July 2015 Issue - page 8

Page 8
July 2015
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
(Continued on page 10)
by Suzanne Bush
As equestrians made final
preparations for competition at
the 2015 Devon Horse Show and
Country Fair, unanticipated com-
petition for publicity emerged. A
May 14 press release from Joshua
Macel announcing the formation
of an organization called the
Devon Preservation Alliance
stirred interest as well as con-
troversy. On May 16, the Devon
Horse Show and Country Fair
Foundation (DHSCF Foundation)
issued a press release suggesting
that the new organization is an
interloper. “It has come to our at-
tention a new entity recently has
been organized with a purpose
of securing donations on behalf
of the Devon Show grounds. The
Foundation has no relationship
or agreement with, and does not
acknowledge or endorse this
organization.”
Wayne Grafton, who is
Chairman of the DHSCF Foun-
dation, is unequivocal about the
legitimacy of groups such as the
Devon Preservation Alliance.
“There is no new foundation
associated with the Devon Horse
Show. There are a lot of rogue or-
ganizations that have no relation-
ship, that have tried to utilize our
Devon Squabbles Continue as New
Organization Makes an Appearance
name; and there is no guarantee
that any of that money will ever
come to Devon, nor is there any
association with the board.” Graf-
ton went on to explain that the
DHSCF Foundation was created
two years ago.
On the surface, the timing
and content of this announcement
seemed odd, but Macel, who is
the Managing Director of the
Devon Preservation Alliance,
says that timing was critical. He
said that, while interest in the
Horse Show peaked, his group
wanted to get the word out about
their mission. “We are not an af-
filiation or subsidiary or anything.
We’re a community organization
concerned with preservation,” he
explained.
The Devon Horse Show
and Country Fair acquired the
grounds in Devon several years
ago. Since 2013 the DHSCF
Foundation has been raising do-
nations to fund capital improve-
ments to the site of the horse
show. But controversy flared late
last year as the board voted to
replace two officers. President
Sara Coxe Lange and Chairman
Lafayette Collins III, who were
both up for re-election in Janu-
ary, were replaced by Richard
M. O’Donnell and Grafton,
respectively, in a hastily-called
special meeting. Early last spring,
Board President Wade McDevitt
resigned from the board after he
was accused of failing to inform
the board of plans to develop
a retail center at the site of the
former Waterloo Gardens nursery
next to the show grounds.
Controversy Sparked
Concern
Macel says that his group
would probably not even exist
if it were not for the squabbles
among DHSCF Foundation board
members that spilled out into the
public domain last year. “I don’t
think this organization ever gets
formed absent the controversy
that was stirred up, but we are
not part of it,” he explained. He
describes himself as a history
buff, who also happens to be a
lawyer. And it was in his capacity
as a lawyer that several individu-
als approached him about Devon.
“I never held a position on the
board. I don’t think the preserva-
tion message—preservation is an
affirmative activity—I don’t think
was really part of what anybody’s
daily thoughts were. But when
these controversies stirred up, I
you walk into the pen at Con-
gress, your every move is under
a microscope. ACTHA is very
open—any breed, age, and expe-
rience level is welcome— even if
you think your horse is going to
snort at every obstacle. There’s
no pressure.”
ACTHA offers several
different divisions, allowing
riders to choose an open class
for more challenging obstacles
or a pleasure division for a more
relaxed ride. Riders can decide
on a walk-only ride, or try their
hand at a walk, trot, and canter
challenge class. Judges evaluate
by Crystal Piaskowski
From the ground, the
obstacles do not seem all that
difficult. Perfectly spaced logs
surround a massive tree trunk,
inviting riders to try their hand at
precision while challenging their
horses’ obedience as they make
their way around the circle. Once
mounted, however, those alluring
logs quickly become perplexing
as wayward horses pop their
shoulders away from the tree and
wiggle away from the aids. Going
over the logs smoothly, obedient-
ly, and accurately is one of many
tasks an American Competitive
Trail Horse Association, known as
ACTHA, member could be asked
to complete during an event.
While well-known and
well developed in the southern
and western parts of the nation,
ACTHA has historically had
a small, virtually non-existent
presence in the northeast region.
Luckily, as trail riding events
have become more popular and
more riders find trail to be a
viable discipline, ACTHA mem-
bership has grown in Virginia,
New Jersey, and more notably,
in Pennsylvania. “It used to be
that it was hard to find one or two
events of anything remotely trail
related,” said Danee Rudy, an
ACTHA ride host in Jonestown,
PA who has built her own perma-
nent trail course on her property.
“Now that more and more people
are realizing that this is right up
their alley, that they can ride in
a semi-competitive environment
but still have fun, both trail and
ACTHA events are exploding.”
No Pressure
“No matter how big ACTHA
gets, it will never be Congress
or Devon,” said Rudy. “When
ACTHA Offers New Experiences For Pennsylvania Riders
both horse and rider with separate
points and a time allotment of six-
ty seconds per obstacle. “ACTHA
is like games on horseback,” said
Caroline Owens of Sunbury, PA,
who with her daughter Melissa,
just moved into the open division
this season. Hosts can choose to
hold either an Arena Obstacle
Challenge, called an AOC, or
a Competitive Trail Challenge,
called a CTC, and can pick which
obstacles to use from an extensive
list of options. Just like it sounds,
the Arena Obstacle Challenge is
held within an arena or enclosed
field, while the CTC is a tradition-
al six-mile trail with an obstacle
and judge available after each
passing mile.
“The obstacles are a closely
held secret until the day of the
event,” confides Owens. “Only
the ride host and the judges
know what they will be, and the
riders find out when they check
in and get a trail map.” Obsta-
cles may include picking up a
hat with a stick while mounted,
throwing a rock into a pond,
jumping a series of logs, or
cantering through a serpentine
of cones, among many more. “I
remember an event where my
Haflinger and I walked through
a fake recycling pit…that made
a nice crunchy sound. The whole
point of ACTHA is to see if your
horse is trail-savvy in a fun envi-
ronment,” said Owens.
While the obstacles are
timed, the ride itself is not. The
pace is set entirely at the rider’s
discretion, which may help those
who have a green mount and
would like to work through chal-
lenges as they arise. A rider can
opt to not choose an obstacle, and
will not be disqualified if they
exit the obstacle’s cones before
time expires.
“It’s unique because ACTHA
is different than other competitive
trail riding or endurance. This is
not about the time or the distance,
but the horse. We can go out,
not worry, and have fun without
straining the horse,” said Owens.
Another Pennsylvania-based
rider, Stephanie Dobiss, located
in PA Furnace, chimed in. “Even
for a 25 mile ride, there is a lot of
training to make your horse phys-
ically fit. This is much more laid
back, because anyone could pull
their horse out of a field and try
it. There’s something for every-
one.” In keeping with the upbeat
spirit, each event donates at least
twenty percent of the proceeds to
the charity of their choice as well.
“I’d love to mentor new ride
hosts throughout the process. We
are all very welcoming of new
members,” said Dobiss.
Eye-Hoof Coordination
Besides the social aspect of
riding off into the woods with
friends, ACTHA also encourages
giving all horses a sense of pur-
pose. Horses and riders can earn
lifetime achievement points with
each event, so even if a horse
has never been to a normal horse
show, a potential owner knows
that a prospect has had some
mileage. “It gives the average
horse a job, a worthiness, and is
a way to say, ‘I have a darn good
trail horse’, because you know,
trail horses are worth something.
They are dependable,” said Rudy.
(Continued on page 15)
Long popular in the southern and western United States, American
Competitive Trail Horse Association events are gaining a foothold
in Pennsylvania. The low pressure competitions offer divisions for
all levels of training, and horses accumulate lifetime achievement
points.
Photo credit: Rein Photography
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