The Dressage at Devon organizing committee is proud of its anual accomplishment of completely filling up the stands for the top act of the competition, the Saturday night Grand Prix freestyle.
Devon organizes three shows a year, the Devon Horse Show, the Gold Cup and Dressage at Devon, but it is only this last show which seems to leave an every-lasting impression on the minds of thousands of dressage enthusiasts. Dressage at Devon is magical and everybody senses it. Announcer Brian O'Connor gets the crowds in the mood with his blow-up horse Sydney by giving the layman a handy introduction to the movements of Grand Prix level dressage. More than often do you hear a person murmur in the stands, "I didn't know what I was looking at until he demonstrated what the horses are supposed to be doing." After O'Connor's amusing starter and the ground crew's ultimate "drag" -- they paraded into the arena as drag queens -- the 2001 Devon Freestyle was ready for its launch.
The Kur to Music started off with some endearing rides but it wasn't until Pam Goodrich's test that true energy and emotion build up in and around the ring. Goodrich's musical freestyle was based on the Rogers & Hammerstein play South Pacific and her ride had this back to the 40's glow around it. The theme for the piaffe and passage was absolutely thrilling. . Her Danish bred Melville (by May Sherif) does not really excel in those movements but the music really made up for it. The crowds knew this and spontaneously clapped during his test. The transition to canter immediately followed by two pirouettes on the diagonal was performed on very quiet music which evoked a strange feeling of serenity. It was very innovative touch to her test, although some judges did not agree with this and believed that her music was "difficult to follow". Nevertheless, were the judged unanymous in their decision and gave Goodrich a 67.800%.
Leonie "Button" Baker and her May Sherif descendant Masterpiece moved in front of Goodrich in the ranking. The quality of her freestyle was equal to that of Goodrich's but Baker scored 67.975%. The ride of Canadian Shannon Oldham-Dueck was one moving up the scale of "goosebumps-of-amazement". Although she rode her KWPN bred mare Korona (by El Corona) on the worn-out theme of Bonanza and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Oldham-Dueck did show some beautiful things. Her mare really got into the beat and moved with the music in both collected and extended trot. A slight error in the tempi's and a half pass which was beautifully initiated in passage but ended in a regular working trot prevented the score from reaching the magical boarder of 70%. The judges gave her 69.750%
The ride of last year's winner Cheri Reiber was received with mixed feelings. Reiber opened her test with a lovely piaffe-passage on the most emotional and tear-jerking track of Braveheart, but from then on her test became a series of inaccurate movements on bag pipe music. The music fitted her KWPN gelding G Tudor (by Tudor) perfectly but the technical part of the test had to be better for the generous score of 70.900% Reiber still got from the judges. The transitions were abrupt, the extended walk needed more balance and stride and the series were jumped too short.
A truly heart warming performance came from the last rider, the Canadian Neil Ishoy. After his victory in the Grand Prix on Friday, Ishoy became the public's favorite aboard the Oldenburg gelding Andiamo Tyme (by Andiamo). Ishoy, who hasn't been competing for 19 years, is only back in the saddle because Andiamo's owner, Linda Fowler, kindly asked him to show her mount this year. When Ishoy entered the arena for his kur to music, he actually had already won, as Ishoy stirred up the crowd's enthusiasm and warmed their hearts during the 40° F. cold evening. Ishoy's music was overall a bit traditional and it lacked spice but the technical quality of his test was high. The Canadian rode sharp angled half passes which emphasized the athleticism of Andiamo Tyme and the final piaffe-passage tour on the music of The Stripper drove the crowds wild. The judges were not afraid to acknowledge the mas's appreciation for Ishoy's test and gave him 74.875%.