Todd Draheim and Misdee Wrigley Miller’s four-in-hand team.
Every Sunday before Memorial Day spectators line the streets surrounding the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair for one of the great Devon traditions: the Carriage Pleasure Drive, also known as the Carriage Marathon. Started in 1966, the carriage marathon is an integral part of the Devon Horse Show’s long history, and on Sunday afternoon, Todd Draheim and Misdee Wrigley Miller and James Miller’s four-in-hand team of horses drove their way into the show’s history books.
The team of bay Dutch Harness horses, owned by Misdee and James Miller’s Hillcroft Farm and driven by horseman Todd Draheim, was named the top team in the Unicorns and Four-In-Hand class for horses before returning for the championship drive-off. From among all of the day’s class winners, the team then received the Robert & Virginia Weaver Challenge Trophy as the overall best turned out team.
“What is so neat about the driving sport is that there’s so much tradition, especially here at the Devon Horse Show,” Draheim said. “It’s the best of the best. Just as it says over the ring, it’s ‘where champions meet.'”
The four-in-hand team driven on Sunday by Draheim is driven by Wrigley Miller throughout the United States and Canada and regularly prepared for the ring by Draheim. As the team’s horseman, Draheim ensures that the horses, harness and carriage are all in pristine condition, as was evident on Sunday.
The Millers’ Hillcroft Farm team was selected as the best of the day by judges Steve Holm and Sir John Richards who each bring to the Devon Horse Show lengthy driving histories of their own.
Hailing from England, Richards has been driving for 45 years, competing for Great Britain at the FEI level and serving as the chairman of the British Driving Society. Richards is also a two-time winner at the Royal Windsor Horse Show and the publisher of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh’s, book on carriage driving.
Holm also has an impressive record in the sport: he has won championships at the Royal Winter Fair, the National Horse Show, Walnut Hill, the Kentucky State Fair and the Wisconsin State Fair. He is a master evaluator for the Carriage Association of America’s Driving Proficiency Program and a board member and past vice president of the Carriage Association of America.
For Holm, the Devon Horse Show has played a significant part in his life. Teams trained by Holm have won the coaching championship at Devon a record 11 times. Those teams have also retired every trophy in the Devon coaching division, several of them twice. Additionally, Holm has trained the Carriage Pleasure Drive marathon champions seven times.
“I have shown here and participated at the Devon Horse Show for the past 42 years,” Holm said. “I also met my wife here 30 years ago so there are a lot of things in my life that have happened at Devon.”
Like Holm, countless Devon Horse Show exhibitors have held the show near and dear as a part of their lives for decades. Among them are Lore Homer and Mary Stokes Waller.
Homer was Sunday afternoon’s winner of the Single Harness Four-Wheeled Vehicles class for horses, and this year marks her 50th year competing at the Devon Horse Show.
“This is the greatest show there is as far as I’m concerned. I just adore this show,” said Homer, age 85, who drove the Brewster Lady’s Phaeten alongside her husband, Bernard Homer, age 86.
Waller first began competing at Devon in the junior hunters more than four decades ago and now returns each year to compete in carriage driving.
“There is no other place on earth like Devon. It has always been the most special of horse shows,” Waller said. “The fudge is still good. The teacakes or tea sandwiches are still good. The ice cream is great, and the line is always way too long, and Devon is Devon. I think you come here because it is Memorial Day and there is no other place you want to or should be.”
This year, Waller earned the victory in the Double Harness-Pairs-Tandem class for ponies and her husband, Harvey Waller, won that class in the horse division. Mary Stokes Waller was then presented with the Susie S. Buchanan Perpetual Trophy, the carriage marathon amateur whip award presented to the amateur whip who most exemplifies the traditions of carriage driving at the highest level.
In the Single Harness Two Wheeled Vehicles class for horses, the win went to Rachel Shoemaker, driving the Willisbrook Rally Cart.
“I have to say that this is one of the most exciting moments of my life. I bred this mare, and I raised her. I trained her. We’ve been doing this for a few years now. It is just the most exciting moment. I can’t even tell you,” said Shoemaker, whose family has been showing at Devon for five generations. “Ever since I was little we would come here and watch the marathon. I just always thought it was the coolest thing.”
Other class winners on Sunday afternoon in the pony division included Nicole Cable in the Single Harness Two-Wheeled Vehicles, Tara Miliziano-Crowley in the Single Harness Four-Wheeled Vehicles, Lisa Knox in the Unicorns and Four-In-Hand. Roberta Odell won the Light Commercial and Farmers class driving the Odell Popcorn Wagon.
Driving at the Devon Horse Show continues Monday evening with the Horse Pairs Pleasure Turnout beginning at 4:40 p.m.
Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International