By Ambassador Alexis Martin
I can still remember sitting on my pony as a kid, blue bows at the end of my tight braids, half of my mind running through the course laid out in front of me and the other half daydreaming about blue ribbons. When I was a little girl I wanted nothing more than to attend shows like Washington National, Pennsylvania National, and Devon. As a little girl, Devon had to be at the top of that list. My whole riding career has been leading up to this show and I could not have asked for a better first trip than what I experienced this year.
For those who don’t know, I was born and raised in sunny Tallahassee, FL, a long 14-hour drive away from Pennsylvania WITHOUT a horse trailer. Now the trip with my horse in tow? You can double that first distance, and keep in mind we drove straight through. No sleep, no rest, no time for games, just driving and daydreaming of what the week ahead would bring. While it was miserable and undeniably long, I was wide awake when we took that final turn towards the barns at Devon. As soon as the blue walls of Devon came into sight, I was filled with a mix of emotions: excitement, nerves, exhaustion, adrenaline. The journey was finally over, and now the work began. No matter what other emotions hit me, though, the happiness and joy that I felt for myself and for Bud was completely overwhelming; this was my biggest dream, and I was here.
As I stood on the street in front of new barn two, Bud’s new home for the next week, the atmosphere of this show swarmed around me. It was electric, and I had never felt so welcomed or sure of where I wanted to be. As quickly as I could, I found my stalls and unloaded Bud. He got lots of treats while we unpacked the trailer, and when we finally got everything into place we got a chance to go look around the show grounds. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this show in my entire life and nothing could ever come close. There were barns all around, accompanied by tack stores, clothing stores, restaurants, and a fair, complete with games, candy apples and a Ferris wheel. We walked around every day while we were there, and every day I managed to find a new place I had missed before. One of the best experiences I had during my time at Devon was riding the Ferris wheel at night and being able to look over the whole show and seeing all of the other people who shared my dream of Devon.
Friday finally rolled around and that meant show time. Since I didn’t show until the afternoon, I spent the morning roaming around the show grounds taking pictures with my trainer and best friend, all the while still trying to take in my surroundings and come to terms with the fact that I really had made it. My first round finally came around, and the nerves hit me hard. While it wasn’t the best round, I held onto my confidence and looked at how to do better the next day. This proved to be a good strategy as the next day I was able to relax and do much better in my remaining two rounds. I even made it into the jog!
Come Saturday afternoon it was finally time to head back home to Tallahassee, and I have to admit it was a very bittersweet goodbye. While I was ready to go home to my family and my bed, I was definitely not ready to leave Devon. I still long for the taste of candy apples and the tart taste of the lemon pops. And everyday before bed, as I watch the night sky out my window, I can still hear the powerful cheers and the pattern of hooves in the Dixon oval as I watched the classes go on one after the other, blue ribbon followed by blue ribbon.