Dressage. It has been called poetry in motion and ballet on horseback. Dressage is an ancient equestrian discipline, and the fastest growing equestrian sport in the USA today. In September, Dressage at Devon brings top competitors, horses, trainers and judges from across the continent and around the globe together for one of the highest-rated international dressage competitions and the most complete breed show outside of Europe. In 2016, the Dressage at Devon Horse Show will be held September 27th through October 2th at the Devon Horse Show grounds in Devon, Pennsylvania. Olympic medalist Robert Dover calls Dressage at Devon “the standard by which all American horse shows should be judged.” Hundreds of horses are expected to compete in front of thousands of spectators.
Dressage, a French word meaning “training,” describes the sequential development of the horse’s suppleness, obedience and strength. The result is a breathtaking blend of power and artistry. Competition involves a series of movements based on a horse’s action, not unlike gymnastics or figure skating competitions.
Dressage at Devon opens with the three-day Breed Division, in which horses are judged for movement and conformation. More than 20 breeds are represented. The USDF Breeders Championships East Coast Series Finals, the Foal Championships, and the Born in the USA Breeders Awards are among the highlights of the show’s first days. The combination of breed classes and performance classes gives the spectator a unique perspective. Dressage at Devon is where you can see it all, from foal to Freestyle Champion.
Thursday, the four-day Performance Division begins. Most Dressage at Devon classes are F.E.I. (Fédération Equestre Internationale) level, including four Grand Prix classes, the level of Olympic competition. Musical freestyles classes, like dancing to the music, are favorites.
The Festival Shops with more than 90 vendors offer exclusive apparel, fine arts, antiques and collectibles, and food from burgers to full gourmet meals at charming outdoor cafes. Families enjoy the weekend atmosphere, where exhibitions are geared towards family fun. Sunday is family day, with young riders performing throughout the day. Plus the Dressage Explorers program offering something for all ages – including a stick horse competition, equine jeopardy, and a selfie-scavenger hunt.
Dressage with the Experts offers an opportunity to hear live, expert commentary on individual headsets and an electronic scoreboard, the first ever at a US dressage competition, allows spectators to see the scores for each movement, as they are assigned by the judges.
Dressage at Devon takes place at the Devon Horse Show Grounds, Route 29, in Devon, Pennsylvania. Tuesday, September 27 through Sunday, October 2. General admission is available for $10 at the show grounds during the show; children under 3 are free and children 4-12 are $5 for General Admission. Reserved seating has no discounts for children.
In 1965, a group of riding enthusiasts got together and formed a club, in response to the question "How come the kids get to have all the fun"? The Delaware Valley Combined Training Association or "DVCTA" was born, and the adult pony club idea began..
The stated purpose of the club is specified in the DVCTA's By Laws, which were developed in the early 70's, as required by the incorporation process.
The basic mission of the club is to provide instruction and training for the members of the club and to inform and demonstrate our sport to the public: We accomplish this by way of our many clinics and large events, such as, Dressage at Devon, Dressage at Fair Hill, the Horse Trials and in the old days Chesterland - a major three day event.
For several years in the early 70's, the club put on a dressage show at the Willcox's Tory Hill Farm in Glen Mills, Pa. The show moved to The Radnor Hunt Club in Malvern, Pa. while still searching for a permanent home.
We credit the late Pat Franco with the idea of moving the show to the Devon Horse Show Grounds in 1975: it caught on and Dressage at Devon or "DAD" was born.
Local riding instructor, Sidley Payne, had a son who had leukemia. She and the DVCTA's first president, Sally McCawley, approached long-time equestrian enthusiast Dr. Audrey E. Evans, Director of the Division of Oncology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, "CHOP", to explore the idea of presenting Dressage at Devon as a fundraiser for the Cancer Research Center, and as a result, a wonderful 10-year relationship was begun.
Phyllis Hammett, Margaret Hoey, Jeanne Braceland, and Pat Franco were the early managers of Dressage at Devon and Bill Braceland was the liaison between the horse show and CHOP and was responsible for all the activities relating to the hospital.
Under Pat Stayt (Jeanne Braceland's sister), the fair area started out as an Art's & Craft's Festival, which was a reflection of the "back to nature 70's"
In those early years, there were more horses than spectators, but the high level of enthusiasm among the competitors convinced the volunteer DAD committee that this was a show with great potential.
Early on, most of the horse show volunteers came from the ranks of the DVCTA membership. Today, volunteers come from all over the country.
Setting up the three arenas at Devon, pounding the stakes into the ground, Mel Minnich, Bubbles Moore, Jeanne Braceland and Lorna Forbes remember being pleasantly rewarded for their hard work by Townie Moore, who brought them shakers of ice-cold martinis! Not lost on the new generation of volunteers, this tradition continues..
More than 250 hospital volunteers staffed the Festival area. Most of these dedicated souls were the parents and families of very sick children who were being treated at The Children's Hospital.
The hospital volunteers sold programs, served as ushers, operated and staffed the Souvenir Shoppe, the food booths and Deli, the Wine and Cheese Cafe, the Beer Garden, the ticket gates and parking areas. It was inspiring to see Oncology doctors volunteering and working alongside the families and patients they were treating. During the breakfast hours, Dr. Charles August specialized in cooking omelets to order.
As the show became more financially successful, it was accepted that the horse show would hopefully break even, and the net of the festival area would go to the beneficiary.
The show continued to grow, added two days for the breeding show, scheduled more exhibitions and larger classes.
Around 1987, after great discussion, it was decided to move the dates of the show from July to September, hopefully to avoid the awful heat of the summer.
Although the show continued to gain popularity, after 10 years The Children's Hospital withdrew as the beneficiary. A new beneficiary was needed. Many worthwhile organizations were considered; one stood out - Thorncroft Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Inc., located in Malvern, Pa. Thorncroft is a non-profit organization that specializes in helping the handicapped of all ages through hippotherapy (physical therapy on horseback).
Grace Mengel, Thorncroft board member, took over responsibility for the Festival area and it gradually evolved into a blend of boutique-type vendors as well as shops for the "horsey set"; now known as the Grand Prix Shops.
DAD provides the DVCTA with approximately $7,000 plus annually. This is earmarked for USDF dues for DVCTA as a Charter Group Member Organization (GMO) of the US Dressage Federation. It provides the club with a voice in the future development of the sport. We also have donated other funds in the past, if asked; purchase of a computer for the DVTCA newsletter, supplying the tent and beverages for the GMO reception at DAD and for the Horse Trials, a generous donation to the USDF Capital Campaign and more.
As Dressage at Devon has continued to grow, it has become more difficult to find volunteers to fill critical roles in the production of the show. In certain cases, we have added paid personnel. This arrangement provides a fiduciary and contractual responsibility between the employee and the show. Paid positions are added only after evaluation of the need for the position, and after budgetary concerns are examined.
Ever since its inception in 1975, Dressage at Devon has had both major and minor upheavals, yet all of the volunteers, both committee and show workers, agree that the show is worth the blood sweat and tears required year after year. We hope the tradition continues for many years to come.
While overcoming many bumps in the road, Dressage at Devon has evolved into the most prestigious dressage competition in the hemisphere. It is an international rated dressage show as well as the largest open breed show in the world. The food vendors are rated as the best on the horse show circuit and the Festival area and overall venue unique in the horse show world.
As with all families, a time comes when the child must leave home. Starting with the 2006 show, Dressage at Devon and DVCTA have separated. We are now Dressage at Devon, a Pa. non profit corporation. While still maintaining a strong working relationship, DAD and DVCTA will operate as separate entities. The majority of the DAD committee members are members of DVCTA and DVCTA still supplies a strong volunteer corps to the show.
Many thanks to our competitors, sponsors, volunteers and spectators alike for your support over the years. We continue to grow and prosper, so come, take in the Dressage at Devon experience for yourself