At 5, she's ready for the hurdles ahead

A journey from reality to fantasy


September 02, 2001|By Sandy Alexander

By the time the Maryland State Fair ends tomorrow, thousands of young people will have taken part in competitions from sewing to farming to tending animals. Nearly 400 will have competed on horseback, among them one Samantha Hayden, age 5, the youngest competitor riding on her own this year.

The annual event in Timonium was a week of firsts for Samantha: her first time in competition there, her first time riding at a canter and jumping 2-foot obstacles in competition anywhere. Not to mention her visits to the cow barn and the ubiquitous food booths.

Being a horse lover, though, is nothing new in Samantha's family. Her great-great-great grandfather used draft horses to work his farm in Taneytown; today, Fair's Hill Farm is home to 23 horses and has a tack shop, riding lessons and horse boarding.

Samantha's grandmother rode this week at the fair, as did her mother, Marti Fair, who has literally had Samantha riding since birth: She held the newborn on a horse the day she came home from the hospital.

Now Samantha helps with the farm's chores and wakes up early to play with her pony before school.

Her accomplishments at the fair were modest: She shared 11th place in the riding competition, won two ninth-place ribbons riding with short stirrups and jumping 12-inch hurdles, and earned a fourth place for grooming and showmanship. And she didn't have much to say about the experience, leaving that to her mother.

"She was very excited," not nervous, said Fair. "Mom was a lot worse than she was."

Her riding coach, Ginger LaBarre of Littlestown, Pa., was more proud than anxious. Samantha may have been a 5-year-old competing against older kids for the first time at the state fair, LaBarre said, but the girl "is tough."

And with another whole year of experience, she's sure to be even tougher next summer.

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