Devon, Pa.—May 28
When Erroll Gobey tripped coming around the last turn before a long gallop to the final fence of the $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing at the Devon Horse Show, Buck Davidson had to make a decision: Should he take an extra second and go wide to give his mount a moment to regroup, or kick on and go for broke?
“I hadn’t seen the leader,” said Davidson, who’s originally from nearby Unionville, Pennsylvania, but now spends most of his time in Ocala, Florida. “I would have been bummed out if I’d lost it because we landed and stumbled—that would have been a bit of a bummer. I knew it was close, I looked up and saw the clock as I turned to the last fence. That sort of made my decision that I couldn’t go wide there.”
That decision paid off when “Gobey” crossed the finish line just 0.3 seconds under Caroline Pomukcu’s time aboard HSH Blake, giving Davidson the lion’s share of the $50,000 purse. Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times put in a speedy round to take third.
Seven combinations found their way around Mark Phillips’ first round track—which made use of both the Dixon Oval and the Wheeler Ring—without fault. Five others who accrued a few time faults joined them in the 15-fence second round, where everyone turned on the afterburners for a chance at a top prize. Three riders were eliminated in Round 2: Chris Talley (Loughtown Cici) went off course, Jennie Saville (Pascal) failed to cross the timers properly and Shannon Lilley (Ideal HX) stopped out.
“I think Mark Phillips is a genius at doing this stuff,” said Davidson. “You could easily make us look like fools, and he does a really good job of making it exciting. He does a great job of framing the jumps in, but if you’re going miss them, you’re going to miss them. He gives the horses confidence and puts on a good show.
“It brings eventing to the masses, and this is such an awesome venue and such a cool nostalgic place that it’s cool to be involved in it,” he added.
Davidson, who also placed sixth on Electric Lux, made use of Gobey’s monster step to cut strides out of lines and get through the timers first.
“It was all in front of me; I knew what I had to do, there was no point in just cantering around,” he said. “I didn’t see what the person that was leading did, but I had an idea of where I could save some time, and Gobey’s got a big stride. He’s not so nippy, but he’s got a big stride so I felt like leaving strides out was going to help me, because the turns weren’t going to be quite as good as some of them.”
Watch their winning round, courtesy of USEF Network:
To prepare for this competition Davidson shipped Electric Lux and Gobey up from Ocala and put in a few jump schools at his father, Bruce Davidson Sr.’s, Unionville farm.
“I made sure that they were on their game and sharp and just sort of let his experience take over, and thankfully it worked,” he said.
Davidson has been riding Gobey since 2017, and in April they placed second in the advanced horse trial at Stable View (South Carolina) before retiring on cross-country at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L. The 13-year-old Holsteiner (Cassini II—Ulla II, Contender) owned by Cassandra Segal is a full brother to Monaco N.O.P., who just placed second at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final (Nebraska).
“He’s a beautiful horse,” said Davidson. “He’s got all the ability in the world. He has not been terribly easy for me. He’s been difficult and a little bit in every phase.
“He’s bred to jump but he’s a little short of speed,” he continued. “He’s a beautiful mover, and mentally just keeping it all together for the dressage has been a little bit of a work in progress, but he’s a super cool horse, and everybody can see the ability he has to jump. He can really, really jump.”
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Don’t forget to pick up copies of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. Junior Weekend coverage will be found in the June 12 & 19 issue, and coverage of Senior Week will be in the June 26 issue.