DEVON, Pa. --The Devon Horse Show is synonymous with elite show jumping competition, and it is respected as the most prestigious and largest outdoor, multi-breed and multi-discipline horse show in the country since 1896.
Running from Thursday, May 24 to Sunday, June 3, the historic Devon Horse Show will once again feature international show jumping at a world-class level with an FEI CSI4* competition, and it has drawn the world's best, including Olympians McLain Ward and Beezie Madden
While the show reflects the local traditions and lifestyle of Philadelphia, the annual event also attracts top national and international athletes.
This year's star-studded lineup includes 2018 World Cup Champion Beezie Madden, Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward and rising star Devin Ryan, who was second in the 2018 World Cup.
The Devon Horse Show is the ideal way for these world-class athletes to kick off their spring and summer competition schedules.
The Open Jumper Section is just one highlight of the event, and it has expanded its purse money to $475,000 this year, with all the classes having a FEI CSI4* ranking, so riders who compete in any of the designated events will earn world-ranking points.
Thirty elite open jumper riders will be chosen to take part in the Open Jumper Section, which includes the $35,000 International Speed Stake, the $50,000 Welcome Stake and the $70,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake.
WARD IS a regular competitor at Devon each May.
"I think Devon is a really phenomenal competition," said Ward. "The atmosphere, the history and the nostalgia that comes from the venue and that arena is something very special. I think that the investment of the community and the organization in recent years has really brought it back to a first-class event. I think that it is important if we want great events in our country, then the top riders need to support them and help make them successful."
The show is extra meaningful to Ward as he and his two-time Olympic medal winning mount, Sapphire had top results at Devon before the mare's retirement, after which the Grand Prix was named after her.
Ward holds a record of winning the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon nine times during his illustrious career, two of which were with Sapphire.
Another reason Ward returns to Devon each year is the passionate crowd, ranging from fellow equestrians to horse enthusiasts to Pennsylvania locals and their families in search of a fun, friendly outdoor event.
"The crowd at Devon is arguably as good of a crowd as any in the world," said Ward. "The venue is packed to capacity, and it's a knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowd. It is an event for the area, for all of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. It's like the Hampton Classic where people make it a point to be there on grand prix day as well as the other days. It goes to show that if you put on a top-notch event like that, people will come and entertain it."
Celebrating its 40th year, the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon continues to be a highlight event and it will offer $250,000 in winning prize money when it is competed at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 31 and as always, it is sure to bring a great crowd.
"It's my favorite horse show!," said Devin Ryan, who operates his River Run Stables in Long Valley, N.J. "There is just something about it. There is something about the [Dixon Oval], I don't know what the numbers are, but it always feels bigger than it is. Devon is a show that has been around for a long time. Being from New Jersey and being so close to Pennsylvania, I know that it is a big deal for people and it's nice that it is a hometown show."
Most recently, Ryan came in second in his FEI World Cup Finals debut in Paris, France, behind winner Beezie Madden.
"I've always really liked Devon as a horse show and I think they put a big effort into putting it on," Madden said. "It happens to fit in well with our schedule this year. Many improvements have been made including the footing, so I was excited to put it on our 2018 schedule."
"Devon has a lot of history and is a place where people want to go and do well," said Madden. "You have to qualify to get there, and the fans are always great. The fan base that comes every year is huge and it's nice that Devon does it for charity, for the Bryn Mawr hospital."
In addition to world-class show jumping, riders from various disciplines such as hunters, equitation, sidesaddle, eventing, driving and renowned breeders come to experience the magic of Devon.
Along with its long list of disciplines, the show also offers a multitude of classes to cater to all levels from leadliners to Grand Prix riders.
The event also includes the Country Fair that attracts people of all ages and offers world-class shopping, rides and games for kids, many dining options and special entertainment events.