Dangerous Amphibians and Disco Divas: The Maryland 5 Star Golden Chinch Awards

For the last 24 to 48 to, okay, let’s be real, 150 or so hours, I have been deep in the kind of sulk you simply cannot reach me through. It is a sulk like a swamp; a mood so thick and soupy and opaque that I might as well have ear plugs in and an eye mask on. The reason for this dire state of emotional affairs? Simple: I haven’t been sent across the pond to the MARS Maryland 5 Star, presented by Brown Advisory, this year, even though I had the most fun last year and that, surely, is what I’m paid to do, right? RIGHT?!

Anyway, there’s one person who knows me well enough to get me out of my swamp sulk, even when it’s at its very swampiest and sulkiest. That, of course, is my editor, Sally Spickard, who handed me an olive branch in the form of an opportunity: the opportunity to take it all out on this year’s competitors and their outfit choices.

And so, a short and sweet edition of the Golden Chinch Awards, to fit this small but perfectly-formed field of competitors. I love you all, and that’s why I’m horrible to you, which is a really healthy way to view interactions with other people, right?

The Golden Chinch for Dressing to the Brief if the Brief is ‘A Wedding in India’

Austin O’Connor (IRE) and Colorado Blue. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Every time Austin rocks up in this waistcoat, I get that MC Punjabi song stuck in my head, which is great news for me, because I think that might actually be one of the all-time greatest bangers ever created, and that is an opinion you will not sway me from. I’ve actually now gone on a deep-dive about this waist coat style, which I’m not really going to make fun of, because that would be a weird thing to do after pointing out that it looks like a bit of Indian formal wear. So instead, some fun facts: that’s actually called a Sadri, or a Nehru jacket, apparently, and you can pair it with Kurta pyjama sets to elevate a look to wedding-ready, which, frankly, suggests to me that all the rest of us are doing weddings wholly and completely wrong, because I have never once been told I can wear pyjamas for the nuptials and not be shamed for it. How did the Nehru jacket worm its way into the tweedy stylings of the British nouveau-aristocracy’s favourite clothing brands? IDK, probably the same way coronation chicken became one of Britain’s most recognisable sandwich fillings: colonisation.*

*This is a joke, kind of, so please don’t shout at me in the comments, because I probably won’t read them anyway.

The Golden Chinch for Doing That Thing That Venomous Frogs Do and Looking Real Colourful and Fun While Also Being Frightening, Actually, and Maybe Dangerous

Caroline Powell (NZL) and Greenacres Special Cavalier. Photo by Sally Spickard.

I think my favourite thing about this outfit is that it’s like, quite sweet, right? It’s a bit Barbie-meets-flower-power; a bit bright and saccharine, in a nice way, but definitely in a way that suggests that its wearer probably hands out lollipops to orphaned kittens in her down time, or something. But if you’ve met Caroline — or, indeed, just about any high-achieving female event rider from New Zealand — you know that the reality is rather different. The reality is kind of more like that one gnarly Shetland pony at every yard that’s just too damn mean to die. They kick! They bite! They’re somehow dangerous in the middle! Why is it that Kiwis have the reputation for being laidback when this is so often the reality? (Jonelle, I’m looking at you, too, here.)

(For what it’s worth, Caroline is actually great. She’s very funny. She’s a good egg. Jonelle, too. But they are both TERRIFYING. Don’t accept the lollipop.)

The Golden Chinch for Treating Life Like a Picnic By Also Dressing Like a Picnic

Mia Farley and Phelps. Photo by Sally Spickard.

When you’ve got the trot-up at 1 and the regional saucisson and cider festival at 3, amiright? When you’ve somehow developed a taste for olives that’s so insatiable that at any point in time, you need to be able to stop, drop, and roll, and then crack open several of those 3-for-$10 fancy snack selection tubs and dive right on into those divisive, oily bad boys, yaknooowwww? Actually, Mia’s outfit is very sensible, because if she were to sit on the grass in those almost disturbingly pristine white jeans, she would end up with a green bum, but because she has enshrouded herself in a handy-dandy blanket, she can sit wherever she likes. She’s like this guy! Kind of.

The Golden Chinch for Managing Microclimates

Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Sally Spickard.

We are, realistically, at a cusp. The cusp of seasons, wherein surprisingly hot days become wintry chills as the sun goes down; the cusp, too, of our descent into a climate that simply cannot be regulated, and something to do with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo di Caprio.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I, for one, am always somehow both a little bit chilly and a little bit sweaty at the moment, and pretty much always kind of grumpy as a result. And maybe Lillian Heard Wood (did she?) feels the same way, because she’s got this thing going on today that’s very winter-up-top, summer-down-below, which I think must regulate core temperature while also allowing for maximum breathability, and may, as such, be the most sensible trot-up outfit I’ve ever seen.

That, or she bought a nice dress, and then got cold and panicked, which is also something I do often.

The Golden Chinch for Doubling Up on Necklines

Emily Hamel and Corvett. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Emily Hamel is the worthy winner and, in fact, the only true contender in this category, although that might just be because we don’t ever really know what’s lurking beneath the collars of event riders, nor should we aspire to know, in most cases. Here, though, Emily is proudly rocking that most universal of equestrian accessories in fine style, with a built-in V neck to go with a squared-off sweetheart neckline and a pair of very good shades that say “yeah, I know a thing or two about the sun, actually.” I’m not sure which Caribbean beach she’s been lying on prior to Maryland; I’m also not sure how well she’s faring emotionally now that she’s in a climate in which tights are a necessary layer to stave off the cold. Can someone check on Emily, maybe get her a pack of those shakeable hand warmers and also a margarita? Thanks.

The Golden Chinch for the Ra-Ra-Rasputin-est Rider

Sarah Kuhn and Mr. Cash van de Start. Photo by Sally Spickard.

There lived a certain gal in Aiken (not) long ago
She was tall and strong, in her eyes a flaming glow
Most people look at her with terror and with fear
But to five-star steeds she was such a lovely dear…

Or something like that, anyway. I’m not sure anyone looks at Sarah with terror, nor with fear, but I certainly always look at her with enormously high expectations, because this girl never fails to deliver on the outfit front. Whether it’s the silk tailcoat she rocked up in for dressage at Carolina this spring, or her baby blue showjumping jacket, or now this, the Studio 54 disco-decadent one-piece of dreams, she’s always bringing the noise. This outfit is my favourite of the day, because it is pure chaotic good. It’s giving Elton John. It’s giving Liberace. It’s giving, ‘I’m going to go dunk some hoops like that one bit in that Ice Cube song’. It’s giving ‘I’ll spook your horse with my sequins and I do not give a damn, but also, just try to hate me for it, because you can’t.’ Sarah Kuhn is a red rag to this fashion bull, and I’ve just lost my damn mind and got my horns stuck on the arena siding. I just hope she’s planning on wearing the shades on cross-country day.

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EN’s coverage of MARS Maryland 5 Star is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products.

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