 14. “How could this Devon be any different from last Devon? Or, from any other horse show for that matter?” he says. Clearly, his expertise is based on his own experiences riding… a motorcycle.

What I cannot get him to understand is that it’s Devon. We prepare for Devon like no other horse show, only to try and ride like it’s just any other horse show. Because it’s Devon. Over the course of its 118-year history, Devon has evolved from a geographic location and the name of a horse show, to an adjective.

For example, I recently heard a trainer refer to 111' bending line (that I’d hunt print gallop in a seven-and-a-half) as a “Devon Seven.” My horse’s pre-show grooming involves a “Devon Bath” in which we scrub and polish parts of him that have never and will never see the light of day. We put baby oil on his nose and paint his toes. He hates this. But, it’s Devon.

His braids are “Devon Braids”—56 of them in place of the usual 41—and of course one is a “Lucky Devon Braid” (more about crazy superstitions in a later post). His massage and acupuncture prior to showing is all a part of what the vet calls "Devon Prep." Somehow seeing the word “Devon” on a vet bill justifies an amount greater than my mortgage.

There’s Devon Schooling, in which we are required to follow rules in a 186’ by 4’ sandbox. I don’t know my right from left well enough or fast enough to figure out which direction I should be jumping. All I know is, I have carts coming at me, locals and ponies fighting for their own space, and I’m sideswiping Saddlebreds as I struggle to find a distance from three strides out. And now, I have to worry about some colored flags?

Then, there’s Devon Blue. It’s the reason we come to Devon. We dare to dream. For some of us, Devon Blue is a ribbon. For most of us, Devon Blue is the color of the Lucky Devon Manicure now chipping off our nails.

Devon has a certain magnetism like great writing. It leaves you almost satisfied, but anxious for more. It never fails, every year when Devon ends, I just want one more day; one more trip in The Oval.

Of course, then the Devon Bills arrive and I’m reminded that one Devon a year is probably enough. 

 

 
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