Monday, October 19, 2020

going the distance @ Fair Hill

Happy Monday everybody! Wayyyyyy back a million years ago in the before times of April 2018, my friend Amy and I took our horses out to the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area parking lot on Telegraph Rd to meet up with Michele and Sarah for a trail ride

charlie and the water tower <3 <3
And just a few months prior to that, my friend Scott had offered me a ride on his own legendary retired prelim / 3rd level dressage campaigner Freebee for a similar ride across Fair Hill.

setting off!!
Both of those past rides were incredible -- for a few different reasons. Obvi riding with Sarah and Michele is fun under any circumstances, but that ride was esp poignant since it came right before Michele moved down to Tennessee, and was my only encounter with the dearly missed Batt horse <3. 

blue stone lanes behind the race training stables
The ride with Scott was a treat unto itself too, as he's been a volunteer mounted park ranger at Fair Hill for years. All of his horses have been likewise certified for duty, and over time he's come to know just about every single little thing there is to know about this park. 

scott knows literally everything about everything fair hill. including this history behind this grove of newly planted trees. maybe the boy scouts?? i can't remember haha
Ever since those rides, I've been trying to coordinate, cajole or otherwise coerce everyone into a return trip. But ya know. It turns out, schedules are hard and people have lives or some shit like that haha.

charlie <3's punky
Every time I saw Scott, tho - including all this spring when he so very generously loaned me the rides on his amazing horse Freebee and another special retiree Red while Charlie's barn was quarantined - we talked about getting back out to Fair Hill. By hook or by crook.

one of many (MANY) bridge crossings
And as these things always seem to happen, it finally happened pretty freakin randomly lol. Scott texted me one Saturday night around 9pm, asking if I'd like to go the next morning. Naturally, yes I did like, haha. 

ruins (restored and otherwise) errywhere -- they come up so quick yours truly couldn't even frame up a shot haha
Doubly naturally, I shot off a quick text to Amy inviting her to come along with her intrepid ottb Punky. Which, triply naturally, she also quickly rsvp'd, "Yes Please!"

we've been down this road a few times
And so, bright and early the next morning, off we went to that very same parking lot on Telegraph Rd, right across the street from the new International Arena. 

charlie's look here aims to remind me that he is *not* an endurance tb, thankyouverymuch
I warned Amy that we might be in for a slightly longer ride, since Scott routinely lays down some pretty long tracks at the park.... But even I was surprised after we clocked in somewhere close to 9mi when it was all said and done. Poor Charlie haha, he's been pretty coddled with his little 20-30min jaunts LOL!

covered bridge!! 
Really, tho, it was amazing. I luckily remembered to initiate two different tracking apps at the beginning of the ride, too, so we got some pretty good meta data on trails, elevations, speeds, distances, etc. 

in my experience, horses don't seemed to perturbed at entering the bridge -- but the echoes of hoof steps often catch them by surprise (check out the video to see what i mean!)
It was especially cool bc this is my fourth time now riding the trails at Fair Hill. First ever was actually in the BC {before Charlie} era, a paper chase with Isabel in July 2016 wherein we got hopelessly and irretrievably lost, all in the name of charity, and loved every second of it

this section was SO PRETTY -- the trees were so straight!
And somehow, during this ride with Scott as our fearless leader, we managed to cover basically almost allllllll the same ground as all those previous rides, plus some new tracks and paths too. Including one little dog leg that nudged jusssst over the MD-PA borderline (see the map below).

my pictures don't do it justice at all, but i <3'ed it
It felt like we crossed just about every single bridge in the park, tho realistically I know that's not true. Bc omg there are SO MANY BRIDGES at Fair Hill haha. We crossed a bunch, tho. Quite a few streams, and even through some tunnels too!

there are buildings and even private residences strewn throughout the area
We went back behind the racing stables; through some of the resource management fields used for hay, butterfly habitat, and other ecological studies; briefly into Pennsylvania; forged a stream and climbed a wicked canyon-esque hill; past some old ruins and bluestone lanes where the fox hounds live; past the streams where families were playing; through the Appleton Lot fields; into the very old International cross country fields; and the more recently "old" International xc fields; past the former main arena and into the Sawmill field (site of our recent derby); then finally back across to the stabling area and eventually over the final bridge to our parking lot on Telegraph Rd.

another bridge, this time over a busy highway
Let me tell you -- it was a hike. But ohhhh so beautiful -- and perfect weather and footing too! Scott was mostly looking for an outing where his horse Chase could just settle in and chill, rather than spaz out all the time. And obviously Charlie and Punky were happy to oblige. 

nostalgic for this old international arena. the new one is nice but... this old site has so much character and is so iconic!
Tho when Chase proved to be in a reasonable state of mind, we may or may not have snuck in a few trots and canters across the open fields <3 <3 <3

only barely resisted the temptation to dart in for a quick pretend victory gallop haha
I was actually slightly worried that Charlie might be likewise a bit wild too -- since we'd just done back-to-back hunter paces the week prior (uh, spoiler, post on that coming soon too, probably!). But actually he was pretty much spot-on perfect. 

one of fair hill's iconic tunnels!! watch the vid to see Punky almost lose his shit at the noise reverberations haha
His only real moment of patented Charlie Sadness was when we spotted a horse-drawn buggy in the distance. And oh, poor Charlie! His sadness was extreme, his despair deep. He lived tho, lol.

punky & chase were like two peas in a pod, almost twins and super similar in temperament 
Finally, tho, we were back at the parking lots, with three tired sweaty and happy OTTBs <3 <3

What a cool ride! I honestly can't believe it's been so difficult to get back here -- it's not like it isn't close to home. But it's an enormous park, and as we've demonstrated before, kiiiinda easy to get lost there. Going with someone like Scott who knows, inside and out, all the various trails and loops and connection points is really the way to do it. 

seriously tho, what a perfect day! <3 <3 <3
So here's hoping it won't be another 2+ years before we do it again haha. And, seriously, for real this time, hopefully we can eventually be organized enough to get a group together, rather than such a last minute set to. Altho.... Honestly, there's something kinda nice about the impulsivity of going out on a ~9mi lark haha. 

stats from what's officially both my and charlie's longest ever ride haha
Not sure I have the tolerance for much longer than that, to be honest, 6-8mi is more my limit. But it's nice to stretch out and challenge ourselves every now and again. And I think even Charlie was a little surprised at his own stamina LOL! 

Anyone else ringing in the fall with trail rides of epic proportions? Or, maybe more to the point, anyone local out there annoyed I didn't get the invites out fast enough and feeling more particularly motivated to make another ride like this happen asap?!


  1. Looks like fun but way too long! LOL! And hey, you were at Fair Hill on what would have been FHI weekend!

    1. this ride was a little over a month ago so we missed the fall colors and weekend nostalgia... but yea, so so so fun!!

  2. What a gorgeous park! I'm slightly jealous, looks like you had a blast! I'll just live vicariously through other peoples trail riding posts, I'd kill for a trail ride like that but my lease doesn't really like to do trail rides very much.

    1. aw, yea that can be tough. tho i just found your blog link and clicked through -- and that mare looks LOVELY! it's hard when not every horse wants to do all the same things, but ya never know -- sometimes having the right companion out on the trails can make all the difference!

  3. Sounds like a lovely ride!! That park is beautiful - what a great place to get in a longer hack!

    1. fair hill is such an incredible resource -- we're so lucky to have it so close to home!!

  4. Wow, what a great place for a ride! That is a long time for a butt in a saddle, but I would have jumped on the opportunity, too.

    1. oh man haha, definitely a long ride -- i'm pretty sure it's my longest ever, actually. but so so worth it :D

  5. Yes and I'm working my way through my back log of posts. But I spent my birthday weekend trail riding in the mountains. We kept it short (for us) and only did about 6 miles each day, but we're endurance riders, and there was a LOT of elevation change

    1. lol i think charlie would disown me if i tried to make him do multiple 6mi rides day after day, esp if there was any appreciable elevation involved haha... for real tho, that sounds amazing. happy birthday!!

  6. So nice to have access to such a beautiful place! Sounds like a great day!

    1. definitely -- a super fun time on a gorgeous piece of land!! :D

  7. Wow, what an amazing place to go for a ride and everything is so green and the trails look so nice! I wish we had somewhere like that here. Sounds like a fab day out

  8. I'm just a wee bit jealous of you. Especially now that apparently fall is over where I live because we have snow now.

  9. That sounds like a wonderful experience. I loved how expressive Charlie's ears are going over the bridges. I would love to join you but am too far away. :(

  10. Crossing statelines on horseback! How cool!


Thanks for leaving a comment! If you have trouble with this form, please email: fraidycat.eventing at gmail.