Devon Horse Show Pledges New Footing in 2010

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The Devon Horse Show main grand stand. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The Devon Horse Show main grand stand during 2009 Dressage at Devon. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

DEVON, Pennsylvania, Sept. 26–The Devon Horse Show grounds that hosts Dressage at Devon pledged Saturday to begin within the next few weeks the steps that will lead to new all-weather footing at the historic  landmark by May, 2010.

“The Dressage Horse Show is not broke,” said Leonard King, chairman of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair Foundation that owns the Mainline Philadelphia facility where the spring hunter/jumper competition has been held since 1896.

“We have a nice bank account and even if our capital fund raising went south we will proceed.

“We are dedicated to doing it this year.”

The pledge to replace the footing with an all-weather surface of the quality and durability to withstand intensive use by several equestrian disciplines–primarily hunter-jumpers and dressage–was made in an interview with dressage-news.com.

The interview was prompted by complaints about the footing from several riders at Dressage at Devon. Some riders were skeptical of promises made after this year’s hunter-jumper show to install all-weather footing by the time of the 2010 competition in May.

Lori Kaminski, president of the Dressage at Devon board, said in a separate interview that she was confident the horse show foundation would fulfill its promise as they were well along in refurbishing the extensive permanent stabling.

“There have been lots of improvements,” she said. “Footing is next on the agenda.”

Improved footing, she said, could help competitors decide whether to go watch the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky or compete at Dressage at Devon in 2010. Next year’s Devon competition will be held the same week as the dressage competition at WEG at the end of September.

Dressage at Devon, she said, will heavily promote the 2010 event, focusing on the 35th anniversary and its tradition and newly installed all-weather footing.

“Electricity” is the word most commonly associated with the show, especially the Saturday night musical freestyles.

Dressage at Devon and the Devon Horse Show are operated as tax-exempt organizations to raise money for charities.

Leonard King of the horse show foundation said that more than $15 million has been donated to charity.

He said that opinions of many riders and some of the world’s top experts such as Olympic course designer Olaf Petersen have been sought in searching for the best surface for Devon that is subject to heavy rain.

Some of the leading footing companies have already been asked to bid on providing surfaces that matched or exceeded the best in the United States, such as at the Kentucky Horse Park and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

Those companies confirmed to dressage-news that they had already been given an outline of the project and were told to expect detailed specifications days after this year’s Dressage at Devon.

“We will get the best bids we can,” he said.

“But we are not dedicated to taking the lowest bid. We’ve learned that the hard way.”