Elkton, Md.—Oct. 20
It was a little bittersweet as Erin Sylvester finished her victory gallop at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI4*-L this afternoon with Paddy The Caddy.
Sylvester has been competing at Fair Hill for years, completing her first CCI3*-L in 2009, and she became the 31st and final winner of the four-star as the event is moving to another part of the property next year to become the Maryland CCI5*-L.
“It’s special to have the finish that we had this year,” she said. “I’m honestly going to be really, really sad. It’s a local event for us. It pulls the whole community together. It’s great to be at a show that has a great spectator following and volunteer participation, and there’s a huge community behind the event. It’s definitely going to continue on the other side of the road, and it’s going to be even better, but I really love this event. Yesterday I was a little sad thinking I’m not going to go around this track again. But I’m excited to see what the future holds on the other side of the road.”
Sylvester started her weekend in eighth place with “Paddy,” a 12-year-old Irish Thoroughbred gelding (Azamore—Slamy) bred and owned by Frank McEntee.
Adding just .4 on cross-country yesterday, the pair came into show jumping just behind Waylon Roberts and Lancaster. They put the pressure on with a clear round over Marc Donovan’s course, and when Roberts dropped four rails, the win was theirs.
“He felt a little bit tired, but he has endless heart and tries to do the best every time he’s in the ring and on task,” said Sylvester. “He jumped great—he was rideable. He used to be a little wild in the show jumping, and he’s not that way anymore. I was happy with how the weekend went. It’s been my goal to get this event done and done well for a while now. We’ve hit a few bumps in the road during the season, so it’s great to put that all behind us and have a great weekend.”
Rain was constant and cold today, but Paddy powered through and didn’t come close to a rail. Thirteen pairs jumped double-clear.
“Fortunately he jumps straight and stays in a rhythm, so I just try to hold on,” said Sylvester. “It’s less than desirable to show jump in the rain, but I definitely think it’s a whole lot safer than going cross-country in the rain, so I’ll take it.
“The cross-country walked very, very tough to me, and it rode tough as well,” she added of her ride yesterday. “I kept trying to compare it to [Land Rover] Kentucky. In some aspects there were some combinations that felt Kentucky caliber or maybe a bit tougher, so it was fun to get all that stuff behind us yesterday and look forward to today. I had a less-than-perfect run at Kentucky this year, and I was hoping that that would be a great event for us, so I came here with the plan to show that we belonged at the level and that we were competitive at the level.”
Sylvester has ridden Paddy since he was 3.
“He was a real wild thing for a long time, which is what makes him such a good cross-country horse,” she said. “He’s got a lot of heart. He’s such a special horse to me. He’s the first really competitive horse that I’ve had. That’s been exciting, and it’s also a lot of pressure because a lot of the time I feel like I might be doing him wrong on the flat—not always getting every point out of him because he’s honestly very competitive. If I had a rail on him it’s entirely my fault. On cross-country I just have to prepare him well and get him to the jumps. He really loves the sport. It’s taken him really until this year to be very confident. He’s been a cautious horse—he’s very careful. As he was coming along it was very easy to scare him. But he’s confident now and he has a blast out there.”
Mia Farley surprised herself with her second-place finish aboard BGS Firecracker, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Capitalist—Emmas Courage, Courage II). They finished on their dressage score to move up from 22nd. Farley, 19, earned the Markham Trophy for the highest-placed young rider and was the USEF Young Rider national champion in the CCI3*-L aboard Fernhill Fine Diamond, who finished 11th.
“It was a little stressful, but overall I had so much fun this week,” she said. “I feel incredibly lucky to be here, and coming from California it’s always been a goal of mine to compete here and experience the track. I never would have thought I could have finished as well as I did, and I’m lucky to have my horse.”
Farley trains with David and Karen O’Connor in Virginia. She found “Crackers” in Ireland with help from her trainers in California.
“She always tries her heart out for me, and she saved me a few times on the cross-country,” she said. “It was going so well in the beginning I thought something must have been wrong! It rode really well for us, and she kept her gallop going the whole way around. I think she had a lot of fun as well.”
We’ll have much more from Fair Hill in the Nov. 4 print edition of the Chronicle.