Ian Stark’s Newest 4* Challenge: Coming to the Maryland International This Summer

On July 7-9, 2023, a new 4*S and Advanced horse trial will hit the American eventing calendar at the Maryland International, located in Adamstown, Maryland. I got on the phone with the course designer, Ian Stark, as well as the venue’s owner and organizer, Carolyn Mackintosh, to ask about their plans for the new 4*S in the heart of Area II.

“An Educational Track”: Ian Stark’s Plans for the Course

Ian Stark has designed cross country courses around the globe. In trying to assess his approach to designing at this event, I asked him what other 4* in the world he would liken it to. “It’s not a huge acreage, so I would compare it to Tattersalls [Ireland].” Tattersalls, which was a destination event in Ireland, was on a fairly small property, and Ian got the experience of making the best use of a smaller venue. The trick, he explained, is “trying not to pull horses around.” Thus, he tries to avoid anything twisty. His plan with the Maryland 4* is to make the track open and flowing. Ian has designed the courses at the Maryland Horse Trials for a number of years, including for their 2*S and 3*S courses most recently.

“It will be designed as an educational track for the first year or two,” Ian expounded, noting that the space in the calendar that the 4* occupies will be ideal for horses and riders getting going in the mid-summer, or perhaps for pairs new to the level building on their spring campaigns.

The Maryland Horse Trials team, including course designer Ian Stark, as well as the venue’s owner and organizer, Carolyn Mackintosh, are working hard to continue developing the venue for the Eventing community.

As for the plans for the track itself, Ian described some exciting additions. “We have built a new 4* coffin, a new leaf pit, and a new bank complex at the big water which can be used for lots of different levels.” He also noted that they have made a specific camber track through the woods for the 4*, which will ensure that they are running on exactly the terrain he intends. Finally, the team has built up an area down behind the arenas which will make it more suitable for the course to run through.

Hard ground is often a concern for riders in the summer months. I asked about this issue, and Ian noted that the course is getting new top soil and new grass planted. The team works tirelessly on the ground, watering and aggravating it to ensure that the horses can run on the best ground possible.

In all, Ian is excited about the new track and hopes it will be educational and exciting for horses and riders. Given its place in the calendar, it will fill an important gap because there are no other events at that level in the month of July on the East Coast.

The course will provide an educational opportunity to fill a gap in the east coast competition calendar in July.

The Woman Behind the Scenes: Carolyn Mackintosh

“Everywhere we go to design courses, we joke that we should bring Carolyn, because she is so good at making grass grow!” Ian laughs.

Anyone who has been to the Maryland Horse Trials in the past has probably met Carolyn Mackintosh, the owner of the venue. She is a force of nature, and she is good at not only making grass grow. She organizes all of shows with a trusted team of secretaries, course designers and builders, and of course an army of volunteers. I often see her running scores or organizing fence judges, but she is never too busy to stop and say hello.

In January, Ian Stark recounts visiting the venue and making some plans for the summer event. He gave Carolyn four new ideas for projects on the cross country course, some of which involved a fair amount of earth-moving. “I thought she’d take a couple of years to complete these projects, but I visited the venue last week, and she was already done with them!”. If that story doesn’t describe Carolyn’s zealous approach to running and improving her events, I am not sure what does.

With a dedicated and driven team, the course’s progress has been coming along quickly.

Carolyn herself describes the new 4*S with excitement. Her latest investments in the venue include an upgraded hospitality viewing area above the main arena, which will provide a view not only of the arena but of the entire cross country course. The cross country course will run in and out of the arena twice, making it a fun up-close experience for spectators.

With a ground jury of Marilyn Payne, Gretchen Butts, Peter Gray, and Bobby Stevenson, competitors are sure to have a great experience at the event. Carolyn has also brought on Joanie Morris to help her run it. The venue is still looking for sponsors and would welcome any contact from those interested.

Carolyn also indicated that scholarships will be made available for select entrants in the 1* through 4* classes, who will also receive a cash grant for the weekend. Details about the application process for these scholarships and grants will be forthcoming.

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

I attended some of my very first events at the Maryland Horse Trials. They were unrecognized shows, and my brother and I were just learning about the sport. We undoubtedly made mistakes, and probably went off-course and fell off a number of times. But those starter events (which the venue still runs regularly) are what hooked me on eventing. They are the events to which I first took my now-5* partner Bendigo, when I was 14 years old and he had never been to an event before in his life.

This is all to say that the Maryland Horse Trials is special because it caters to everyone. And this sport is, really, about everyone. It’s about the new-to-eventing families who are getting a taste of the sport, just as it is about the Advanced horses and riders who now have a new 4* on their calendar. Looking ahead, the venue will continue to serve everyone in the community. I hope you will put the Maryland International in July on your calendars, whether it be to ride, spectate, or volunteer. Go eventing.

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