Devon, Pa.—Sept. 29
The energy in the Dixon Oval at Dressage At Devon is electric. A knowledgeable crowd combined with the history of the horse show grounds makes for a magical evening for fans and riders.
To win the CDI-W Grand Prix freestyle is a special moment—one a rider won’t forget.
JJ Tate had a chance to lead the victory gallop on Friday night when she and Faberge won the CDI-W Grand Prix, and she got a second chance when they won the freestyle with a score of 73.65 percent.
It was Tate’s third time riding in the freestyle at Devon.
“It’s such a famous ring,” she said. “I think every rider that comes here understands the magic that lives in the Dixon Oval. Sometimes we joke about it because horses can get a little fresh in there, but there’s a certain special energy that I think makes it one of the most special shows because it’s so much like Europe. The crowd tonight was wonderful and really behind the riders, and they loved the performances. That always make it so special to have the honor to compete here.”
Riding to a pop/classical mix of music crafted by Marlene Whitaker, Tate and Elizabeth Guarisco’s 15-year-old Westphalian gelding (Florestan I—Baroness, Brentano II) were the last to go.
“I talk a lot about him having a heart of gold, but I think he’s fully made of gold. I’ve been with him for 10 years,” said Tate. “It means so much to me. This is such an amazing, incredible, historical show. It’s my favorite show. To win on that horse here is just amazing.”
It was Nicole Harrington’s first time showing in the CDI at Devon, and she rode Wizard Of Oz to second place (70.75%).
“It’s always been on my bucket list,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do it because of the history here and all the people that have gone down centerline in the Dixon Oval. It’s amazing.”
Appropriately, her music was from “The Wizard Of Oz” and had the crowd clapping along.
Harrington said music started out as a joke, but the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Weltmeyer—Vadella, Landadel) loved it after trying out several compositions.
“He loves it. He’s like, ‘I got this,’ ” she said with a laugh.
Harrington, Cincinnati, Ohio, has been partnered with the gelding for two years. She bought him as a Prix St. Georges horse thinking he would be a resale, but she’s having too much fun now.
“He’s turned out to be a really fun horse,” she said. “Right now, not really for sale!”
Kim Herslow and Marilyn Sherwin’s Soraya II, a 16-year-old Hanoverian mare (Sandro Hit—Dynamique, Donnerhall) finished in third place (70.27%).
Herslow rode to a mix of pop instrumentals including Taylor Swift and Adele. It was her first time riding in the freestyle at Devon.
She competed Soraya at Devon last year in the CDI***, but since it was still a new ride for her at the time, she decided to stay out of the CDI ring and work more on the partnership after that. This was their first time back at the international level.
“She came in here, and she handled the atmosphere, and I felt like I could ride for a little more expression,” she said. “Yesterday I was pretty conservative in my ride—I just wanted a clean test. I wasn’t trying to get big expression. Then I thought, you know what? I’m just going to go for it, and she was right there. I just dropped my hand down centerline and did the passage back up to the judge with one hand. That was fun, and the crowd loved it! I think it was the most fun freestyle I’ve ever done.”
For full results, click here.
We’re on site at Dressage At Devon to bring you news and tons of photos. Check back all weekend at coth.com, and check out the Oct. 22 print edition of the Chronicle for much more.