Sad­dling up

New at­trac­tions, old fa­vorites mark an­nual Fair Hill In­ter­na­tional

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

FAIR HILL

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.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY LINDSIE PALMER

A rider com­pletes a jump dur­ing the 28th an­nual Fair Hill In­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion on Satur­day.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY LINDSIE PALMER

The Chin­coteague Pony Drill Team pre­pares to per­form at Fair Hill In­ter­na­tional on Satur­day.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY LINDSIE PALMER

Fam­i­lies play in the sand­box in the Kid’s Cor­ner at Fair Hill In­ter­na­tional.

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY LINDSIE PALMER

A rider nav­i­gates a water ob­sta­cle dur­ing the cross coun­try event at Fair Hill In­ter­na­tional on Satur­day.

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