As reported last week, I flew up to the land north of the Mason-Dixon line to visit with friends and watch the 2** and 3*** event at Fair Hill.
We started off the weekend with a bang, or rather a shot, before boarding the plane, and then upon arrival, grabbing dinner at a nearby pub. While there we caught up with Flynn‘s breeder, Beth Davidson. Beth also happens to be owner to one Forrest Nymph, aka Farrah, aka Super Pony, and we were regaled with lots of stories of how Farrah became an eventer (she was originally bred to be a dressage pony!) and discussed the many positive aspects of the Connemara breed at length.
The morning of cross country our trio set up by the last 2** water and drank mimosas, finally cracking open the giant bottle of champagne that Ali and I won at the Stoneybrooke Steeplechase (thanks to our combination of Martha Stewart party planning skills and the fact that I own a strange large white horse sculpture). We chatted with Beth until the super pony was ready to run, and she went to hide in her car with the windows rolled up until it was over. One of the best things about seeing these events first hand is getting to witness the love of these horses, from rousing “good boy!”s to hearty pats of appreciation, and that love certainly doesn’t run thin in the owner’s box.
When our cooler was a bit lighter we moved camp to another water complex and grabbed lunch. It was around this time that I ran into a couple of faces (one and two) from my own past. I sketched them both a quick update on Foster and heard their winter plans before they ran off again into the madness of the event. Seeing them, and of course being surrounded by all the excitement of cross country, made my fingers itch to take the reins. Soon though, soon!
A little more wandering around cross country led us to the coffin complex where I got to meet a couple fellow bloggers! Allison and Emma are just as sweet in person as you would expect, and I loved getting a quick update on their plans with Dino and Isabel. Once again it makes me thankful to be a part of this community to be able to meet new people from all around the country. Perhaps next year I’ll be seeing them again, or ladies, consider a trip down to the Carolina International!
Eventually we watched Boyd ride the last horse across the country and packed up camp. Show jumping started early enough the next morning and we decided to watch the 2** finish before taking a break and catching the end of the 3** later in the day.
It’s amazing how much the atmosphere can change from cross country day to showjumping. On cross country day, life’s a big party, and teamwork and raucous hooting and hollering as each rider completes another obstacle can be heard throughout the competition. But when showjumping comes around, you can feel a bit of tension in the air. An entire crowd holds their breath as one entity and then explodes in applause for clear rounds, and claps politely in support of those who may have not been so lucky.
It was a wonderful perspective in seeing riders implement things I have been told in lessons, and how obvious it was when they made adjustments based on their intimate knowledge of the horse. Watching competitors at this level is definitely a study in power, straightness, and balance- all the things that even at the lower levels is needed to be successful!
After seeing Will Coleman win the 2** we went to get a local’s tour of the barns in the area. We drove past Phillip Dutton’s gorgeous farm and oggled Boyd Martin’s candyland of a cross country course before popping over to Jimmie and Dom Schramm’s property. J is going to be a working student for them this winter in Florida (so, so excited for her and can’t wait to live vicariously through her experience!) and wanted to introduce us to the Evention couple! We gave Bellamy and Vegemite a pat before getting back in the car and having an oh crap moment.
Turns out while we were gallivanting across the countryside, referring to Eventing Nation’s website for the 3*** start time, in reality the showjumping was almost over.
While we missed the big finale, I wouldn’t change anything about the weekend for the world. Nothing is better than friends and horses and my first Fair Hill experience definitely qualified as a helluva good time!
PS: If you’re wondering where the photos of horses are, in lieu of ridiculous human pics, they are coming! 😉