Well folks, it is here.

Cross country day at the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill.

This much anticipated event was originally slated to run last year but was pushed back due to the COVID pandemic. The challenge, it seems, was worth the wait. The chatter on the ground about the 5* course is:

“Burghley on steroids!”

“The crab is smirking at you!”

“The hills are insane!”

The general feeling is that the Maryland 5 Star course will be very different than running at Kentucky 5 star, where the riders have seen many of the jumps and terrain for years. This is uncharted territory with a brand new course ready to challenge the best eventers in the world.

I attended of a course walk with 5* Rider Fylicia Barr on Friday and even walking parts of the course was exhausting. I cannot wait to see how the Fair Hill drop goes. Fylicia is 5’5 (ok, so not super tall…) using her for scale, that drop is massive.

The rollercoaster jump is also quite picturesque. (I cannot wait to see how the pictures will look!) While the corner at fence 17 has a ditch under it, and is an angled open oxer, which I expect will create trouble. (Find the complete course map, fence by fence, at US Eventing Association.)

In the media room on Friday, course designer Ian Stark gave the press a walk-through of the course and took questions. He said that he began planning this course three and a half years go, and the first thing he did on location was walk around and get a feel for the rolling land under his feet. One member of the media asked him, “out of all of the places on course where will you be standing?”

Ian Stark chuckled and replied, “If you see a guy wandering around with a green face, that will be me!” 

He went on to joke that he was nervous to see how the course played out and that there was no way he would jump 13A and B, which are four rail fence style jumps. What have you done to us, Ian?!

All told, there are 28 fences and 43 jumping efforts. The track features combination after combination, followed by tough hills, which will be a feat for fitness. Many of the riders in the north east have plenty of hills and terrain to train on. I am curious to see how riders that came from flatter states fair with the terrain on this monster track. It’ll be interesting to see how the first group of riders handle the track and how things change as the day goes on. 

Buck Davison and Carlevo are the trail blazers, heading out to XC on their dressage score of 28.7 and in eighth place. Did I mention there is now a thunderstorm looking to dump tons of rain on us around 2:00 in the middle of all of this? As a result, the CCI5*-L will start at approximately 12:20 p.m. EDT, not its original time of 1:00 p.m.

Stay tuned…