It’s the last week of May and you see this color: You’re thinking: a box from Tiffany’s, The Robin’s eggs that have just hatched, a beautiful cloudless sky? If you’re one of the legions of competitive hunter or jumper riders, breeders, pony, horse or coaching drivers, side saddle, gaited or western riders, you are seeing Devon Blue, the ubiquitous color that drapes the boxes and grandstands at The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair. The first Saturday night of the 2012 Devon Horse Show brings a chance to check out the vendors, the food, the carnival, who else is there, and, oh yeah, the horses. Devon has something for everyone punctuated by a few traditions of its very own
This Winter, Anne Hambleton, former eventer, steeplechase rider, pony clubber and now devoted fox-hunter, published her first novel, drawing on her life-long love of horses and riding. Anne’s book, Raja, the Story of a Racehorse, begins at a stud farm where the handsome, black foal with aristocratic genes stands out among the others. With a Kentucky Derby winner as his sire, a great name is needed to seal great expectations; he is named “Raja”, meaning “hope” in Arabic, and “king” in India, by the owner’s daughter. As is the case of many modern thoroughbreds, his life is marked by changes, both minute and catastrophic, that take him from a safe, caring and respectful environment where he is “special,” to places where he is but one of many and “not so special”. Woven through this “first-horse” narrative are the voices of his dam and the Arabic princess who had named him but who is pulled from his life by the exigencies of the 911 attacks. His dam told him, “Remember this always; even when life is hard, never, ever give up.” Princess Ayesha told him, “You’re the most perfect thing in the universe and I will always love you.” He will need the strength of these memories to pull him through because, as the farm manager reminds us, “racing is a business, plain and simple. It’s a beautiful sport, but you can’t be sentimental if you want to win at the highest levels.” Anne Hambleton’s commitment to riding and horses has continued unabated throughout her varied academic and business lives. During the years that she was a steeplechase jockey she was working full-time at her home in Vermont and commuting to the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania on weekends to race horses. When she left steeplechasing, she picked up three day eventing and continued the commute. These days she is still commuting from her farm to foxhunt with Mr.
The Show in the Woods There are sometimes places so magical that even though you go there every day, it’s spell never fails to seduce you. The Hitchcock Woods, in the center of Aiken, South Carolina, is one of those. Somehow, as soon as you enter The Woods, the canopy surrounds and embraces you and time holds still. The air is clean and soft, scented with Longleaf and Loblolly Pine needles underfoot; footfall is muffled by the sand.
The 2012 Pine Top Farm Advanced Horse Trials organizers had one ordeal after another to deal with this past weekend. Pine Top Farm, in Thomson, Georgia, was the scene of the area’s first Advanced competition for the season and when they realized a week or so beforehand that they couldn’t run everyone in the three phases in the daylight, they had to notify 280 riders that the Dressage and Cross Country phases of Advanced had been moved to Friday. Then Friday opened with a Tornado watch and a Severe Storm Warning. Dressage went on as scheduled but then the skies opened up with such a torrential downpour that riders, horses and grooms sought shelter in trailers and barns hoping that the roofs didn’t blow off. In fact, some distance to the north exactly that happened. Again, the organizers were notifying everyone of a change to the schedule – Cross Country was now moved to Saturday: look at the order of go published on the internet, subtract two hours from the Friday time and off you went. Organizers scrambled for volunteer fence judges but the event went off as planned. The view from the inside of the Aiken Brew Pub during Friday's storm. High winds and hail brought down trees and then the electricity. Saturday dawned bright, crisp, with low humidity and the clear blue skies for which this area of the south is known. One of the early jumps of the day, successfully cleared, a stroller sans baby. A view of 19 and 20A,B and C and 21 on the Advanced cross country course.