DEVON, Pa.--Despite months of talks between Devon and the US Equestrian Federation, including a conference call as recently as April 5, the USEF announced after that conference call that it wouldn't publish new spectator protocol until mid-May.
Plans for this year's show were already well underway by April 10, with entries for hunter and jumper divisions already closed, but Devon had to be sure that USEF would work with the show to allow 50 percent of capacity attendance and allow it early enough for officials to organize the large, 11 day show for Devon to go on with the Horse Show and Country Fair for this year.
Devon Chairman and CEO Wayne W. Grafton said a show as large as Devon couldn't wait until two weeks before the show to make decisions and for that reason the spring show, which had been scheduled to run May 27 to June 6, had to be cancelled.
Grafton said a gala to be held at Ardrossan would go on as a fund raiser and that the Devon Fall Classic in September would also be held.
The US Equestrian Federation's insistence that it would not announce attendance criteria until mid-May, and that then attendance would be limited to 30 percent forced Devon's two boards of directors to cancel this year's Horse Show and Country Fair, according to Grafton.
He said that vote came on April 7, and that he told USEF about the vote and that it had until Saturday to contact him with any changes in its protocols and that since he had heard nothing the cancellation had been announced on April 10.
USEF PUT out a statement on April 10 saying it was very disappointed in Devon's decision and that it would reach out to Devon to see if it would change its decision.
But again, Grafton pointed out that he hadn't heard anything from USEF even by April 11.
"I'm sick about this," said Devon Chairman and CEO Wayne W. Grafton. "We've been talking to USEF about this for 75 days,"
USEF has barred public attendance at its licensed competitions under Covid protocols since March, 2020, but it announced in early April that it hoped to announce new protocols permitting a limited number of spectators by mid-May.
Grafton said that he was told that number of spectators would be limited to 30 percent of capacity.
The state of Pennsylvania announced April 1 that outdoor events would be allowed 50 percent attendance.
"All sporting national governing bodies except USEF have followed states' guidance in allowing spectators," said Devon's co-manager Peter Doubleday.
"How come the USEF uses its rules instead of each state's rules," said Grafton. That's the big question. We would have been able to make it work under Pennsylvania's rules."
"We would have lost money at 50 percent capacity, but we could have done it," said Grafton. "At 30 percent we would have lost $600,000."
Discussions between Devon and USEF had included a conference call between Grafton, co-show managers Peter Doubleday and David Distler and Billy Moroney, CEO of USEF on Monday, April 5.
"After that conference call, the USEF posted that attendance figures wouldn't be announced until May 15," said Grafton. "We told then we couldn't work with that. We can't turn a big show like this around in two weeks."
"Following that conference call, Devon's two boards met on Wednesday," said Grafton. "We have two boards (the Horse Show and the Country Fair) of 21 people each. Both boards decided unanimously that we had to cancel the show."
Grafton said that he told USEF that the boards on April 7 had voted to cancel the shows, but that if he heard from USEF by Saturday that it would reconsider its protocols and work with Devon that no announcement would be made.
But Grafton said that Devon had heard nothing from USEF, so on Saturday, April 10, Devon made the announcement that the 2021 show was canceled.
After the Kentucky 3-Day Event announced cancellation of it's competition the last weekend in April, the horse world came together and raised enough money to allow Kentucky to go forward with the event.
In the same way, many in the horse show world, including the Walker family and McLain Ward, reached out to Devon to offer assistance, but Grafton said that wouldn't work for Devon.
He said he had heard that Kentucky had had to return some donations that were given when they were given with the proviso that there be no spectators, and that USEF's indecision on the number of spectators therefore made accepting donations too iffy.
Entries for hunter and jumper divisions had closed in early April, and Doubleday said entries in those divisions had been very healthy.
"We've already notified all the judges and other officials," said Doubleday. "We've recycled all the officials, and they've all said that they can come next year."
"Equestrian Sport International, that group that put in the footing that we have now, is going to rejuvenate the footing starting next week," said Doubleday. "That footing hasn't been used in a while, andit needs to be redone."
Louise Serio's mid-summr show is still going to use the Devon grounds, and we'll have the Fall Classic and then Dressage at Devon will be held at Devon, plus Wayne said another show was thinking of renting the grounds," said Doubleday.
Devon collects rent from shows held on the property,, which, although a drop in the bucket compared with such things as the costs of upkeep ad taxes, that helps,
"Will losing two years of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair hurt?" said Grafton. "Yes. Will it take a while to recover? Yes."
Because of not holding either the 2020 or 2021 shows, its beneficiary, The Bryn Mawr Hospital, has not received any donation either year.
But Grafton was clear that, despite the setbacks, Devon had sufficient funds to make sure the show would go on in the future as it has in the past.
"We want to make sure that the Devon experience continues," said Grafton. "We want to do Devon right."