Welcome to the 30th anniversary of Fair Hill, an event that has served as one of the most prestigious competitions in North America since its inception in 1989. The late Mike Tucker served as the event’s first cross country course designer and put Fair Hill on the map as a demanding track. Derek di Grazia, who won the CCI3* in 1991, took over as course designer in 1999. Since then Fair Hill’s reputation has continued to grow as the toughest CCI3* track on this side of the world.
This year’s course is as demanding as ever. The first three jumps — Log Berm at fence 1, Fish Tank at fence 2, and Hot and Cold Oxer at fence 3, will settle horses and riders into a rhythm. The Hanging Log at fence 4 is set in the tree line, and riders will then turn sharply left and make their way to the first combination on course at fence 5, the Frog Pond. Riders will jump in over the cabin at 5A and splash into the water for the brush at fence 5B.
Riders will then turn right out of the tree line and kick along for the first galloping stretch on course to fence 6, the Sneaky Snake. Then riders will bend left around the next tree line to the first meaty combination on course at fence 7AB, Table and Brush. Riders will land downhill following the table at 7A and bend left in six strides to a right-pointed brush corner at 7B. The intensity continues to build from this point in the course.
The Potting Shed at fence 8 breaks up a galloping stretch to the next combination on course at fence 9ABC, the Covered Bridge with a right bending line to the Offset Cabins set on one stride. Fence 10, the Sunset Ditch, has a generous brush ground line. Then there is a long galloping stretch to the Chesapeake Water at fence 11. After galloping up the hill to jump the skinny stump at 11A, the ground drops away sharply on the landing side. Horses will splash into the water and take on the duck at 11B before galloping away.
Fence 12, the Tiger Trap, breaks up another galloping stretch. Then riders will turn left back along the tree line for the coffin at fence 13, the Ed Walls Question. Horses will jump in over the rails at 13A with one stride to the ditch at 13B, then rocket up the hill in two strides to a right-pointed corner at 13C.
Fence 14, the Picnic Table, and fence 15, the Open Oxer, break up the longest galloping stretch on course, which also includes a grueling hill designed to test fitness. The next combination at fence 15, the Persimmon Turn, is set at the top of the course following the uphill pull and has a narrow open oxer set over a ditch at 16A, followed by a bending five strides to a narrow brush angled over a ditch at 16B.
Then riders will make their way towards the main arena for fence 17, the Main Arena Log and Brush, which has riders jump a beefy hanging log at 17A and make their way down the hill and towards the right in three strides to a triple brush. Fence 18, the Stone Cottage, is set directly in the center of the main arena.
Riders will then exit the arena and make their way to a spectator-heavy zone for the next combination at fence 19, the Farmhouse Corners, set on two strides. Fence 20, the Horseshoe Brush, and fence 21, Centerpiece, break up the next galloping stretch before the Double Brush combination at fence 22AB.
Then it’s on to the Fair Hill Table at fence 23 before a new combination on course this year at fence 24, the Angled Logs. Set on a right bending line on a downhill slope, riders chasing the time will have to determine how much horse they have left late in the course and how sharply they can angle the first log.
The final combination on course at fence 25AB, the Springhouse Water, typically causes quite a lot of trouble. The ground drops away sharply after the cabin at fence 25A, and the angled brush at 25B invites a runout to the right. Riders will then go on to the penultimate jump on course at fence 26, the Sunburst Table, and finally to the last jump at fence 27, the Produce Stand.
Derek di Grazia’s CCI3* course has 40 total jumping efforts set across 5,760 meters. The optimum time is 10 minutes, 7 seconds, and EN is predicting that seven pairs will catch the time. CCI3* cross country will stream live on USEF Network at 1:30 p.m. EST on Saturday.
Alissa Norman and Jacki Russell kindly recorded the track on CrossCountry App, so you can preview all the fences below. Many thanks to Alissa and Jacki! Keep it locked on EN for much more from Fair Hill. Go Eventing.