Maryland Named Finalist in Competition to Host New International Equestrian Event

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A show jumping horse at a competition in France, via Wikimedia Commons

Maryland and Virginia are competing to land one of the biggest prizes in the equestrian world.

The two states have been selected as finalists to serve as the host venue for a new international equestrian event in the fall of 2019. The United States Equestrian Federation made the announcement this month after considering five semi-finalists.

The new event, termed a CCI4****, or a Four-Star in the industry, would join the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event presented by Land Rover as the only two CCI4*s in the Western Hemisphere, and one of only seven in the world.  The others are in England, which has two, Germany, France and Australia.

Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Cecil County would be the setting for the event if it is held in Maryland, while Great Meadow International in The Plains would be the setting if the event is held in Virginia.

Others in the running included Morven Park Equestrian Center in Leesburg, Va.; Ocala Jockey Club in Reddick, Fla., and Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, N.C.

Four Star events are designated by the International Equestrian Federation as the highest level of competition in eventing, or horse trials. These are events in which a single horse and rider combination compete against other combinations in three disciplines, dressage, cross-country and show jumping, at a location designed for the competition.

Four Star events typically attract the world’s best horses and riders, as well as thousands of spectators who fill hotel rooms and dine at local restaurants. The 2016 Four Star event in Lexington, Ky., drew more than 80,000 people over three days.

Besides attracting the elite of the sport, the new American Four-Star competition would bring international attention to Maryland and Fair Hill. A final decision on the site is expected by June.

“This is great news for the horse community and industry as well as Cecil County and state of Maryland,” said Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton in a release. “I applaud the community-led efforts to bring this world-class equestrian event to Fair Hill, and I am further encouraged that the planned upgrades to the racetrack and fairgrounds are moving ahead.”

As owner and manager of the Fair Hill property, officials say, the Department of Natural Resources has been working closely with community members and equestrian organizations and stakeholders to prepare a proposal that would lead to a successful event while preserving the area’s rural character.

“Being selected to host the Four Star would be a game changer for the Maryland horse industry,” said Maryland Horse Industry Board Chair Jim Steele in a release. “It puts us on par with Kentucky by hosting a Triple Crown race and a Four Star event.”

The U.S. Equestrian Federation conducted site visits last fall and is now expected to request additional information from the two finalists about plans for broadcasting the event, sponsorships and other details. It will then offer its recommendation to the International Equestrian Federation for a final determination.

“We are excited by the possibility of hosting a Four Star event,” said Fair Hill International Executive Director Carla Geiersbach in a release. “With only six events in the whole world, it would be quite an honor to be selected.”

This is not the only instance in which Maryland and Virginia are competing for the same prize. Both states are in the running to become the setting for a new $2 billion headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation if it moves from Washington, D. C. A decision on that project is expected in March.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts

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