When I was younger, it was always such a thrill to go to Dressage at Devon on Saturday night and watch the Grand Prix Freestyles, which are almost always performed in front of a sold-out crowd. Those Devon fans, known for cheering and really getting into it, are a huge part of what makes this show on Philadelphia’s Main Line so special.
There truly is no show like Dressage at Devon. It was always my dream to show there, and I’ve never been disappointed since I started competing at this iconic venue, where everything except the arena fences is painted that special shade of “Devon blue.”
This year was the first time I ever rode a freestyle there. My freestyle is extra special, because it was created as a tribute to my horse of a lifetime, Fitzhessen (Freestyle X Florestan).
Fitz was my best friend and “heart horse,” the full brother to my current ride, Faolan. Three years ago, I lost my Fitz after he contracted laminitis and nothing we did could make him better, so we let him go. Our freestyle trot tour is to Pink's song, "Who Knew", which is a song about losing a beloved friend.
It can be a quite emotional part of the freestyle for my mother and anyone who knows our story, when we hit the diagonal in our extended trot and Pink's vocal comes on: "If someone said three years from now you'd be long gone…Who knew?"
When I competed Fitz in our first CDI at Devon, back in 2012, it truly was a dream come true. Life goes on, and Faolan has really blossomed into a horse beyond my wildest dreams. At just eight years old, this stallion already has far surpassed where his older brother left off.
Showing at Devon is always a blast, because so many people come to watch that it feels as if we're showing in front of a hometown crowd, since we live just across the Pennsylvania state line in New Jersey. Everywhere you go at Devon, you run into people that you know. To top it all off, it actually was uncharacteristically sunny this year, with no rain.
The best part, of course, was the fact that both of my homebred horses did well at Devon. Faolan produced one of our best CDI Small Tour results so far. He finished in third place in the Intermediaire I with a 68.991 percent. The following day, he was sixth in the I-1 Freestyle with another 68. He's continued to get stronger as the year goes on.
Fauna, my other Devon ride, was second and third in the FEI 6-year-old classes. I also showed her in an open Fourth Level class, where she tied for fourth, and ended up fifth against some very nice horses in a rather large class.
Even though I sold Fauna in the spring, I've been fortunate enough to keep her in training, and continue to compete all year without skipping a beat. She qualified and competed at the U.S. Young Horse Championships during the summer at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Illinois, where she finished sixth among the country’s six-year-olds.
From there, she went to the Region 8 Championships, where I rode her in both the Third- and Fourth-Level Open Championships. She earned a wild card Invitation to next month’s U.S. Finals in Kentucky after the Region 8 Open Fourth Level Championships, where she placed fourth, earning more than 68 percent.
I opted to compete Faolan in the CDI in Saugerties, N.Y., instead of regional qualifying championships for the U.S. Finals. I decided that he didn't need to go to Kentucky, since he went the last two years. I would rather focus on his training and development this fall instead of going to one more show.
I’ll be spending the next few weeks getting ready to wrap up a memorable 2017 show season in Kentucky, so wish me luck!