All Pairs Pass First Horse Inspection at Dutta Corp Fair Hill International

Whitney Mahloch and Military Mind. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Hello from an unseasonably warm Elkton, Maryland, where the first horse inspection kicked off the action this afternoon at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International. All pairs passed to give us 61 combinations in the CCI2* and 36 combinations in the CCI3*.

We normally have damp, chilly weather for the USEF CCI3* and CCI2* National Championships at Fair Hill, not to mention a mammoth amount of rain leading up to the event. This year has seen bizarre Indian summer weather stretch far into October to give us one of the warmest and driest renditions of Fair Hill in recent memory.

In the CCI2*, Waylon Roberts’ mount Born Ready was sent to the holding box and accepted upon re-presentation. In the CCI3*, Buck Davidson’s mount Carlevo and Sara Moore’s mount Polaris were both sent to the holding box, and both were accepted upon re-presentation.

No rest for the weary! Les Smith, on the left, was also on the ground jury for Boekelo at the weekend. We both flew from Amsterdam to the East Coast on Monday morning and now here we are at Fair Hill. Les joins Gretchen Butts, center, and Robert Stevenson, right, on the CCI3* ground jury. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Fair Hill is one of five CCI3* competitions in North America. It serves as a key event for combinations aiming for the Kentucky Three-Day Event in the spring, as Derek di Grazia designs the cross country courses at both venues.

There is something sacred about this event. It is the culmination of a season for many. It is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams for others. Simply to be here is an honor, and I love watching the support crews of all the different teams on the Wednesday of Fair Hill.

Marley Stone Bourke, who is competing Quality Pop in the USEA Young Event Horse 5-Year-Old Championships here at Fair Hill, stood ringside with her 8-month-old son, Senan, while proud papa Tim Bourke trotted up his star four-star partner Luckaun Quality.

Marley Stone Bourke and Senan. Photo by Jenni Autry.

I’ll confess upfront that I’ll be cheering loudly for Sara Moore and Polaris this weekend. After delivering a personal best dressage test at the Plantation Field CIC3* last month, they are seeking another qualifying score here at Fair Hill this weekend.

All of us stood with our hearts in our throats when Polaris was sent to the holding box during the CCI3* horse inspection. As tense minutes ticked by and the remainder of the horses made their way down the jog strip, we waited for Sara to re-present Polaris, or “Larry” as he is known to his friends.

Sara’s mom, Lindsy Gumbiner, walked back to the jog strip, faithfully recording video as Sara jogged with Larry once again. When Brian O’Connor spoke those coveted words — “Accepted!” — Lindsy turned to me and wisely said, “It is never easy.”

Sara Moore and Polaris. Photo by Jenni Autry.

No, it is never easy. This sport takes everything we have and more. And yet that’s what keeps us coming back. It is the ultimate test, for horse and rider but also for those who support us. That is what makes eventing at the highest level of the sport so special. That is what makes Fair Hill special.

I’ll let the rest of the photos do the talking. Scroll down for a gallery of my favorite photos from today’s first horse inspection. Dressage starts at 8 a.m. EST tomorrow for the 4-year-old Young Event Horse division, followed by the 5-year-olds and CCI2* both starting at 11 a.m. EST. Keep it locked on EN for more from Fair Hill. Go Eventing.

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