Fair Hill Training Center is an innovative thoroughbred training center situated on 350 acres in Elkton, Md.
In addition to a 7/8-mile Tapeta track and a one-mile all weather dirt track with 10 percent banked turns, Fair Hill offers the finest in year-round amenities, including miles of cross-country terrain, 18 barns, 490 stalls, turn-out paddocks, hot walking machines and indoor jog-arounds. Fair Hill is praised for its commitment to the horses, which seems to be a successful formula.
With the help and dedication of manager Sally Goswell, this training facility – once a sleepy training track with half-empty barns – is home to busy barns worth approximately $1.2 million. Husband Mike claims that, “Sally brought back this place back to life from nothing.” Fair Hill trainees include Breeder’s Cup winners, Kentucky Derby winners, and multiple graded stakes winners. With a professional gate crew and on-site veterinarian clinic, Fair Hill Training Center is well equipped to handle every horse’s needs. It is also conveniently located near 10 racetracks.
Upon arrival, a visitor is greeted with horses galloping in the distance. As a visitor travels down the winding dirt road, an assortment of vivacious plants, colorful flower arrangements, sparkling ponds, and jolly, little animals hopping about appear at almost every cross way. At the clocker’s tower, neighs and jockey’s giggles echo throughout, as trainers walk up the stairs to view their horses’ morning training session.
The clocker’s tower is like a home base for all trainers to come by, check on their horses and jockeys, chat about vacations, sip on coffee and, of course, record the horses’ speed. A bench overlooks the two tracks, so close to the horses that even a small sneeze is heard. Despite being from different barns, those at the clocker’s tower are friendly and warm.
Some are there for five or 10 minutes, some are there for an hour or so; either way, when the visit at the clocker’s tower is over, each trainer heads off to do their own thing as do each of the horses.
Goswell waits for the last of the thoroughbreds to exit the track before she continues her work; traveling back down the dirt road where “Horses have the right of way” signs litter the path, she halts again for the last few stragglers. Sally delights in the fact that “the upkeep is well worth the time,” noting that “it’s easy to come to work when each barn owner is respectful of what needs to be done.”
Despite its serenity, Fair Hill beats expectations in size, upkeep, friendliness and advancements. A visitor might expect that coming to Fair Hill would supply juicy details from winners past or uncover secrets; instead it becomes a tour of a home. Walking in and out of each barn gives a glimpse of how each family prepares for the day.
It is quite apparent that the training part of each horse’s day is essential; however, unlike most other tracks, how the horse spends the rest of the day off the track is just as important to their training.
Fair Hill focuses not on a horse’s wealth or winnings, but on the horse itself. After a workout on the track, each horse has its own specific routine. Most just get washed, brushed and bandaged before feeding time, while others are turned out to graze. The rest continue their workout with some physical therapy.
Fair Hill’s current physical therapy center has seen wondrous growth, despite burning down five years ago. The rebuilt therapy center allows the horses to relax while training. Tools like the AquaPacer, Cold Saltwater Spa, and hyperbaric oxygen chamber are just some of the instruments used to heal and calm the horses. Each device allows the horses to regain and build strength in an intricate and advanced manner.
“It’s interesting what a little therapy can do for these horses,” Sally says as she makes her way to the AquaPacer, where a horse is walking along on a treadmill that has been filled with water. The horses generally stay in there for 35 minutes, splashing about as they walk. “Most of them don’t respond to it as treatment, but more like playtime,” says one of the workers. This machine not only helps in building strength, but also works as a lighthearted release for the horses.
Another therapeutic option is the Cold Saltwater Spa that massages the horses in 33-degree salt water, soothing any injuries or sore spots. Fair Hill also has a powerful and effective hyperbaric oxygen chamber that supersaturates the horse’s blood with 100 percent oxygen, taking them two levels below sea level for an hour and ten minutes. This procedure is not done to hype the horses before races but is used afterward to heal any deep and detrimental wounds. The hyperbaric oxygen chamber is known to save lives at Fair Hill. Another therapy option is the vibrating floor, which is a stall used to build bone density and strengthen tendons. There is also the common hot-walking machine that has eight stalls and different speeds, used primarily to tame young, rowdy horses.
Then there is the Equine Veterinary Care clinic on the other side of the grounds, which Sally refers to as Fair Hill’s “lifesaver.” Four to five veterinarians are on site, and visiting vets welcomed. The clinic offers a pharmacy, as well as two rooms set up for small surgeries, and is filled with state-of-the-art technology, featuring the first completely wireless portable digital radiographic system in the country.
In case this facility couldn’t be more astonishing, Fair Hill is also open to the public for tours as it shares the grounds with the Nature Center.
For more information, visit www.fairhilltrainingcenter.com