Monday, September 22, 2014

Horsin' Around in Historic Maryland Horse Country

As a young, horse-crazy girl growing up in the midwest, I loved horses and everything about them. I spent my days riding and many of my nights watching the stars, reclined on their bare backs while they munched their hay.   Don't tell anyone, but there were times that I sat in the barn to do my homework.  Somehow, math was slightly more palatable if I did it near the horses. 


Horses Looking Over Fence at Alfred Vanderbilt's Farm by Jerry Cooke
At one point, I had a wonderful black and white pinto pony. He was my best friend for as long as we owned him.  One day, he and I were meandering down a lonely dirt road.  A herd of deer were just off the edge of the road.  Somehow we had managed to walk right up to them, too close for their comfort, so they picked up their good-bye flag tails and waved as they slowly bounded off into the woods.  

My pony's ears perked and he stepped toward them. To this day, I can't tell  you who wanted to go more, but I gave him his head and clucked with my tongue. Off he went, following those deer through the woods.  There wasn't thick undergrowth, thank goodness, as he sped through the woods trying to join those deer.  I hung on, crouched low and clinging to his bare bare back, one hand wrapped in his thick mane. I only concentrated at not letting myself get scraped off by a tree.  At one point, he jumped a very large downed tree trunk. We moved as one being and I felt as though we were flying.  Clearly, the deer were long gone and we would never catch up. But for a moment, we were running, jumping, and flying along.  From that moment on, I had a great appreciation for the machine that is horse and how amazing it is that they can jump like they do.

From my livingroom, I would watch the Olympic equestrian events when they were televised and I would watch the triple crown races. All of those things seems so fantastical.  Clearly, horses also existed in other parts of the world, but my world consisted of my backyard ponies.  Racehorses, horses and hounds, and hooved Olympic athletes seemed like fairy tales.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that horses are more than back yard companions to little girls.  As an adult living in the mid-Atlantic, I can enjoy the deep history of horses in Maryland. 

Just a handful of the big-ticket horse attractions are:
In addition to those things, there are many opportunities to witness horse shows, expos, and events here.  A few years ago, I got to see a jumping event with Olympic riders participating. That was quite a thrill. But so far, my very favorite horse related event has been the Shawan Downs Legacy Chase.

There is a 300 acre piece of farm land near Hunt Valley, Maryland, that was purchased by the Land Preservation Trust to preserve the non-residential use of the land.  Since that purchase, it has been "Re-branded as Shawan Downs, the property has grown into a first-class equestrian center and steeplechase course." 

Man Riding Horse in a Steeplechase by Eric Horan
The Shawan Downs Legacy Chase is a steeplechase event, to benefit GBMC Healthcare. This year, it is being held on Saturday, September 27th.  I attended a few years ago and hope to return this year.  Picnicking and spending the day on the rolling, green grounds is reason enough to go.  Watching these amazing horses over fences at full speed is thrilling.  The flying hooves, churning up clods of ground, flying over the obstacles as though they have wings is something I'll never forget.  Between races there is plenty to see.  The year I attended, there were groups of spectators in period attire as well as some antique cars.  I truly felt as though I had been transported to decades prior. 

If you hope to attend horse events in Maryland, or if you are in the area on Saturday, I highly recommend that you attend this benefit event.  The Shawan Downs Legacy Chase is not something you would soon forget.  Bring a comfy blanket, your camera, and a good bottle of wine.  


Written by Dawn Rae

Disclosure: In affiliation with AllPosters.com, Dawn Rae is a blogger and content writer who may earn compensation from the sale of AllPosters products.

14 comments:

  1. I envy you for getting to have a pony! I always ride horses when I vacation,

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    1. I would love to take a vacation that involves horses. Some type of working ranch would be fantastic! I miss having horses/ponies. It was a wonderful experience.

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  2. Isn't it funny how certain events stand out in our minds as a very special moment in time. When we recount them, it is if it happened just yesterday. As always, you write with such beautiful description that I feel as if I am right there with you, jumping tree trunks and chasing white tail deer.

    We love horses, but have never had the pleasure of owning even one. I do enjoy horseback riding, but I have never had the opportunity to become close friends with a particular horse since we always rent for the day. I did see a beauty recently that was for sale. If I only had a stable! Horses, like dogs, are meant to be loved and cared for. Since I couldn't provide a proper facility, I couldn't consider bringing the beauty home with me.

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    1. You are so sweet, Mouse. I think I could live until 100 and never forget that thrilling, scary, exciting ride. You are right aobut how we can recount our special moments like it was just yesterday.

      I agree, horses are meant to be loved.

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  3. Dawn, thanks for sharing your favorite stories about horses, including your personal childhood memory. I loved horses as a child, but haven't been on a horse since about age 19. I still admire them, though and love to read stories about them. My favorite series of books was written by Dick Francis, who once was the steeplechase jockey for the Queen of England and later wrote many books featuring 'horse people'.

    Years ago my parents retired to Ocala, Florida and that area of North-Central Florida is considered their 'horse country'. Lovely to drive through and see all the horse farms.

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    1. I have read a book or two written by Dick Francis. They were good books. I have driven through that area of Florida, quickly and tiredly. It was gorgeous!

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  4. I was riding with you, and that says a lot - I have a not-so-fun horse story of my own, and yet you've made me want to climb up on a horse right now (my husband would be shocked, he loves horses and would totally relate to your story!)

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    1. I would love to hear your horse story. I have a few that aren't so fond. That same pony must have thought I was too boring or daydreaming too much. He shied to the side just enough to dump me on my hiney, then stood right there, staring at me like, "what?"

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  5. I was flying through those woods with you. Thanks for the exhilaration!

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    1. You are most welcome. So glad you were there with me.

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  6. What a treasure to have that bareback ride on your pony through the woods as a memory to reminisce and to share, Dawn Rae.

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    1. Thank you. Those days, with Diablo (of all names!) were fantastic.

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  7. From another horse lover, this was a great read! I, too, love to watch the fabulous horse races and see those magnificent creatures flying at such top speed, because they love to run!

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    1. Susan, horses are the most amazing creatures. They completely take my breath away. Thank you for the kind feedback.

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