Blue is a favorite color for Francheska AH at Dressage at Devon 2012

On Monday, September 24, Autumn Hill Farm made the long trek from SW Virginia up to Devon, PA for the breeding classes at the world-renowned Dressage at Devon horse show.  This was Francheska  AH’s second-ever show, and I have to say it’s becoming clear that “showing off” is something she enjoys.  She reveled in this very busy, bustling atmosphere.  Throughout the three days of this show, she was brilliantly presented by professional handler Quinnten Alston.  These two exhibit a connection rarely seen, and was a thrilling thing to watch. Francheska (“ Jessie”) made it very clear that if Quinnten wanted her to balance on her left ear for the judge, then that is what she would do for him.  (Fortunately, that was not required.) Region1CHamps2

That partnership paid off in a big way.  Jessie and Quinnten WON the Yearling Fillies class on Tuesday morning – an outcome I never thought I’d experience.  That evening she showed under the lights in the Dixon Oval in the Region 1 Filly Championship – against two and three year old fillies of all breeds.  Jessie was a little tense and quick in this class.  So when we returned to the barn, I cut down her braids, fed her dinner, and tucked her in for the night.  As I gathered up belongings to return to the hotel, Jessie sank down into the shavings – it had been a long and exciting day, and I was happy to see her get some well-deserved rest.  It never even entered my mind to check the scores. 

I trotted up to the ring to say goodnight to a friend, and it was there that I discovered that Jessie was standing 4th in the class.  I was flabbergasted.  I was also freaked out, because it dawned on me that she was expected back in the ring  for the awards presentation… in ten minutes.  I stood there like a deer in headlights.  My wise and wonderful friend Natalie DiBerardinis, General Manager of Hilltop Farm, grabbed my disbelieving self and we hi-tailed it back to Jessie’s stall.  After getting the bewildered filly to her feet, we double-teamed the grooming to get her presentable.  Brushes, combs, baby oil,  and hoof polish went flying all over the stall, but there was no time to do anything with her mane and forelock – that now appeared as a kinky mess after being braided all day.  We arrived back at the Dixon as the ring stewards were lining everyone up to enter the arena.  We all filed in, seven braided fillies and one unbraided. That is one white ribbon I will always treasure.

Wednesday we had no classes on the schedule, and I looked forward to a easy, unstressful day visiting with friends, and actually watching some of the show.  The FEI horses were now arriving for the performance classes, and the road in front of Jessie’s barn was a constant stream of trailers.  Breed show horses now shared all the public spaces with schooling dressage horses – resulting in controlled pandemonium.  Don and I were enjoying a lovely, relaxing lunch in the Beer Garden with friends Pat Limage, Paul Cohen, Quinnten, Mo Swanson of Rolling Stone Farm, and her trainer Cara Klothe.  Someone passing by stopped to say hello, and congratulated me on the “Born in the USA” award.  “Ummmm…” I said “What ‘Born in the USA’ award?”  The one that’s being presented at 4pm today in the Dixon, was the reply.  Oh dear.

Cell phones do come in handy, as does having your braider’s cell number in your contacts.  I connected with braider extraordinaire, Amanda Smith, and she kindly said she would shoehorn another braid job on the filly into her schedule that afternoon, and she would be braided by 4pm.  Thank you Amanda!.  Francheska’s day off turned into another session of grooming, scrubbing and braiding.  But it was a thrill to have her in the ring again to collect the BITS Yearling Filly award.SmallTrot3

I had, at this point, just about all the excitement I could stand, and getting back to our quiet Virginia farm sooner rather than later was looking very enticing.  Wednesday night I took the chance on leaving her braids in, and decided that if she rubbed them out overnight I would scratch her last class on Thursday and beat the rush and the traffic to start the journey home.  Jessie’s last class was on Thursday morning, the Hanoverian Two-and-under.  This class is open to all registered Hanoverian colts, fillies and geldings, yearlings and two-year-olds.  I’d had two days to watch the competition, and my expectations for success were very low.

When we arrived at the barn to feed breakfast on Thursday morning, I fully admit to be disappointed that Jessie’s braid job was perfectly intact.  Oh crap.  I guess I have to show in the last class after all.  Jessie and Quinnten entered the ring as one of the first to go in the class – and really turned it on.  This pair achieved the highest score of any class the filly entered in 2012, but there were 20 horses in the class, most a whole year older than my July-born youngster.  I camped out by the scrolling leader board for a long wait.  Young Hanoverians came and went, and the scores were slowly posted.  Half the class over, and she was still standing in first place.  Now 15 horses have gone, and Jessie’s entry number was still on top.  I was in total disbelief.  There were some NICE horses in this class!  After what seemed like hours, the last horse was shown in the class, and the last score posted.  Jessie had won!  I was beaming when we stood up for the photographer (and anyone that knows me is aware I HATE having my picture taken)to collect our blue ribbon, and the gorgeous embroidered cooler that was given to the winner of this class by the American Hanoverian Society.  The win photo taken was a great one – and was picked up for the daily press release by the horse show, and also by the international website, Eurodressage.  What a thrill!


Francheska AH is the final foal for Autumn Hill Farm, and she is truly the culmination of my entire program.  She is particularly precious to me as she is sired by my own homebred Hanoverian stallion; the Class I, fully approved, Fielding.  I don’t know if we can ever top those amazing three days just outside of Philadelphia, I don’t know if I want to even try.  I do know that I will look at the experience as one of the best times of my life, surrounded by so many of the people I care about most in life.

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