Words and Photos by Devyn Trethewey
It was a gorgeous Thursday in Fair Hill, MD as a tremendous cast of riders walked the 5*-L cross country course designed by Ian Stark at the Maryland 5 Star. Stark’s course consists of 43 efforts over a 6270-meter track with an optimum time of exactly 11 minutes.
Take a tour of the track with us, and follow The Plaid Horse for exclusive coverage from Maryland all week long.
The course starts over a basic ramp, referred to as the Maryland Flower Ramp.
The riders continue down the hill, past the tailgating tents to the Land Rover Flower Table.
The first combination on course is the Paul Bunyan Tables, up by the road.
4ab presents riders with a viaduct on the top of a hill, down to a brush ditch.
The first water complex on course comes at 5ab, the Cecil County Tourism C&D Canal Water.
Once through the water, the riders gallop down to the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area Covered Bridge at Fence 6.
Another combination comes at fence 7A and 7B with a massive rolltop brush, followed by a skinny wedge with brush.
Following the combination at 7AB, the riders and horses have a long gallop down to a basic ascending oxer at 8.
Fences 9ABC present the coffin question on the course; the ditch is followed by a steep hill with a skinny brush as the C element.
Making their way to the Sawmill Field, the riders have a large brush combination at 10AB.
Following the brush combination is a large left corner at 11 and then a gallop down the hill into the Sawmill Field.
Fence 12 is a large table referred to as the Dubarry Stick Pile.
13AB is a series of two timber rails, creating a historical reference to the steeplechasing at Fair Hill.
There is a large gallop down the hill to a cedar brush oxer at fence 14.
Arguably the biggest combination of the course comes at 15ABCDEF: the Maryland Crab Water presented by Mars Sustainability Bay. There are many options that come along with this combination, but the direct route is shown. Riders will jump over the wooden crab (15AB) into the water, up the bank (15CD) to a rolltop (15E) in one stride then down the hill to a brush skinny (15F).
After navigating through the biggest water combination on course, riders can take a small breather to gallop down the hill to fence 16, an open oxer.
Riders take a quick left turn after the open oxer at 16 to the Fair Hill Flier corner at fence 17.
The riders head up the hill to combination 18, the roller coaster jump at 18A. The direct route for this combination is followed by 18BC, the Fair Hill International Drop. However, riders can choose to take the longer route over the roller coaster cars at fences 18B and C.
Fences 19 and 20 follow directly after the Fair Hill International Drop at the base of the hill.
Fence 21 is the MRA GTA Step Tabl,e which takes the riders back into the main field, headed for home.
22AB offers another combination for riders to navigate, a big table at the top of the hill down to an Oak Top corner.
The riders then gallop up a hill to a basic shelter at fence 23.
Here the riders have a long gallop to then reach fence 24, the Groundhog Garden Gate.
Fence 24 is followed by the brush owl corners at 25AB. Hopefully the owls are not too spooky for the horses at this point on course.
The riders can pick up a gallop after the combination at 25 to jump fence 26, a yellow rolltop.
The horse and rider combinations then gallop up the hill to the final water combination on course, fence 27AB the Brown Advisory Oriole Bird Water.
Take a deep breath (maybe): The final stretch is finally here! Riders gallop down the home stretch to fence 28, the Maryland 5* Final Fence.
About The Plaid Horse
The Plaid Horse is a woman-owned small business dedicated to education in the horse show industry. We publish 10-12 magazine issues per year as well as a series of novels and select non-fiction, run a daily website, and produce a weekly podcast. A frequent horse show sponsor, we are committed to inspiring young riders to take a more active role in the industry.
About Piper Klemm
Dr. Piper Klemm is the owner and publisher of The Plaid Horse. Her mission is to educate young equestrians in every facet of our industry and to empower young women in particular to find their voices and stories—and to share them.
She has spent her entire career focusing on education through various channels, including The Plaidcast, North America’s most listened-to horse show podcast; as a professor at Clarkson University; co-authoring the Show Strides book series; and by providing educational articles, grants, and experiential learning opportunities for riders of all ages and levels. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.
Piper lives in Canton, New York, with her husband, Adam Hill. Adam is a Chemistry Professor at St. Lawrence University and the Faculty Mentor to the national champion IHSA Riding Team. She owns a fleet of lease ponies, and competes in the Amateur Hunter divisions with MTM Sandwich.