Pennsylvania’s iconic Devon Horse Show & Country Fair is adding a new arena eventing class to this year’s show on May 28, inviting 40 eventers and show jumpers to compete over both cross country jumps and show jumping fences in the Gold Ring and Dixon Oval.
With $50,000 in prize money on the line, Devon hopes the class will attract top riders across both disciplines, as well as introduce the sport of eventing to an entirely new group of spectators.
Event organizer Beth Clark, who competes in show jumping and trains with Kevin Babington, dreamed up the idea for the class after attending several top horse trials in the mid-Atlantic region. She soon discovered that the amount of prize money offered didn’t stack up to what riders see at jumper shows.
“The idea came from trying to figure out a way to help eventing be a more popular sport,” Beth said. “I grew up in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and my parents hosted the eventing team and Jack Le Goff on our property for many years. It’s a great sport, and I’d like to see something help the eventing world.”
Wayne Grafton, chairman and CEO of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, supported the idea from the start. “The minute it was suggested I thought it was a fabulous idea,” he said. “We’re trying to be responsive not only to the riders, but also to the sponsors and spectators as far as what they find exciting and want to see at Devon.”
Once Capt. Mark Phillips came on board as the course designer, the concept for an exciting evening for riders and spectators alike truly came to life, Beth said.
“Mark came up to look at the rings, and he said Devon is a brilliant place to host a class like this because you have so much space,” Beth said. “Devon cleared the whole evening for us, and the class will also be live streamed. We hope to reach a new group of fans for the sport.”
To qualify to compete in the class, riders must have attained a qualifying score at a CCI2* competition or compete in show jumping at the 1.40-meter level. Capt. Mark Phillips’ course will run across 1,000 meters through both the Gold Ring and Dixon Oval.
The course will feature about 25 jumps in all, with 15 of them being cross country fences shipped in from Fair Hill and the rest being show jumps. All jumps will be set at a maximum height of 1.20 meters or 1.40 meters for brush fences, with a maximum top spread of 1.60 meters.
Seconds will be added for a knock down and for exceeding the time allowed, which will be calculated at 450 meters per minute. All riders with no penalties in the first round will go on to a jump off, which will run over a shortened course in the Dixon Oval.
The fastest time in the jump off will take home the win and $15,000 for first place. The rest of the $50,000 purse, presented by title sponsor Mid-Atlantic Packaging, will be split as follows: 2nd: $10,000; 3rd: $7,500; 4th: $6,000; 5th: $4,500; 6th: $3,000; 7th: $2,000; 8th: $1,000; 9th: $500; 10th: $500. There is no entry fee for the class.
All riders who meet the qualification criteria are welcome to enter, and riders may compete more than one horse if the individual entries do not exceed the maximum of 40. Devon anticipates that the class will attract primarily event riders, but Kevin Babington is also on board and encouraging show jumpers to compete as well.
Beth has worked closely with Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin in developing the concept for the class, and she said their support has been immensely helpful in bringing arena eventing to Devon.
“Boyd and Phillip originally said they thought $30,000 in prize money would encourage riders to come compete, but we wanted to start with $50,000 like Wellington did to get people’s attention and hold a first-class event,” she said.
Wayne added: “We hope this will be a permanent class at Devon, and we also hope to grow it in terms of prize money. I think it’s a good match for the sport and for Devon, and I hope the competitors are excited and come enjoy it.”
Hospitality tables will be available for purchase in the Devon Club, along with reserve seating options, starting in March. The official prize list will be released this month. Click here for ticket information.