Devon, Pa.—May 25
It’s been just over a year since I officially left the Chronicle, and although I’ve managed to stay “in the know”—freelancing as much as the staff asks, it’s still not the same. When you’re a member of the editorial staff, the fact is, you live for horse sports just as the people about whom we’re writing.
With that said, it has been two years since I’ve been to the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair. Last time I went in 2011, my task was more based on video, rather than traditional reporting, but this year I was excited to stand in the Dixon Oval to take photos of the nation’s top junior hunter and jumper riders, and talk to them about what they’re doing. Despite a bit of a hiatus, I found that I wasn’t that behind. Familiar horses and riders were still winning, but there was some new talent too.
Colvin and Keenan Are Neck In Neck
Tori Colvin and Lillie Keenan, who until this year have been competing against one another in the same age group in junior hunters, celebrated great success in the small and large junior hunters.
Colvin, Loxhatchee, Fla., finished this year's edition of Devon with multiple accolades, sweeping both divisions of the junior hunters in her age group. For owner Dr. Betsee Parker of Middleburg, Va., Colvin took the championship in the small junior hunter, 15 and under, division with Canadian Blue and the reserve with Ovation. In the large junior hunters, she topped the division with Way Cool—who garnered the high score of the day with a 95. Way Cool’s barnmate, Inclusive, won the reserve.
“I think my horses like this ring,” said Colvin. “[Canadian Blue] is green, so I wasn’t sure how he would be.”
She just started riding Canadian Blue at the beginning of the season at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), so the partnership is new.
Keenan saw similar success in the 16-17 age group. She rode Jennifer Gates’ Parkland to the small junior hunter championship and Chromeo to the reserve. But her rides on Don Stewart’s Walk The Line not only won them the championship in the large junior division, but also secured the gelding’s third consecutive grand junior hunter title at Devon. Last year, he won it with Meg O’Mara, in 2011 with Taylor Ann Adams.
Stewart, Keenan and Keenan’s trainer Andre Dignelli all acknowledge that Walk The Line isn’t the easiest horse. “He’s very particular about who rides him,” said Stewart.
Three was also a lucky number for Colvin, who was honored with Best Child Rider accolades for the third year running. For this feat, she retired the trophy.
“It’s amazing,” said Colvin, who rides with Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley. Colvin also tied for the win in Friday’s Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship with Gabrielle Bausano and Sydney Shulman.
Later in the evening, Colvin and Keenan both contested the $20,000 final class in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame for junior jumpers. Keenan and Vanhattan won the Gambler's Choice class, while Colvin and Don Juan had a win in the division's first class.
Both girls jumped clean with their aforementioned mounts, but an uncharacteristic two refusals for Vanhattan in the jump-off forced Keenan's elimination. Colvin entered the ring last to try to beat Bausano's clean round with Ubico H.
Likening her mount to a motorcycle, Colvin sped to the win, therefore taking the championship.
"He's like a small pony," said Colvin, noting her ability to shave off seconds with tight turns. Her efforts in the junior jumpers also earned her the leading junior jumper rider title.
Runs In The Family
Regular winner in the amateur-owner hunters, Becky Gochman was a proud mother, as her daughter Mimi Gochman, 8, won the small pony hunter championship with Rafael. Her other daughter, Sophie, also campaigned in the division.
“I’m showing later this week, so this is a great start to Devon,” said Becky. “Sophie won a class on Hi Lite as well. So they both did well. We’re really thankful for the nice ponies and a great team.”
The Gochman family boards their horses and ponies at Old Salem Farm (N.Y.) and trains with Steven Weiss and Amanda Darbyshire, and they meet up with Peter Pletcher at horse shows. Mimi and Sophie are fairly new to the show circuit, but Mimi was very pleased with her pony.
“He was perfect. The first day, I won all three classes, and today I did OK. But I think I could have done better,” she said. “Yesterday, it was rainy, but he was still perfect.”
- Trainer Bibby Farmer Hill’s students swept the large pony hunter division, with Ashton Alexander riding Happily Ever Laughter to the championship and Bernadette Chungunco taking the reserve with Spellbound.
- Happily Ever Laughter was named grand pony hunter, and Alexander took home Best Child Rider on a Pony honors.