She came from California determined to conquer “the beast that is Fair Hill” and Frankie Thieriot Stutes was not going home without a trophy. The amateur eventer artfully guided Chatwin, a quirky black Oldenburg with an unorthodox jumping style, to finish on her dressage score by acing cross-country and putting in a tremendous show jumping round that didn’t need the one-rail-plus grace she had to spare.
“I feel like one of the mistakes I made the last time I came East with him I was really consumed...with what other people were doing, like how did this person look the day before dressage?,” she said.
“This weekend I came here and I was like, you know what? I’m just going to be in this moment and be present with Chatwin and if I can do the best we can do, that will be good enough for me,” commented Frankie, noting the show jumping phase has been her weak point with the horse.
“I’ve done two CCI 3-stars with him and I’ve had a rail in both and I feel like we’re better than that. I desperately for myself wanted to leave those up today,” she explained.
The pure joy of the victory, which also carried the trophy for the U.S. National 3-Star Championship, brought tears to Frankie’s eyes as she dismounted and put in a video phone call from the ring with her family at home to share her happiness. She is the mother of two small sons, Drake, 3, and Kingsley, 11 months, and somehow manages to care for them while training Chatwin and running two businesses, Athletux, an equine marketing firm, and a company producing handbags she designs herself. She also gets a helping hand from her husband, Mike.
“I’m feeling incredibly lucky and grateful to be here,” said Frankie, 31. She was talking not just about winning her second CCI 3-star this year (the first was at the Rebecca event in Montana), but also about her friends and supporters. As she pointed out, what counts is that not only do they rally when she’s on top, but they are there when she is down as well. Fellow Californians Heather Morris and Tamie Smith roomed with her and helped out. There were thoughts it might be a West Coast two-fer when both Heather, a 2-star competitor, and Frankie won their dressage, but Heather ran into trouble on cross-country with Charlie Tango and retired. Still, she was there offering aid to Frankie in the warm-up for show jumping, and Tamie was right there too.
The California contingent was emotional after Frankie clinched her victory at the event that is known as a test of champions for its hills, the camber of its ground and the insightful questions asked by the cross-country routes laid out by 2020 Olympic course designer Derek DiGrazia. Everyone who knows considers the 3-star a 3 ½ star.
“It’s so awesome. Frankie works so hard,” said Tamie after hugs all around, praising Frankie’s “mental strength. You can only help a little bit but they have to go in and do it, and she did.”
Find out more about Frankie and her plans by watching this video.
She keeps Chatwin at home, where her retired mount, Fric Frac, makes sure the new boy stays in line. Frankie bought Chatwin as a five-year-old five years ago from former Canadian eventing coach Clayton Fredericks after professionals turned him down. The two have developed a partnership, but it still has its moments. Yesterday, for instance, Chatwin was excused from the vet box after cross-country when he became disruptive and reared. But today, Frankie was riding him in a plain snaffle, though she couldn’t quite believe it.
Buck Davidson had been standing second in the 3-star with Archie Rocks, but a rail at the final fence dropped him to third with 36.4 penalties, while Boyd Martin rose to second with Long Island T after a clear round that kept him at 33.4 penalties. Marc Donovan’s show jumping layout was quite influential in shuffling the standings, with only 10 of 33 starters and four in the top 12 able to achieve a double-clear.
Like Chatwin, Boyd’s mount was a challenge—so much so that he once considered selling him. But Long Island T has come around and Boyd thinks the world of him. It was quite a Fair Hill for Boyd, who won the 2-star with On Cue, a mare he thinks has great potential. Click on this video to hear Boyd talk about his horses and his thoughts after a disappointing FEI World Equestrian Games last month.
Boyd did not have a rail to spare with On Cue, who led with 23.7 penalties, as Emily Beshear lurked in second on 26.8 with Olney Uncle Sam, but the French-bred mare was at her best to leave everything in place.
Emily, meanwhile, jumped clear to finish second on a day so cold and windy that rails occasionally came down without the help of a horse. But in Uncle Sam’s case, Emily said, “I think maybe it helped me that it was windy and things were blowing around and kept him a little more aware of the jumps.”
For complete results, go to this link
I’ve been to all 30 Fair Hill events, and before that, to the eventing competition previously held in Pennsylvania at Chesterland, the farm that gained fame as the home base of Bruce Davidson.
Moving the event to the former DuPont estate owned by the state of Maryland was the perfect move. The competition has matured over the years and from the beginning drew name competitors for the 3-star such as Karen O’Connor, who won the first renewal at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area; her husband, David; Phillip Dutton, Bruce Davidson, Boyd and many others. I’m looking forward to finding out who will win number 31.