Thursday, May. 23, 2024

First Time’s A Charm For Davis At Devon


Lucy Davis traveled 2,700 miles from Los Angeles, Calif., to get her first taste of Devon’s junior weekend, May 24-26 in Devon, Pa. “Of course I always hope for the best,” she said. “But I never expected this.”
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Lucy Davis traveled 2,700 miles from Los Angeles, Calif., to get her first taste of Devon’s junior weekend, May 24-26 in Devon, Pa. “Of course I always hope for the best,” she said. “But I never expected this.”

After three days of collecting ribbons in the large junior, 15 and under, classes aboard Harmony, Davis earned Devon’s coveted Best Child Rider on a Horse title while Harmony earned the grand junior hunter and large junior hunter championships.

To further merit her new title, the Devon first-timer also rode Old Oak Farm’s 10-year-old gelding, Clockwork, to reserve honors for small juniors, 15 and under.

Needless to say, the 14-year-old was somewhat at a loss for words after the crowning ceremony. “I’m just so excited and so happy,” she said beaming.

Only 11⁄2 years ago she was collecting tri-colors aboard ponies. With steady guidance from Archie Cox at Brookway Stables, she’s taken to Harmony and Clockwork as their names would suggest—virtually without a hitch. That’s not to say becoming a Devon champion didn’t take some earnest effort however.

While Harmony, a 13-year-old warmblood mare, has been no stranger to victories in the past 11⁄2 years, she still has her “mare moments.” “She’s challenging because she’s different every time she goes in the ring,” Davis explained. “She’s always fun whether she’s good or bad, but depending on her energy level, she can be a totally different horse.”

Davis kept her nerves under control as she entered the Dixon Oval for the first time. “I wasn’t really nervous until I actually went into the ring,” she said. “But after the first few jumps I was OK. And I was really excited after the first two classes. I was just happy I got that far.”

The pair went on to secure their championships with top ribbons in the under saddle and stakes class, with scores hovering around the high 80s.

“It’s fun and it’s a different experience. There’s a lot of new faces and more competition, which I like,” Davis said of her transcontinental showing experience. “I don’t really prefer [west or east coast] better, but I’m really fortunate to be able to show on both.”

Though Clockwork fell just shy of a total sweep of the younger junior hunter divisions for Davis, she beamed with pride over his progress.

“When we started out a year ago, I really had to work hard with him,” she said. “And now he’s gotten to a point where he can do a lot of it on his own thanks to Archie [Cox] and Peter [Lombardo].”

Besides, there’s no shame holding reserve honors behind this year’s small junior, 15 and under, champions Alexandra Thornton and Tobasco.

The pair has enjoyed a stellar season, including multiple wins during the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) and a solid placing in the AHJF Hunter Classic. But the 13-year-old Thornton, Bedminster, N.J., still felt a few nerves in her first trip around Devon.

“It’s really exciting and kind of nerve-wracking at first,” she said. “But I really love my horse, Tobasco, and we really click well together. Once we got out there, the nerves just kind of disappeared.

“They were fun courses, and they had long [broken] lines but they were fun to gallop around and jump,” she added. “I’ve always wanted to show here.”

She just missed showing at Devon last year, after breaking her wrist two weeks before the show, and the year before she cheered on one of her ponies from the stands since she had only started riding 11⁄2 years earlier.

“But this has been something I’ve been longing to do, and it’s been really exciting,” she said.

Trainer Susie Humes found the 10-year-old gelding last year. “Ken Smith called me from Washington and said, ‘You better come and buy this horse.’ I’d seen him before and he looked a little hard,” Humes remembered.

But she and Thornton tried him anyway. “We really clicked together from the start,” Thornton said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better match. I love riding him.”

“I guess you could say he turned out to be a very good horse!” Humes added with a laugh.

More Devon Firsts
Amelia McArdle and her 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood, MVP, also earned their first major championships at Devon—the overall small junior hunter championship on top of the tricolor for small juniors, 16-17.

“This is my first time being champion here, and it’s very exciting!” said McArdle, who was making her third trip to Devon. Even with a championship from last year’s Pennsylvania National Horse Show, winning at Devon made this 17-year-old from Barrington, Ill., smile from ear to ear.

But MVP’s stellar performance was all the more rewarding for McArdle thinking back to their rocky path to the top. She bought the chestnut gelding in early 2004 from Morgan Thomas who showed MVP as a green hunter. Excited to break the ice with her new mount, she headed to the Florida circuit for the winter in 2005.

After a good start, they hit a wall when MVP fractured a cannon bone, presumably during the trailer ride home from Florida. He spent six months on stall rest and another six regaining his strength and flexibility.

They returned to the ring in the winter of 2006 and now are almost unstoppable. “He jumped fantastic this weekend. The best part was how we really nailed the first round, which hardly anyone could,” McArdle said.

When she and MVP dressed up for the stakes class they really rose to the occasion. “The lines were so long, but for him it was easy,” she said. “He had no problem because he has a lot of scope and a big stride.”

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And while she’s thrilled with their genuine connection, a nine-year rapport with trainer Katie Kappler also helped. “I started at Kappler Farms actually. It was my first ‘real’ barn,” she said.

Meanwhile, Take Away landed owner and rider Cortie Wetherill in the large junior, 16-17, tricolor ribbons.
“I just live about 10 minutes down the road, and this is my last junior year so I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Wetherill said of his first championship at Devon. “It’s so exciting I can’t describe it in words.”

Wetherill exchanged top ribbons with reserve champions Addison Phillips and Mimosa. But with hardly a hair’s width between them, Take Away took away the top prize, and Wetherill said he owes it to the 12-year-old Oldenburg’s innate ability in the air. “He’s probably the scopiest horse I’ve ever had. His jump is a 10,” Wetherill said.

But it wasn’t exactly poetry in motion when Wetherill first bought Take Away two years ago. “I started riding him without much success at first,” he admitted. “His jump was there from Day 1, but he needed a little bit of work so he did the regular workings for a year.”

Havens Schatt trained and showed Take Away, who had formerly shown as a jumper in Europe, for a year. Their wins included the regular working hunter division at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show (Va.) in 2005 on a score of 94.

Now back in Take Away’s saddle, Wetherill plans to continue showing his horse for the remainder of his junior year before attending Rollins College (Fla.) next year and continuing to ride mostly jumpers.

Friends Win Together
The small pony champion, Ingenue, taught many riders in her five years at Heritage Farm. Current equitation star Maggie McAlary once bounced around aboard this 12.1-hand bay mare, and Schaefer Raposa rode the 10-year-old Welsh cross to Devon’s small pony hunter championship in 2005 for owner Adrienne Sternlicht, who was recovering from a broken leg at the time.

But this year, Devon’s small pony division belonged to Lillie Keenan. Ingenue was crowned grand pony champion while Keenan stood beside her and proudly displayed the Best Child Rider on a Pony trophy. Her stellar efforts aboard Ingenue and medium pony hunter champion, Hillcrest Kilkenny, merited the honors.

Keenan, 10, was thrilled to receive such awards on a pony she’d watched for years and dreamed of riding. “She’s been perfect,” Keenan said of their two years together.

“When I saw Adrienne Sternlicht ride that pony I always thought she was really pretty,” Keenan added. “I always kind of wished I could have her, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to.”

But as Sternlicht grew, the pony remained petite. Keenan and her mother, Pam, jumped at the opportunity to make her wish come true.

“She is really fun to ride and really comfortable,” Keenan described. “You really don’t have to manage her too much because she’s so straight forward.”

The pair earned scores in the high 80s and even broke into the 90s. But eventual reserve champions Anakin and Victoria Colvin rode just before Keenan and Ingenue in the final class and posted a high score at the time of 87. That was a little too close for comfort for Keenan and trainer Patricia Griffith.

“It was coming down to that class, and my heart was pounding,” said Griffith. “But we knew she had to follow that up. I knew she could do it, and she knew she could do it. I was really happy that she relaxed and let herself ride up to her ability.”

Their score of 90 sealed the tricolor. “The whole barn loves that pony. We just feel like we made her, and this is just awesome,” Griffith said proudly. “She’s one of the few ponies who you know can get a 90. Grand champion is always a goal.”

Keenan also earned scores in the 90s aboard Hillcrest Kilkenny in the medium pony division, but that win didn’t come easily either. Sassafrass Creek and Taylor Ann Adams found their share of points in the
division as well. The final decision depended on a hack-off.

“She’s only really ridden that pony for four weeks,” said Griffith. “She’d never even ridden it before it came to Heritage.”

Owner Ali Boone and her father Alex rooted for Keenan and Kilkenny during the hack-off with bated breath. When Kilkenny’s name rang over the speaker as champion, Ali and Alex shared a quick high five and headed to the in-gate to congratulate the victors.

Keenan used to watch Boone ride Kilkenny and always had her eye on him. When Boone outgrew Kilkenny, Keenan seized another opportunity and now leases him.

Though Keenan’s large pony, Beau Rivage, couldn’t quite help her pull off a clean sweep of the pony divisions, she was just as happy to see her barn mate Sternlicht, 14, win aboard Vanity Fair in their second Devon endeavor together.

“Last year he was a little bit nervous,” Sternlicht admitted. “But this time he was relaxed and went around perfectly. I can just ride him on a loose rein and trust him completely.” She was also excited to see her old small pony partner still in tiptop shape.

“As a barn, to be champion in all three divisions is absolutely an honor,” Griffith said. “This is a very humbling sport. One day you’re champion, the next day you’re not, but it was really nice to have everyone peak together at this moment.”

Through Thunder And Rain

Nothing would keep Catie Boone from winning the junior jumper championship and Leading Junior Jumper title at Devon. Not even a freak downpour, lightning-streaked skies and thunder during Saturday evening’s $15,000 Show Jumping Hall Of Fame Junior Jumper Classic, the final leg of the three-class championship division.

Boone, 17, Lexington, Ky., rode Cher 14 second for the first round. She’d won Friday’s junior jumper class aboard the 13-year-old, bay mare. But they left two rails in the dirt on Saturday.

When she entered the Dixon Oval on her second horse, the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Naleida, Boone used the fallen rails aboard her last mount as lessons learned and jumped Phillip J. DeVita’s course without faltering. She had to if she wanted to keep up with Jessica Springsteen and La Movida, who posted the first clean trip of the class.

“It was to my advantage that I had a second horse,” Boone explained. “I was able to find my strengths and weaknesses, and my horses actually go very similarly. So it was nice to have the first round to correct my mistakes.”

Jennifer Waxman and Outline answered the challenge next, along with Tatiana Dzavik and Felix des Noues. And then the sky opened up.

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The sudden torrent almost stole the show as competition halted for 45 minutes while ominous clouds unleashed a downpour. A resilient cheer accompanied the passing of nature’s roaring lightshow, and competition resumed.

“The footing didn’t really change,” Boone said. “It didn’t get too slippery or too deep.”

Henry Pfeiffer entered the still draining ring with no trepidation, posting a faultless trip aboard Sargeant. Maggie McAlary on Pedro and Addison Phillip on Regina V concluded the class with two more flawless trips.

Springsteen took to the winding jump-off course fixated on victory. She and La Movida galloped hard through sharp inside turns and kept every fence up, including 9B, a tall vertical topped by a plank that more than a third of the class stumbled over. Sarah Chovnick and Njordoctro, who won Friday night’s Gambler’s Choice class, even parted company at this fence.

“I was pretty nervous,” Boone said. “I was arguing with myself which strides I should do.”

With a clear round in 36.14 seconds, Springsteen’s ride set the bar as Boone and Naleida entered. The 2006 North American Junior and Young Riders Championships gold medalists had no choice but to mirror Springsteen’s blazing path if they wanted to win. They bettered Springteen’s effort by just less than .5 seconds.

“She was very neat everywhere and shaved a tenth of a second off of every turn,” said trainer Norman Dello Joio. “She followed the game plan very well. I always try to give her some flexibility in the jump-off.”

All of the riders who followed tried to beat her, but no one could match Boone’s time. “Catie’s a real fighter, and she really rose to the occasion tonight, especially with the more experienced riders coming after her,” Dello Joio said proudly. “But she really laid it down, and they couldn’t beat her.”

“I feel like this really proves that I’ve really made it here,” Boone said. “All the work I’ve put in through the year showed here.”

The jumper gene must run in the Boone family. Catie’s 13-year-old sister, Ali, won the North American League Pony Jumper Classic aboard Campbell Croft LLC’s Magic BB the next evening.

But after Brittni Raflowitz and her own 10-year-old Westphalian gelding Tallyman added a third-placed finish from that class to their first- and second-placed finishes in the other two pony jumper classes, they stood as this year’s pony jumper champions.

Raflowitz’ first Devon experience wasn’t exactly what the 12-year-old from Palm City, Fla., expected, however. “I expected a huge indoor arena, not in the middle of a city,” she said with a laugh.

“I was excited and pretty confident,” she added. “I was in it to win.”

Through each class she said “Tally” felt great. But he wasn’t always that way. When her family bought the pony from Katie Brown 21⁄2 years ago, he was anything but easy. But that was exactly what appealed to Raflowitz.

“When I bought him I couldn’t control him, but I said, ‘Mommy I want this pony,’” she remembered, laughing. “When we first brought him home you couldn’t catch him or anything so I would go and sleep in his stall and just hang with him. We really grew a bond that way. Now he’s perfect. He’s my little boy.”

Next year, however, she’s hoping to be competing in the junior jumpers. Though she has a children’s jumper now, she’s currently searching for that perfect junior partner.

But before then, she’ll continue training with Robert Ross and her father, Brett, and head to the USEF National Pony Finals in Lexington, Ky. “We’re really looking forward to that!” she said.

A Trophy “Mutch” Deserved
There was no question that Maria Schaub deserved the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship. She proudly placed this year’s trophy at Devon in company with both of the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championships she won this year and last at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.).

“This is something I’ve been wanting to do, and it’s the last year to try to have everything accomplished before I’m not a junior anymore,” Schaub said. “So it feels good to have accomplished this.”

She earned the trophy based on points collected from the USEF Talent Search, Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal, ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship and WIHS Equitation classes. She won her respective sections in the Pessoa/USEF, Maclay and WIHS classes, and third place in the Talent Search sealed the deal for the 18-year-old.

She competed both Versace, a 13-year-old stallion, and Cobblestone, a 7-year-old gelding.

“Laura [King-Kaplan] has a few equitation horses, but she’s been nice enough to let me help bring [Cobblestone] along,” Schaub said. “It was nice to have Versace too because if you can have two horses over the four classes then it doesn’t get to be too much for just one.”

The courses’ designs proved challenging, but they weren’t anything Schaub hadn’t seen before. “The [WIHS] and USEF courses were more jumper-type courses. The medal was a little more hunter-type,” Schaub explained. “They were both very challenging, but they were all really nice. My horses were fabulous, so I didn’t feel like I had any problems at all.”

Schaub plans to attend Rutgers University (N.J.) next fall to pursue business and equine studies while building a professional riding career at Beacon Hill with her trainers Frank and Stacia Madden.

“And of course I look up to Beezie [Madden] and everything she’s done. I’ve always aspired to be like her. She’s an amazing rider and works really hard,” Schaub said. “I would love to follow in her footsteps.”

Joshua A. Walker

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