New attractions, old favorites mark annual Fair Hill International
— Spectacular weather welcomed crowds of visitors to the rolling hills of Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area Saturday.
They came to watch cross country competition on both three-star and two-star
courses as part of the 28 th running of an event that features top horses and riders in a variety of competitions from Oct. 13 through Oct. 16.
Eventing for horses has been described by some as a triathlon in equestrian sports because it tests the strength and stamina of the horse, as well as its relationship with the rider. Throughout the three-day event, horses are tested in
dressage, cross country and show jumping in twostar and three-star categories.
Riders came from all over the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand to compete this year. Ellie Luther, of Port Deposit, competed for the first time in the two-star cross country course, which was held Saturday.
The course includes 23 challenges for horse and rider to navigate to test their skills, including jumping over or through wide obstacles, tall obstacles and water obstacles – all on a course that is unfamiliar to the horse. Unfortunately, Luther and Fair Fiona, her horse, got eliminated on fence number 22.
“They were amazing,” said Luther’s mother Renee Dixon, who owns Rolling Hills Ranch and Freedom Hills Therapeutic Riding School. “They completed 21 challenges.”
About 15,000 people on average attend Fair Hill International each year over the course of the event, according to the Fair Hill or- ganizing committee.
“It’s a great way to showcase Cecil County,” said Sandy Turner, county tourism coordinator, as she passed out chocolate treats from North East Chocolates inside the VIP tent that overlooks the William duPont Jr. main arena Saturday.
The multi-day event has expanded over the years to add more attractions for the casual equine buff. This year is no different. An outdoor sports exposition, sponsored by W. L. Gore, was showcased Saturday at its strategic location next to a large craft beer tasting tent, which was also featured for the first time this year.
The over 20 craft beers available for tasting kept a constant crowd inside and outside the tent. Outside the tent, customers bellied up to a portable bar housed in nothing less than a repurposed horse trailer. The picturesque setting allowed visitors to chat with friends, relax and watch horses along the cross country course while enjoying the beer tastings.
Outdoor sports enthusiasts were able to see the latest gear for camping, mountain biking and running on display all day Saturday.
Many of the established activities at FHI continued to attract crowds Saturday as people strolled through the miniature shopping village featuring clothing, hats, gloves, jewelry, scarves, pottery, paintings and more. Kid’s Corner was full of children playing games and watching jugglers or magicians perform. Meanwhile, a large food court area offered a variety of culinary treats to hungry patrons.
A perennial fan favorite is the dog agility course, which organizers had set up adjacent to the Kid’s Corner area of activities.
The Dutta Corporation, an international horse transportation company, has been the lead sponsor of Fair Hill International since 2013.
A rider completes a jump during the 28th annual Fair Hill International competition on Saturday.
The Chincoteague Pony Drill Team prepares to perform at Fair Hill International on Saturday.
Families play in the sandbox in the Kid’s Corner at Fair Hill International.
A rider navigates a water obstacle during the cross country event at Fair Hill International on Saturday.