Devon, PA – Sept. 27, 2023 – The magic of Dressage at Devon shined in all of its glory tonight. Under the light of the full, or nearly full moon, everyone in attendance could feel the camaraderie that was present amidst a group of riders who laughed and celebrated with and for one another as each award was presented. Following a beautiful fall day full of top level competition across the Breed Division at Dressage at Devon presented by Kingsview Partners, Iron Spring Farm Inc.’s Love Dance and Quinnten Alston were awarded the pinnacle DaD Grand Championship award, brought to you by the Best In Breed Conservation Group. For nearly 50 years, Dressage at Devon has made countless valuable contributions to the sport of dressage – from breeding to performance and all the many levels in between, DaD has been, and will continue to be there to support and promote the evolution of the sport, and the love of the horse. This year, DaD is proud to welcome the Best in Breed Conservation Group for their inaugural sponsorship year.
One of the most frequent visitor’s to the Winner’s Circle this week, Quinnten Alston, was welcomed back again this evening, though this time he entered the Dixon Oval limping just a bit. His husband, Johnathan Clark, and long time friends Hannah Heritage and Chris Talley, came to Alston’s rescue putting in a group effort to carry him to the Winner’s Circle, all with beaming smiles on their faces. At the end of a long horse show day, to see the connection the four shared through a long time friendship was a good reminder as to just how fortunate we all are to get to do what we love, with those we love, and just how close knit and supportive our friends, who become like family, are in this incredible community of ours. That community, as Alston later pointed out while being interviewed, is one of the many things that makes coming to Dressage at Devon such a magical experience.
Generously, and eagerly agreeing to interview, all four (Alston, Clark, Heritage, and Talley) stayed long after everyone else was gone, each sharing what it means to not only win their respective accolades at DaD, but also to do it in the company of one another, and with horses near and dear to their hearts.
This year’s Foal Championship was awarded to Fidelis QC, a 2023 Hannoverian Filly By Feinrich × Scolari, owned by Kathryn Sepka and bred by Quinnten Alston and his husband Johnathan Clark. Alston shared, “Fidelis QC is out of our breeding program,. This is the mare, Scantolina’s, second Foal Champion at Dressage at Devon, she also produced the Foal Champion, Foo Fighter QC, in 2021 as well. We are very excited to bring Scantalina back, and we just sold Fidelis QC this summer to a wonderful amateur client of ours who is going to raise her to be her next performance horse, so we are looking forward to that as well.”
As Alston stood with his long time friends Hannah Heritage, Chris Talley, and his husband Johnathan Clark under the lights of the Dixon Oval, when asked what his favorite part of coming to Dressage at Devon was, without hesitation, Alston said, “The people – we love the people here, it’s the volunteers, it’s our friends that we see, it’s the horses, it’s seeing how much people love to come here and show their horses, they are very devoted to it, very committed to it, and it is great to see that. It is a lot of fun to be here, rain or shine, it is always really great to be here.”
Alston has had a good week thus far, frequently visiting the Winner’s Circle and stating, “For myself, my husband, Johnathan Clark, and our program what was most meaningful was the Foal Championship that we bred and have developed ourselves and also the Grand Champion that we had here tonight for Iron Spring Farm, the mare Love Dance, she is by Vitalis out of a Fürst Romancier mare. She is a super fun horse to show, super trot, she is in the Iron Spring Farm breeding program producing good foals so we look forward to the future with her. She was at our Florida farm until the beginning of this year, so she has only been with us in Pennsylvania for a few months, she came up here, we have a certain type of program that we like to do with the horses to get ready for Devon, lots of practicing in hand, getting them used to showing off their best gaits, and so she’s been doing that and doing great.”
Speaking highly of his good friend Alston, in line with the magic and connection that happens here at Dressage at Devon, Talley, Heritage, and Clark were as excited for Alston about his Grand Championship win as Alston himself! Talley said, “Quinnten definitely knows how to perform in the ring and he does a beautiful job at it. He has a signature smile, if you watch him all week, he always has a smile on his face, he is one of the best handlers in the US, and his success is so well deserved.”
Alston has been handling for fourteen years, and this year’s Dressage at Devon Grand Championship is his fifth, yes, fifth, Grand Championship at DaD. Alston was Grand Champion here in 2011, 2015, 2016, 2022, 2023.
The Foal Championship went to Hannah Heritage and Famira ZA, when asked about her favorite thing about Famira ZA, Heritage said, “She is by my foundation stallion, Faramund. Famira went from field life to show life in just a few weeks, today was a big day for her!” Chris Talley, who runs Zaragoza Acres, LLC with Heritage, added “I will add to that, and just say that Hannah fought for Faramund’s life, she imported him and developed him through his young horse career, and she helped him fight for his life through a bout of EPM. With the help of Quinnten (Alston) and Johnathan (Clark) we were able to collect him and get his foals on the ground, and through that, Famira became one of them.”
Commenting on the amazing and long standing friendship between the four of them, Talley said, “We have all been incredible friends for a long time. Today was very special for a number of reasons, the four of us here, (Talley, Alston, Clark, and Heritage) have known each other for a very long time.” Heritage reflected on the significance of her win with Farima ZA coming from both the sire and the mare, sharing “Nancy Holowesko of Crosiadore Farm, who is a very influential breeder here as well, leased me the mare. Nancy called me and asked me if I would be interested in leasing her, and I put her to Faramund, we got Famira, and here we are.”
When asked about how far their friendship went back, “I met Johnathan when I was 15 or 16, and I actually worked at Iron Springs, and then I met Hannah, she and I run Zaragoza Acres, she owns it, we met 8 years ago,” Talley said, and joked, “and Quinnten…well he’s a tag along,” as everyone erupted in laughter, Talley concluded, “Quinnten knew Hannah before I did, but it is just coincidental that Johnathan and I used to know each other and Hannah and I met…” Alston touched on the importance of friendship as well, saying, “Honestly it is a community, there are all these webs that connect all of us, it is like a second family.”
From there, Clark turns to Alston and says with a smile, “You know, I would say if it weren’t for this horse show, I probably would not have married you.” When asked to elaborate on that, Clark continued on to say, “It was 2014, and Quinnten was the stallion handler for Hilltop Farm, and our company does the reproductive services for the stallions there.” Alston adds, “he (Clark) works for Select Breeder Services.” Clark continues, “I had come up here to watch the Freestyle with a friend of mine and just happened to run into Quinnten. It wasn’t until he came up to watch the show and we started talking and I got to see a completely different side of him, and the rest is history, so it is a very special place for us! And then these guys (motions to Heritage and Talley) came in, and that just adds to the specialness.”
“Every year, it is one of those weeks that you just get to hang out with everyone that is so close to you in one of the most special places,” Talley said, “Devon is iconic, from the Hunter/Jumper show to the Dressage show and everything that Devon does and all the supporters of the event it is just amazing.”
Best In Breed Conservation Group
Founded by Melanie Pai, the Best In Breed Conservation Group is comprised of ten breeders committed not only to the conservation of breeding for dressage, but also to the continued evolution of the sport through quality breeding. The Best in Breed Conservation Group is comprised of ten breeders that have come together to offer funds exclusively to help preserve and expand the historic event that is the Breed Division at Dressage at Devon. DaD would like to thank the 2023 group’s founding members: Melanie Pai, Jim Welsh, Anne Sparks, Lauren Dearlove, Melanie Peterson Ramey, Terry Smith, Janet Rae, Stacy Brass, Klaus Schengber, and Judy Yancey.
Avid Dressage at Devon competitors, the founding breeders of the group have come to compete at DaD for many years, for most, they have been in attendance for decades. Dressage at Devon gave them a place to take their elite breeding stock and helped to place each of the prominent breeding programs on the map. The Best in Breed Conservation Group plans to perpetually give back to the show that has given the greater dressage breeding community in North America so much for so many years.
Best in Breed Conservation Group founder Melanie Pai, shared how the syndicate got started, its purpose, and its goals for the future:
Speaking into how it all began, “Karen Ramsey, who is a very good friend of mine, came to Florida and said what can we come up with to support Dressage at Devon, they have been so good to us over the years,” Pai said, “I came up to see Christa Schute-Perry, and I had this idea of forming syndicate. I consider myself a small breeder, and I thought ‘how can we help small breeders?’ I put together the idea of putting ten people together, each would contribute $1,000, for a total of $10,000 to go towards Dressage at Devon. I found ten committed people and together, we formed this breeder’s syndicate, the Best in Breed Conservation Group, to support Dressage at Devon. I am hoping that the syndicate will continue to grow, and that next year we will have another 5-10 additional breeders that want to participate in supporting DaD. In addition to benefiting DaD, participation in the syndicate also benefits small breeders as it gives them a voice and people would start to recognize the names – my hope is that it will help participating breeder’s really increase their business as well. The USA small breeders desperately need help because everyone tends to go to Europe these days. There are some exceptional breeder’s here in the USA, but nobody really knows where they are. We are trying to find a way for Americans in this big country, to find the amazing small breeders that are here on US soil. The Best in Breed Syndicate is our first effort in achieving that mission.”