One novice rider jumps a small log with Sean McDermott. Photo Credit: Sarah Bucior

Perfect early spring weather greeted the participants of the Maryland Steeplechase Association’s Novice Steeplechase Clinic, which was a huge success and an unofficial kick off to the spring season. The clinic was held at the Iglehart family’s Prospect Farm in Monkton, Maryland on Sunday, March 7. Prospect Farm also serves as a training center for National Steeplechase Association licensed trainers Billy Santoro and Alicia Murphy, who were kind enough to host the clinic. Alicia organized a stellar crew — steeplechase royalty, in fact — including Mark Beecher, Sean McDermott, and Todd and Blair Wyatt. Billy and Alicia assisted, as did Colin Smith, a graduate of Maryland Steeplechase Association clinics and now among the amateur apprentice ranks. 

Schooling one of the smaller timber fences. Photo Credit: Katie Cessna

The Maryland Steeplechase Association was overwhelmed by the interest in this year’s clinic, so much so that registration was closed earlier than anticipated. Over twenty young riders, of various experience levels and riding backgrounds, came eager to learn and experience something new. Some of the participants have raced on the spring circuit in the past, but most of the riders were new to the sport and were only familiar with hunters/jumpers or eventing.

The young riders were divided into three groups based on ability level and experience. The more advanced riders galloped in company and then schooled over a variety of timber fences. This group was guided by former jockey, now trainer Mark Beecher who carefully broke down the rides and offered expert advice. 

Sean McDermott assists one of the young riders. Photo Credit: Suzanne Tabor

The intermediate riders jogged and cantered as a group with guidance from Alicia Murphy and Todd Wyatt. They also jumped a variety of logs and smaller fences. The more novice riders worked with Sean McDermott and Blair Wyatt and walked, trotted, cantered, and jumped some small logs. 

The Maryland Steeplechase Association is hoping to see many of these riders on Saturday, March 27 when the spring steeplechase season kicks off with the Green Spring Valley Point-to-Point at Shawan Downs. The day offers a full complement of junior flat races and field masters chases. 

Thanks again to our clinicians, land owners, and organizers for making this clinic possible. Special thanks to Maryland Steeplechase Association intern Elizabeth Scully for her social media and organizational efforts. 

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