Upcoming Equestrian Event Keeps Gilbert Jumping Churchville Mom Is Saddled With Queries From Best U.s. Riders

October 21, 1990|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

The phone rings constantly these days in Trish Gilbert's kitchen.

The Churchville mother of six is patiently fielding questions from some of the nation's top equestrians about the upcoming Fair Hill International Three-Day Event, one of the premier equestrian skills events in America.

As the event director, Gilbert, 49, has gone through all of this before.

The closer to the event, the more urgent the inquiries become, she says.

With the Fair Hill event coming up on Friday, Gilbert says it seems she cannot escape the telephone.

Before she and her husband, Bill, moved their family to Harford County from northern Virginia seven years ago, Gilbert was director of the Blue Ridge Horse Trials. She also handled organizing the spring three-day U.S.

Equestrian Team championship.

When the family sold its Virginia farm and moved to the 75-acre Church Mouse Meadows Farm, Gilbert found she wanted to stay involved in the big equestrian events.

A former national level competitor in the grueling three-day, Gilbert now directs the U.S. team's fall championship, now in its second year at Fair Hill, located in Cecil County, five miles west of Newark, Del.

It ranks as one of the premier equestrian events in this country.

Results are used to qualify riders for international competition.

This year's Fair Hill challengers include Bruce Davidson, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist who won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Sweden this August.

Next year, riders will have their last chances to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Barcelona at the Fair Hill International.

When Gilbert gets a rare break from giving out lodging and travel information to riders from as far away as Utah, she turns her attention to promoting the event, which she thinks is not as widely known among the general public as it should be.

Gilbert says first-time spectators are easily hooked.

"You don't have to know anything about it to come out and watch and have a good time," said Gilbert. "Fair Hill is such a beautiful place, especially this time of year."

Fair Hill also will play host to a trade fair, an exhibition of driving the disabled -- a competitive event using horse-drawn carriages -- and agility trials for dogs.

Friday's competition opens at 10 a.m. with dressage, a test putting horse and rider through a series of complex turns and halts. Some equestrians compare dressage to school figures in ice skating.

Sunday stadium jumping begins at noon. The finale takes riders over railed fences on a compact course inside an arena. Riders race against the clock again, but they pick up penalties for not completing the course cleanly.

In the middle is the endurance test of cross country on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Competitors race against the clock through a 21-mile course with 36 different fences. Each fence offers a variety of options, but the easiest route over takes the most time.

This year, the cross country course has been redesigned so spectators can see eight or nine fences from one spot.

Gilbert helped design some of those fences working as an assistant to Michael Tucker, an Englishman.

"Cross country designing is quite a challenge," said Gilbert, who also has worked on courses in New York and New Mexico.

"You can't just make it pretty. You have to look at it from the horse's perspective. You have to keep in mind that the riders can walk the course as many times as they want, but the horses never see it."

Although Gilbert hasn't competed in some time, some of her children are following in her boot steps.

The youngest Gilbert, daughter Mandy, a sophomore at John Carroll High School, rides horses, and her sister Rumsey, a senior at John Carroll, qualified for the National Young Riders Championship in Georgia in November.

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