By Muffy Fenwick
This Sunday, in the spirit for which it was founded, Shawan Downs hosted a demonstration of its new timber course. While advertised as an unveiling of the newly mapped course, the event became a community gathering of equestrian enthusiasts and supporters of the Hunt Valley property. About 50 spectators enjoyed coffee and breakfast while they followed teams of riders galloping through the multi-faceted terrain that characterizes the Shawan Downs property.
Several local horsemen including James Stierhoff, Mike Hankin, Alix Smith, Michael Wharton, and Charlie Fenwick, jr. and Charlie Fenwick, III, met several times over the summer to consider appeals to incorporate more of the Shawan Downs property and provide better training for spring timber prospects. The new course follows a classic timber layout but includes more fence variety and differing terrains. These nuances are meant to create greater challenge and fitness for both green and more experienced horses as they train for the timber season. Yesterday’s demonstration drew owners, riders and trainers who weigh their early season conditioning races carefully, considering options in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The hope is that seeing the new course first-hand will entice them to choose the Greenspring Point-to-Point at Shawan Downs held each year at the end of March.
The new course covers much of the 300 acre Shawan Downs property providing an exciting ride for its participants and an active event for its spectators. Yesterday’s visitors watched on foot, by car and on horseback as two heats of riders covered the course creating, in the words of Charlie Fenwick, III, a “more authentic race watching experience.” He adds, “I love seeing people run between vantage points, hoping to find the best spot to watch a jump.” Indeed, like the horses, the spectators covered much ground, darting across Founders Hill to watch the horses in an open gallop down the back side of the property. Post and rail, log and stacked fences provided equally exciting spectating.
Alix Smith, the co-Chair of the Greenspring Point-to-Point and a planner of yesterday’s event, was equally happy “both course-wise and people-wise.” She exclaims, “It is exciting that many people came out on a Sunday morning to share in the event.”
The buzz in the crowd highlighted similar sentiments. In reflecting on Grace White, the original owner of the Shawan Downs property, spectator Hilles Whedbee commented how pleased Mrs. White would be to see the land used in this vein. “This is what she would want for the property.” Beth Garner, who watched the race with her family, including 2 year old Grace who did somersaults down the hill, added, “It is clear that people really appreciate a community event.”
The crowd of 50 enthusiastic owners, riders, trainers, and spectators gathered on a chilly Sunday morning attests to the success of Shawan Downs’s efforts to unite the community and enhance its equestrian experience.