Tradition Continues at Devon Horse Show and Country Fair with 50th Carriage Pleasure Drive

For 120 years, the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has prided itself on the exceptional talent that pours in to compete at the oldest horse show in the country.

May 30, 2016 – For 120 years, the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has prided itself on the exceptional talent that pours in to compete at the oldest horse show in the country. Tradition is an important staple of this 11-day event, and the Carriage Pleasure Drive has been part of that tradition for 50 years.

John White

The well-known Drive is expected every Sunday before Memorial Day. Families, friends and locals line the streets and the Devon Horse Show grounds to watch and admire the beauty and grace of the horses, carriages and presentation of the whips and passengers.

“This is home,” said Devon Horse Show Director, Richard O’ Donnell. “I can’t give enough thanks to the folks along the route of the marathon today. We came upon people who were giving water out to everybody. That’s community support. I think the community really does welcome this competition.”

O’Donnell has been involved with the horse show for 45 years, and made his 42nd appearance in the Carriage Pleasure Drive with his wife by his side in the Double-Harness Pairs-Tandems class.

The two, along with their groom, enjoyed the 40-minute route in their Spider Phaeton carriage, which was built in 1880. The Philadelphia-native vehicle has been kept in it’s original state, since the O’Donnell’s purchased it at auction about three years ago.

“This is our second year using it here at Devon,” O’Donnell added. “Everything on it is in the original state we bought it in at auction, except for the wheels that have been repainted. It’s a very comfortable vehicle.”

Richard O’Donnell

The classic vehicle was being pulled by “Teddy” and “Billy.” The horses have been with the O’Donnell’s for eight years, and are used for riding and driving.

“Our horses are Hackney/Clydes,” O’Donnell proudly stated. “We have four of them at home. They’re wonderful animals and fun to be around. They’re big, but they’re teddy bears. There isn’t a mean bone in either one of their bodies.”

The Unicorns and Four-in-Hands class was won by John White, who was also crowned the Drive-Off Champion. He was accompanied by three other passengers in a Heavy Dog Cart carriage. The vintage vehicle was pulled by four beautiful grey Kladruber horses.

“This is the oldest horse show in the country,” White said. “It’s a very special event for people who are interested in horses and people like myself that are interested in carriages. This marathon is a special event that gives you a chance to show your horses off not just in the ring, but on the road.”

White, who drove down from his New Jersey home for the Drive, imported the horses from the Czech Republic and has had the team for five years.

Championship Drive-Off Winner John White | Lauren Baker/Phelps Media Group

The vehicle has been in the White family for ten years and has been driven by White for six years at Devon, at which time he started competing in the historic horse show.

“The carriage is called a dog cart,” White explained. “It was used when people were going hunting with dogs. There is a compartment underneath that was used to put the dogs in. This particular carriage was built in Belgium in the 1880s.”

At noon, the crowd cheered as the gate opened for the first group of competitors that drove into the Dixon Oval for the Single-Harness Two-Wheel class, which was won by Rachel Shoemaker. The Malvern, Pennsylvania resident rode in a late 1800s Kimball Brother Ralli Cart.

Sequentially following Shoemaker’s blue-ribbon victory was Betsy Demarino VMD, who rode away with the victory in the Single-Harness Four-Wheel class. Demarino sported a circa 1860 English Ralli Cart by Moor & Sons.

The wins of O’Donnell and White followed the above classes and wrapped up the horse division of the Carriage Pleasure Drive. Soon after, the pony-driven carriages stole the show.

The Single-Harness Two- and Four-Wheel classes were won by Nicole Cable and Katie Kashner and their ponies, respectively.

The final pony contenders drove into the ring for the Double-Harness Pairs-Tandems class. Mary Stokes Waller rode away triumphantly in her Spider Phaeton carriage with Welsh pony brothers pulling the vehicle.

Spectators anticipated the arrival of Roberta O’Dell, who is known for her clever and witty carriage appearances each year. The 92-year-old was dressed as a jailer and rode in a Police Wagon that was being pulled by four white mules in the Light Commercial and Farmer’s class.

Driving continues tomorrow with Pair Horses Pleasure Turnout and Championship followed by Scurry Driving in the morning. The evening session features Coaching, Pair Pony Pleasure Turnout and Championship, as well as Pony Scurry Driving.

Bailey Doloff and Wishlea Star Dasher Score Pony Jumper Championship

Junior Weekend at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair has come to a close, but not before Bailey Doloff rode away two blue ribbons and a championship in the Pony Jumpers. On Sunday afternoon, he piloted Wishlea Star Dasher to a victory in the second class of the division, and then returned in the evening to deliver the only double clear in the $2,500 Pony Jumper Classic and earn the division’s championship prize.

“It’s such an honor,” expressed Doloff. “It’s such a big show, and it’s been building up for months. We have spent months working and practicing and using other shows as schooling instead of trying to win just try to school to get ready for this show.”

Bailey Doloff and Wishlea Star Dasher | Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group

Earlier in the day Doloff again had the only double clear round in the Pony Jumpers to earn a blue ribbon with Wishlea Star Dasher. Despite rain beginning to fall during the $2,500 Pony Jumper Classic, Doloff kept his focus on the task at hand – delivering clear rounds.

“My whole plan was just to have clear rounds and not worry about the time, because I’d rather have placed third three times than try to rush and have any rails,” explained Doloff. “It also started raining, so I wanted to make sure Dasher didn’t slip or anything.”

Maya Lovdal set the pace to beat as the first to return for the jump-off in the Classic with Miracles Happen. However, in an attempt to set a fast time, the pair had one rail down, and would settle for second place in a time of 34.552 seconds. Catherine Wilson had a more conservative time as the second to return aboard EZ To Spot, but they also lowered the height of a fence to place third.

As the last to enter the Dixon Oval, Doloff knew he just needed to leave all the fences intact during the jump-off. Despite an issue with the timers that delayed his start, Doloff and Wishlea Star Dasher were ready to win, and that is exactly what they did. The pair carefully cleared each obstacle, breaking the beam at 36.604 seconds to claim their second blue ribbon of the day and win the Pony Jumper Championship.

“The delay was better because it gave Dasher more time just to settle,” laughed Doloff. “He gets excited when he goes into the ring for the first time, so it just gave him more time to settle and relax. The first two people before had rails, so it was more just about making sure I was clear.”

Bailey Doloff and Wishlea Star Dasher | Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group

This is Doloff’s third year competing at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and he has been riding Wishlea Star Dancer since the spring of 2014. “He’s kind of unpredictable because a lot of times he’s fresh and will take off and rear, so it takes a lot of patience,” admitted Doloff. “He surprisingly needs a forward ride because he can get too choppy and get rails. Today he felt great!”

The Pony Jumper Reserve Championship went to Saturday’s winner, Just One Look with Prima Rose Bonaventura in the irons. Caitlin Pedersen was presented with the Pony Jumper Style Award for exhibiting the best classical jumper style of riding.

The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair tomorrow will continue Monday with the kick off of the Professional Hunter divisions, as well as the $7,500 North American League Adult Amateur Classic followed by the Adult Jumper Championship. Highlight events during the week include the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and the $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*.

The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is the longest running and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the United States. With the grandeur of Philadelphia’s prestigious Main Line setting the stage, the event features a world-class field that annually ranks among the most prominent internationally. The event also includes the Country Fair that offers world-class shopping, rides and games for kids, multiple dining options and special entertainment events. 

Caitlin Pedersen and Sharing Secret | Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group

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RESULTS: $2,500 Pony Jumper Classic
1 195 WISHLEA STAR DASHER BAILEY DOLOFF 0 0 0 63.315 0 0 0 36.604
2 954 MIRACLES HAPPEN MAYA LOVDAL 0 0 0 73.875 4 0 4 34.552
3 1150 EZ TO SPOT CATHERINE WILSON 0 0 0 75.109 4 0 4 35.690
6 1298 BLUE ME AWAY CASEY BARNHILL 4 0 4 73.907
8 1146 PARK AVENUE ISABELLA CHEERS 12 0 12 66.422

Get a Behind the Scenes Look at Devon

For the thirteenth year in a row, The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair will host free guided back barn tours on the historic property on Tuesday, May 31 from 2-5 pm. Devon fans are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a very special afternoon.

The tours will start off from the Garden Café’s Pavilion. Teams of volunteer guides will provided not only a fascinating history lesson about the 120-year-old show, but also an insider’s view on what goes on behind the scenes that makes Devon so special. The half hour tour allows guests the opportunity to visit many areas of the Showgrounds, including the stable office, the farrier barn, the beautiful new Devon Club and many of the beautifully restored barns on the grounds. 

Back Barn Tours to be held Tuesday | Brenda Carpenter Photography

Always a highlight, guests have the chance to meet and greet many four legged stars of the Dixon Oval, including Hackney ponies and Saddlebreds as they rest in their stalls. Numerous owners and riders are kind enough to take the time to speak to the tour members, making the event even more special.

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