Fair Hill vying for four star event, hoping to saddle Maryland as horse competition destination

Posted at 12:21 PM, Jun 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-02 13:34:16-04

Four Star Eventing is the pinnacle of horse competitions.

It's three days and tests a horse's poise, speed and endurance with roots in the military.

"Dressage was for the parades and creating a contained environment with your horse, whether you were in battle or on the streets of a town. Cross country was you had to get the orders from the back line to the front line and you had to get there as fast as you could. Show jumping was the next day, those battle horses, they couldn't just do this for one day, they were required to get up and go to work every day. Carla Geiersbach, Executive of Fair Hill International, said.

Riders explain it's the toughest competition on a horse, "you have to have more of a partnership than any other sport in the horse world because you're asking the horse just to do so much on such a fast speed and difficulty, many of the jumps we jump are narrow or scary, holes underneath of them," Professional Rider Allie Sacksen said.
Only six four star events exist in the world, the closest is the Rolex in Kentucky.

Several organizations teamed up when the opportunity to bid on a four star came up.

Fair Hill has an extensive history with horse competitions. The Fair Hill Races have been happening since 1934 and are home to numerous other events, including Cecil County's Fair, track meets, and one, two and three star eventing.

If accepted, hosting a four star would not inhibit any other events from coming to Fair Hill.

The bid is down to Virginia and Maryland, and the personnel here say they have a pretty good chance.

Nina Gregory, Executive Director of the Fair Hill Foundation, said the location is ideal, just hours away from New York, Philadelphia, D.C. and Baltimore. They have an Amtrak station nearby, and are right off I-95. Gregory said the property is big enough and far enough removed from the road that it feels isolated, and they're already working on improvements to make it four star ready.

They'll be adding arenas inside the big turf track, irrigating the track, moving the cross country horse track, and putting in pedestrian tunnels under Route 273.

The improvements come with a big price tag.

"We're estimating around 11 million dollars, which would be split 50/50 between private and public funding," Gregory said.

If they get the bid, the renovations will be complete by Fall of 2019 in time for the 3-day event, if not, the renovations will still take place, just on a longer timeline.

The four star would bring about $20-$30 million to the region in economic impact each year and give Marylanders the opportunity to participate.

"I live about 10 minutes from here and grew up riding here so this is definitely my backyard and I've done every level that's available here and to have the four star here would just be the icing on the cake," Sacksen said, making Maryland the seventh location to host the event.

"It's over a 1 billion dollar industry so this would just really solidify Maryland as the horse place," Geiersbach said.