Stoic Jan Byyny, successfully competing again three years after a stroke caused by a rotational fall, piloted the aptly-named Inmidair to victory at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3*.
Buck Davidson needed just one more rail to fall to clinch the win in the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3*, but he had his fingers crossed that the pole would stay in its cup. That’s because his longtime friend Jan Byyny and Inmidair were show jumping for the win, and he didn’t want anyone else to taste victory but her.
It’s been more than three years since a rotational fall at Pine Top in 2010 landed Byyny in the hospital with serious health complications. A stroke triggered by the two minutes she spent unconscious left her unable to speak, and she worked through months of physical therapy to not only find her voice, but to ultimately climb back into the saddle.
So it’s understandable why Byyny’s win in the Fair Hill CCI3* was so emotional for the fellow riders and friends who have watched her overcome so much to get back to this point in her career.
“My horse is a pretty amazing jumper,” Byyny said. “Clearly, the rail I had was mine and not his. He doesn’t want to touch anything. I don’t normally get too nervous in the show jumping, but two years ago when I was here, I was also leading and took out the whole second jump. I wanted to keep myself a bit together this time.”
A Lifelong Friendship
Davidson and Byyny’s friendship goes back many years, as she came to work for his father, Bruce, when she was just 17. Byyny schooled Davidson’s ponies for him when he was a kid still learning how to ride, and she played a large role in helping him decide to ultimately pursue the sport as a career.
“The reason I’m in this sport is because of Jan, and the reason I almost left is because of Jan,” Davidson said. “Jan’s been through so much and persevered. She’s been a friend my whole life, and it’s so cool to be able to have a friendship and ride together on a professional level too.”
To sweeten the win, Byyny also receives a free round-trip flight to Europe for the horse of her choice courtesy of Tim Dutta, who stepped in as the title sponsor of Fair Hill when long-time sponsor Dansko pulled out this year. Dutta’s company has shipped horses around the globe for 25 years, so it’s fitting that he would also award a flight to the winner.
“I applied for every grant this year, and I didn’t get one of them,” Byyny said. “I’ve had some pretty bad luck with this horse. We went to Kentucky and he had a breathing issue and had to have surgery, and I didn't know if this horse would ever do a three-star again. This is everything for me.”
Davidson ultimately finished in second place in the CCI3* with Park Trader, who was having a great go at Burghley in September until he hung a leg toward the end of the course and fell. Thankfully, the horse was just fine, and they re-routed to Fair Hill.
Will Coleman finished in third place with Conair, a new ride he imported over the summer after purchasing the horse from Rodney Powell. They pulled one rail in the show jumping, and Coleman is now looking ahead to targeting Kentucky next year.
A Study in Perseverance
Fans were also thrilled to see Allie Blyskal-Sacksen bring home the Dutta Corp Fair Hill CCI2* win with Sparrow’s Nio, a 15.3-hand Connemara/Thoroughbred cross who skipped around the cross-country course for the fastest trip of the day in that division.
Fair Hill is Blyskal-Sacksen’s hometown event, as she grew up just five miles from the venue and hacked around the grounds in her Pony Club days. She’s volunteered for 15 years in a variety of different roles at Fair Hill — from dressage ring steward to vet box attendant and even assisted this year with setting up the dressage arenas — and now she’s won the prestigious CCI2*.
“I’ve always known he was a special horse,” Blyskal-Sacksen, of Landenberg, PA, said. “Even when I got him three years ago, you could tell with his temperament that he had an ‘I’m all that’ attitude that a lot of the upper-level horses tend to have. Even though he’s only 15.3, he definitely thinks he’s 17.3.”
Blyskal-Sacksen has had a challenging season in the show jumping with this horse, most notably pulling seven rails at Jersey Fresh in May. After that, she plopped a video camera in her husband’s hand and had him tape her jumping over and over so she could see what she needed to tweak.
She jumped a beautiful double clear show jumping round at Fair Hill to clinch the win, so the hard work definitely paid off. Interestingly, her husband competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in modern pentathlon, and she said having another athlete in the family is a huge asset.
“He’s had experience at a high level of competition, and it’s very valuable having someone who knows that dreams and goals can be realized,” Blyskal-Sacksen said. “I don’t need a lot of coaching. I just need someone to tell me to sit tall.”
Ryan Wood finished in second place in the CCI2* with Fernhill Classic, while Canadian Colleen Loach finished in third place with Freespirit, who had the fastest double-clear show jumping trip in the entire division.
With a new title sponsor, Fair Hill is poised to thrive in the coming years, as Dutta Corp is committed to working with the venue to improve the grounds. There’s even talk of possibly bringing a second four-star event to North America that would be held at Fair Hill.
“I will stay on and support Fair Hill for as long as I possibly can,” Dutta said. “Hopefully the venue will dream of bigger and better things, and the first priority is to substantially increase the prize money. I can only say that Dutta Corp and myself are delighted to be a part of it.”