Dressage at Devon (DAD), the East Coast’s premier dressage competition, has earned a special place in the hearts of us editors here at Dressage Today. Tucked away in the charming town of Devon, Pennsylvania, the competition welcomes top horse-and-rider combinations from across the country just as the glow of Autumn starts to settle in over the Philadelphia Main Line. This year’s competition takes place Sept. 26-Oct. 1 and will include the usual breed show and performance divisions, in addition to the dependably friendly atmosphere, homey feel and shopping opportunities. Devon makes for a great girls’ weekend, or, if you have less time, just stopping by for the Saturday night Grand Prix Freestyle is road-trip worthy. Not convinced yet? Then check out our favorite things about this unique event below. And, if you haven’t already, be sure to enter to win your own Ultimate Dressage at Devon Experience, brought to you by MacRider Saddlery and VitaFlex. (Click here to enter!)
1. Cozy atmosphere. There’s something about Devon that just feels a little bit like coming home. If you haven’t been before, as you draw closer to the venue, you’ll find yourself wondering if you’ve landed in the right place for a horse show, as it’s nestled in between quaint suburban neighborhoods and is right off the town’s main street, Lancaster Avenue. Inside the show grounds, there’s the famous Dixon Oval and a handful of other rings surrounding it, plus stabling in the iconic brown barns trimmed with robin’s egg blue paint. There are tree-lined paths that wind through a small village of little vendor cottages and food stands selling traditional fall fare like hot apple cider. Plus, it’s jam-packed with wicked good riders and some real fancy horses.
2. High-quality horses and riding. Did I mention the horses are fancy and the riders are wicked good? I always come to Devon expecting to see some nice horseflesh and I have yet to be disappointed. Just try to remember to scrape your jaw off the ground if you linger long around the schooling arena.
3. The babies! Ah, yes, the darling little dressage stars of the future. You’ll find foals and fillies alike with their tiny halters and tiny braids vying for championship titles. And it is cute.
4. Shopping. I’ll be honest with you. When I go to Devon, I get concerned calls from my credit card company asking if my card has been stolen due to unusual spending. I generally consider myself financially responsible (apart from the obvious fact that I own horses) but I have a weakness for all of Devon’s shopping opportunities. How could you resist the gorgeous saddles, adorable Wellie boots and sharp looking show coats? And the tweed! It gets me every time.
5. Apple cider donuts. Yes, these are completely deserving of one entire bullet point unto themselves. There’s not much to say besides, um hello, APPLE CIDER DONUTS. But they’re made right there on the grounds and they melt in your mouth. What could be better than a morning spent watching great dressage with a warm donut in your hand? Ok, fine, I’ll tell you the answer: A morning spent watching great dressage with twelve donuts in your hands.
6. Friendly volunteers. Devon wouldn’t be the show it is without the amazing volunteers who keep it going. They’re friendly, they’re helpful and they’re tough. Nobody knows how to brave whatever weather Pennsylvania throws better than these guys.
7. Wine and Cheese parties. Hey, we may be horse people, but it’s rare that we get to live the glamorous socialite lives that Ralph Lauren likes to convince the rest of the world we do. Luckily, Devon provides us with a nice excuse to pretend we do! Dressage Today is proud to host a couple of (free!!) Wine and Cheese parties throughout the event, so be sure to stop by and say hello. Also, please help us eat the cheese, because there’s a lot of it. Plus, we love to make new friends and connect with readers! Bonus points if you bring your dog because we actually have ulterior motives. We’re really just hoping to befriend some dogs.
8. Dogs. Speaking of the dogs… You know every good horse person usually comes with her own pack of dogs, so you can depend on Devon to be a great spot for puppy-watching.
9. Location, location! As Devon is in a suburb of Philadelphia, that means it’s just a fun little road trip away for so many dressage fans. It’s only about 2.5 hours from Washington, D.C., and less than two hours from New York City. The other thing I love about Devon is that we get to see a lot of our Canadian friends!
10. The Freestyle! Last but not least, Saturday night’s Grand Prix Dressage Freestyle is always a fan favorite. They say dressage isn’t much of a spectator sport but you wouldn’t know that from the looks of the Dixon Oval on the evening of the freestyle. It’s packed and the atmosphere is electric—something you truly have to experience at least once. And remember to bring your non-horse friends, too! It’s a great introduction to the sport. If the Freestyle doesn’t make them fall in love with dressage, well, maybe you should just go find some new friends.
Just kidding about that last bit. Anyway, we hope to see you at Devon! And don’t forget to enter to win your own ultimate trip here!