By KIERSTEN McMONAGLE
For 21st Century Media
The Devon Horse Show is ready to strut.
You might never know the Devon Horse Show is the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed horse competition when you walk onto the grounds. The Dixon Oval is surrounded on one end by a country fair and shopping, and on the other by the competition ring for several different disciplines.
“The greatest thing about Devon I think is the sheer variety you can see when you come out,” said Jennifer Wood, who once competed at the Devon Horse Show herself and now controls the public relations firm managing the event. “There are a lot of different horse sports to experience, plus a Ferris wheel, carnival games, food vendors, shopping… There are just a lot of things the whole family can enjoy.
“I think the older kids really appreciate the scope of the sport, and really appreciate how challenging and impressive the sport is,” said Wood. “But the younger kids get bored fast, and the carnival is a great place for them to get away from mom and dad for a couple hours.” The carnival isn’t the only thing setting the Devon Horse Show apart though, as there are plenty of shops, food venders, raffles, and other exciting aspects for each member of the family to enjoy throughout the day.
Tickets are sold on the website by the day and time you want to attend, but Wood said your best bet is to pick a day when you can spend hours at the show. “You can make an afternoon or evening of it. You have the best time when you can spend a few hours there, so you can really experience the different aspects of it.”
The enormous grounds that the show takes place on could certainly get someone lost among all the different activities. “It’s just something that no other horse show has. It’s so unique, and it has so much tradition to it in the different aspects of it that make it cool,” said Wood.
True to tradition though, the biggest part of the 11-day event is the horse show. The atmosphere they walk in to might fool someone who has never been to the show before, but the United States Equestrian Federation ranks the Devon Horse Show at the highest level. In order to participate, hunters and jumpers must qualify in the top 25 throughout the country based on their participation in different horse shows throughout the year. “When you go to watch, you know you’re seeing the best of the best,” said Wood.
The show includes events in several different disciplines and age groups each day, with competitions in jumping, hunting, dressage, pleasure, grooming, sportsmanship, and more. The entire event reaches a high point on Thursday, May 29 with the Grand Prix, historically the biggest part of the Devon Horse Show.
That afternoon, the stadium fills up with excited spectators saving their seats for the big event, and trying to make sure they get a good view of the Dixon Oval for when the horses come out onto the field. When the sun starts to set over Devon and the show starts, the carnival empties out as everyone funnels into the stadium seating surrounding the Dixon Oval and prepares to watch the biggest horse-riding event of the year and of the sport as a whole. The excitement of the crowd and riders spreads to the horses, a connection between everyone there that makes the night’s atmosphere the most electric of the last two weeks at the show. “It’s really fun,” said Wood. “The atmosphere gets really electric and the horses really pick up on it. They know when it’s a big deal, and they really perform for it.”
The Devon Horse Show starts on May 22 and runs through June 1. The show takes place on the Devon Horse Show grounds on Dorset Road in Devon. A schedule of times and sessions, as well as ticket purchasing and further information are available online at devonhorseshow.net.