The Road to Devon

By Chimen Rogers

November/December 2000 issue of Collected Remarks

gg&wendeldevon.jpgOn September 24th, I boarded an airplane destined for Philadelphia, Pa. From there, I was to be picked up from the airport by my Mother who happens to live five miles down the road from Devon in a town called Paoli. Not being fond of flying, I started out a little nervous. But then, I thought about Scott, Gigi, and Cassidy hauling a horse all the way from Whitesburg, Ga. to Devon, Pa. The hour and forty minute flight did not seem so bad after all.

Once in the air, I closed my eyes and reflected on the last two and a half years. When I first came to Gigi for lessons, I could not ask my horse to canter, and now Bo and I are performing first level movements. Not only is Gigi skilled in the art of classical dressage, but she has that magnificent gift of being able to teach it. During some of my lessons, I have flashbacks to my days in the United States Marine Corps because she expects only the best out of us. And to be a horse and rider team, there is a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears that go into progressing in dressage. And without the horse and his cooperation, dressage would be virtually impossible.

Once safely on the ground, I commenced on learning the area and finding out what all of the fuss was about. Well Devon, Pa can be found along the mainline of the old Pennsylvania Railroad. Today, Amtrak and SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) provide convenient transportation linking the western suburban cities to the City of Brotherly Love. As for the show grounds themselves, they have been in existence since 1896.

Dressage at Devon just completed its 26th year. For those of you who do not know, Dressage at Devon is the highest rated international dressage competition held outside of Europe. It is a qualifying competition for the 2000 FEI World Cup and the 2001 North American Young Riders' dressage championship.

If any of you were present to witness the first dressage show held at Devon, you would have found the show grounds surrounded by a vast countryside with lush meadows. Today, the well maintained grounds are surrounded by beautiful homes, shops, restaurants and other fine establishments. My only recommendation would be for the legislators of Pennsylvania to designate more funds for road improvements.

Once entering the show grounds, I had a feeling of stepping back into time. I imagined all of the people who must have sat in the grandstands over the last hundred and four years, a time when top hats were apart of everyday attire, and the only shelter from the elements was provided by parasols and umbrellas. But as soon as the Pas de "Deere" took place-dressage movements performed by two John Deere tractors, I was back to the year 2000.

But the moment came when an announcement came over the loud speaker: "Gigi Nutter on Fahrenheit is now entering the ring." I do not think I took a breath during their entire class. Here is a woman who has dedicated her life to the sport of dressage. It was as if Gigi and Wendel (Fahrenheit) were waltzing because their movements were so light and free. Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary defines dressage as the guiding of a trained horse through a set of maneuvers by imperceptible movements of the rider. Not only did I see exactly that, but I saw a horse who had been taken away from his familiar surroundings, hauled hundreds of miles in a horse trailer, being unable to graze the last few days, perform his heart out under the grace and guidance of his rider.

I do not know how long or far I will go with dressage, but I hope to be half the rider Gigi is and be able to instill that kind of dedication from a horse. Maybe then, I will be able to do dressage as defined above.