Cooling Out With … Jamie McDevitt
Jamie McDevitt moved to Southern Pines in 1997 with one horse (Fax, a Trakehner/Arab gelding, now 17) and one dog (Pali, a miniature Australian shepherd, now 15).
Since then, the popular real estate agent has acquired another horse (Distant Echo, a 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding with whom she recently made her Prix St. George debut), five more dogs and a husband (attorney Noel McDevitt, who is the managing broker of their real estate company).
McDevitt and Distant Echo (Dusty) are entered at Prix St. George this weekend at the Rise ‘N Shine Dressage Show at the Carolina Horse Park.
Q: Where did you start riding?
A: I was 13 and living where I spent most of my childhood, in a suburb of Pittsburgh called Upper St. Clair. My dad, sister and I just trail rode at the time ... no lessons or anything like that. As I got serious about others sports, namely tennis, we wound up selling all the horses. I really didn’t ride again until my late 20s, when I moved to Los Angeles.
Q: Who was your first horse?
A: When I was 13, my parents bought me a quarter horse for $50. I named him Sunshine.
Q: And you were a competitive tennis player too?
A: I was. I played on the women’s tennis tour from 1986 to 1989 after playing NCAA tennis for the University of Nebraska. My highest world ranking was 248th, which meant I spent a lot of time sightseeing! Actually, it was a great experience ... a great way to travel, see the world, meet some wonderful people. I would do it all over again. I would just win a lot more!
Q: When did you move to California, and did you have horses there?
A: I moved to California in 1989. I worked with the shoe companies of Reebok and K-Swiss in their tennis divisions. I leased a horse for a while and was actually taking jumping lessons at the L.A. Equestrian Center. My dad came to visit and watched me take a jumping lesson — he wasn’t exactly impressed! When I was done, he suggested I learn to ride before I jumped and bought me a dozen dressage lessons. I bought Fax in 1993.
Q: How did you wind up in Southern Pines?
A: I visited here in 1996 in search of a better place to live — one with a sense of community. Pinehurst and Southern Pines were not on the “target” list of cities. I only stopped here to play golf during the search. But once I was here, it was like, “This is it!” That was 14 years ago, and I’m not going anywhere. I met Noel in 2001, we got married in 2002 and the rest is history.
Q: What made you want to stay and make a life here?
A: The more relaxed pace of life, and the people. The people who have lived here forever go out of their way to make you feel at home, and the area has a way of attracting wonderful people from all over the world. Plus, my dad moved here from Pittsburgh shortly after I relocated. It’s a blessing to have family nearby, something I never thought would happen living way out west. It feels like home now, like this is the place I was meant to be.
Q: How is the real estate market for horse farms doing here?
A: Although farms are still selling, it has slowed down a lot. Consequently, there are more farms for sale than ever before.
Q: Is there a certain demographic that comes to the area looking for horse property?
A: We are seeing a lot of couples, either looking to retire or buying now and thinking of retiring in five years or so. Usually “he” loves to golf and “she” loves to ride, although we are seeing husbands and wives enjoying both sports more and more.
Q: Let’s talk about your riding. Who have been your biggest influences?
A: Two people, really, my dad and my husband, Noel. If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be riding, and I may have never found dressage. He has always been supportive of any sport I wanted to do but expected that I do my best and work hard at whatever it was. He was my first tennis coach. And Noel, who is not exactly a “horse person” but is the best “horse husband” there ever was, comes to all my shows, hauls the horses, takes videos of my lessons. And whenever I lose my confidence and don’t think I can do it and want a trainer to fix my horse, he reminds me that I do my best when I am the one doing the riding and not looking for a quick fix. I’m a lucky girl. He is my biggest fan.
Q: Do you compete a lot?
A: I try. It can be expensive, though. Fortunately, there are a lot of local shows, thanks to Sue Smithson and Kay Whitlock, who have both been organizing dressage shows for years. It’s also a plus to have the Carolina Horse Park offering more dressage shows and the Pinehurst Harness Track and Showgrounds. Without Sue, Kay and the great local facilities, I would not be able to compete nearly as often. I think the same is true in other disciplines.
Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment as a rider?
A: I actually rode Prix St. George for the first time a few weeks ago, which has been a dream of mine. It was a respectable ride, and I came out of the ring with a big smile on my face, which is really what it is all about. My horse, Distant Echo (Dusty), whom I have had for almost nine years, is a far better horse than I am a rider, and it has been such a joy to have him teach me. When I bought him, he was showing Fourth Level. That first year, I only rode him at Training Level — he must have been so bored — and we have slowly but surely worked our way up together, he being ever so patient, willing and kind. I think part of my excitement was that I got to ride my first PSG with Dusty as my partner.
Q: Finish this sentence: I wish Southern Pines …
A: Was an even bigger equestrian community. I don’t get it. I have been to Aiken, Ocala, Wellington, all of the better-known equestrian towns. They have nothing over Southern Pines, yet tend to draw more equestrian enthusiasts. Maybe we just haven’t been discovered yet, and maybe that’s a good thing.
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