Elkton, Md.—Oct. 14
Dressage gets underway today at the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, but what everybody is most excited to see is the cross-country. Longtime attendees of the venue’s previous four-star long won’t recognize much on Ian Stark’s course. It’s an entirely new route in a new location, running from Fair Hill’s steeplechase track out to the Sawmill Road Field, where cross-country is held for national-level horse trials, before looping back to finish at the steeplechase course.
Stark has said he likes to build horse-friendly courses with “rider frightener” fences, and there are plenty of those to be found on the 11-minute track.
We took a walk around the course to give you a first glimpse at what’s in store for riders on Saturday:
Kimberly Loushin Photos
Fence 1: The Maryland Flower Ramp
Fence 2: The Land Rover Flower Table
Fence 3AB: The Paul Bunyan Tables. The first combination on course, riders will jump this then turn left to jump another table of similar dimensions.
Fence 4AB: The Viaduct. Seems simple, right?
Just kidding. Down a steep hill to a ditch and brush.
Fence 5AB: Ceciil County Tourism C&D Canal Water, the first water complex on course.
Fence 6: Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area Covered Bridge, a shout-out to an iconic covered bridge on the historic property.
Fence 7AB: Green Rolltop Brush. Riders will turn right after this fence to a skinny.
Fence 9ABC: Fair Hill Foundation Rail, Ditch and Wedge—aka, the coffin.
Fence 10AB: Brush Shoulder to Skinny Brush Oxer
Fence 11: It’s a sharp right turn from 10B to this brush corner.
Fence 12: The Dubarry Stick Pile, complete with larger-than-life Dubarrys.
Fence 13AB: The Timber Rails
Fence 14: The Cedar Brush Oxer
Fence 15ABCDEF: The Maryland Crab Water presented by Mars. There’s a gap before and a big drop after this larger-than-life depiction of one of Maryland’s famous blue crabs, which greets riders to the main water complex.
Riders taking the long route will jump a smaller 15A crab fence that is also on the CCI3*-L course then come to this, one of several single fences offering an easier path but more individual efforts.
But those going the direct route will jump out this way, over 15CDE which includes a ditch in front of the up bank.
There’s lots to look at around this complex, including this depiction of a crabbing boat. It’s not a flagged obstacle, but it looks built to be jumped in some future year.
Colleen Rutledge’s dog demonstrates exactly how narrow is 15F, the final element of the complex.
Fence 16: Open Oxer
Fence 17: The Fair Hill Flyer. An open corner with a ditch in front, reminiscent of the Vicarage Vee at Badminton (England).
Fence 18ABC: Roller Coaster and Fair Hill International Drop, a nod to Rebecca Farm (Mont.), where Ian Stark also designs the course and incorporates a rollercoaster.
18BC option: Five-star riders will only jump these if they take the long route.
18BC: Riders better hold on tight if they opt to take the direct route down this big drop.
Seriously, this drop is huge.
Fences 19 and 20: Camden Yard Houses. These cabins are numbered separately, but if you are a five-star rider, there’s a direct line in there!
Fence 21: MRA GTA Step Table
Fence 22AB: Slab Table to Oak Top Corner
The corner out.
Fence 23: The Shelter, one of the smaller fences on course before a long gallop.
Fence 24: The Groundhog Garden Gate
Fence 25AB: Owl Corners. There’s a pair of these artistic brush corners, one left-handed and one right-handed, for the riders to negotiate.
Fence 26: Rolltop
Fence 27AB: The Brown Advisory Oriole Water, the last water complex.
Fence 28: Phew, there’s the finish!
Get a bird’s eye view of the course via
Fair Hill’s cross-country app.
Want more from the Maryland 5 Star? Follow the Chronicle’s online coverage here. You can get loads more news, analysis and photos in the Nov. 8 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. What are you missing if you don’t subscribe?