When the American Horse Show Association first called on Chuck Maslin to represent the United States at the World Show Jumping Championships this summer in Europe, he said no.
The Havre de Grace residenthad not been on a horse in two years, not since the last world championships in 1989 in Helsinki, Finland. Maslin had finished sixth in Helsinki, bettering his 11th-place mark at the 1987 world championships.
After all that time without practice, Maslin, 31, wasn't sure howhe would do this time.
"I had done so well the other two times, that I didn't want to make a fool of myself. I wasn't going unless I was going to win. You don't go just to do a good job."
But the calls kept coming, and Maslin -- somewhat reluctantly -- gave in.
"Glad I did though. I rode better than I had in years and years," said Maslin, who won an individual bronze medal in the biennial world championships in Bern, Switzerland, three weeks ago.
He battled his perennial nemesis, Kenneth Wrede of Finland, but Wrede won his second straight gold medal.
Maslin got a little revenge by leading the United States to the team gold. The U.S. had won the gold in 1987, the first year of the championships, but relinquished the title to the Swissin Helsinki.
Over four days, Maslin and his mount only knocked down one fence, as he and 39 other riders from 12 countries competed inarena jumping. They raced against the clock, jumping over eight to 15 fences on a tight course with penalties assessed for each fence refused or knocked down.
Maslin gave a lot of the credit to his Irish-bred mount, a horse he met the day before the championships. In thisevent, none of the riders brings his own horse.
"The competition is to determine who the best rider is," said Maslin, adding that a good horse can make a weak rider look better than he really is.
Riders choose their mounts in a blind draw and have just an hour in the saddle the day before the competition. In each of the three world championship competitions, Maslin said he has drawn an excellent horse.
"The draw can make or break you," said Maslin, who didn't even needthe full hour to know that he could do well on his horse. "I rode for 20 minutes, and it was obvious we were clicking. Of all the riders,I was the first one to get off."
Guiding a strange mount could bea formidable challenge for many riders, but Maslin said the draw actually helps him.
"When I was riding, I rode so many different horses that I'm used to getting on one and figuring out what that horse needs and doing it. All three times I've been there I've gotten horsesI get along with very well," said Maslin, who won his first state championship at age 2 1/2 in a lead-line class.
Maslin's success at the world championships didn't surprise his mother, Molly Maslin. After all, she taught him to ride on the family farm, Maslin's Little Acres in Perryman, a community south of Riverside.
Maslin chalked much of his success up to natural ability, and his mother agreed that he has always been a natural with horses.
"I liken it to someone who plays the piano and can just do it very easily compared to the person who does it and goes through a lot of pain and suffering to do it well," said Molly Maslin, who still raises horses and teaches riding.
"When he was 18, there was a championship here in the county, andChuck decided he was going to win it. He never got on a horse exceptfor the horse shows, and he won. That's what makes me believe it must be something that practice doesn't put there."
Even though he doesn't ride much any more, Maslin still spends much of his time aroundhorses. He covers many international events, including the last three Olympic games, for magazines such as Horse Play and Horse World USA. He also freelances as writer and photographer.
When he's not jetting around the world as a correspondent, Maslin runs Enterprises Unlimited, an acoustics management and promotion business. He also founded Quackers, the comedy club at the Tidewater Grille, on the Chesapeake Bay in Havre de Grace.
With so many jobs that often bump into one another, Maslin often jets from one continent to another without even thinking about it. At the conclusion of the world championships, Maslin had lunch in Zurich, Switzerland, and then had dinner on the midway at the Cecil County Fair that night.
Since 1980, he has worked in 19 states, two Canadian provinces, eight European countries andtwo Asian countries. Maslin had been to seven countries behind the Iron Curtain before it fell.
Last week, Maslin had planned to be inHavana, Cuba, for the Pan American Games. But the grind finally tookits toll and he stayed home. He did a few local jobs with his sound company instead.
Maslin already has a killer schedule for the nextfew months. His plans include working the sound system for a horse show in the Hamptons in New York, as well as for the Labor Day steeplechase and turf races at Fair Hill. He also will spend a lot of time preparing for a Quackers' annual community benefit show on Oct. 27 featuring Rita Rudner.
It's hard to tell when he might get back on a horse -- it might not be for another two years.