Maryland 5 Star Preview

One of just seven CCI5* events worldwide, the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill this October will feature riders competing at the top of the sport.

A newly designed cross-country course, the ability to shop while being right next to the competition, three tailgating fields and a food festival. Those are just a few of the highlights that will greet visitors at the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill in Elkton, Maryland, this fall.

Lauren Nicholson and Vermiculus tackle cross country at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill Test Event in August 2020. © Amy K. Dragoo

To be held at the newly constructed Fair Hill Special Event Zone, the event will feature riders competing at the top of the sport to challenge the prestigious CCI5* event from October 14-17. “It’s going to be a breath of fresh air coming off a very difficult 2020,” said Jeff Newman, president and CEO of the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. “In addition to that, there are only seven of these five-star level events in the world. So spectators are going to see something that only seven places in the world can witness, and that’s the very best in the sport of eventing.”

A Three-Day Event for Everyone

In addition to hosting a full weekend of five-star competition, the event will also offer a variety of activities and services for visitors including a Beer, Wine and Spirits Showcase; the Maryland Fresh Food Fest; and a dog daycare area from Kong Equine. The family-friendly entertainment will take place in the heart of the competition, so spectators won’t miss a beat. 

“Certainly, there will be equine specific tack shops, but there will also be retail vendors for anyone who just wants to come out and see some really unique retail offerings,” Newman said. “What will make it really special, too, is, the new Fair Hill Special Event Zone has created an infield opportunity where we’ll have a horseshoe of retail vendors for people to be able to shop at while also being right next to the competition.”

As for the competition, exhibitors will be able to watch Olympians coming from Tokyo to participate in the five-star. Newman pointed out, “It’s a great chance to see some amazing role models and Olympic level competitors right here in America.”

A rendering of the Fair Hill Special Event Zone. © Select Event Group

The Second of Its Kind

Until now, eventers had only one opportunity to compete at the five-star level in the United States at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event each spring. With the addition of the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, riders will have the chance to compete at the top level without having to travel overseas. “It gives a better opportunity for the training schedules and qualification schedules of our U.S. horses that aren’t quite ready to do the five-star in the spring. Now, they have five-star in the fall,” said Mary Coldren, competition director of the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill.

And the riders have a brand new, state-of-the-art facility to do so. The Fair Hill Special Event Zone is comparable to some of the best equestrian facilities in the world. In addition to being named a designated CCI5* eventing venue, the 5,656-acre property includes a new Ian Stark-designed cross-country course, new dressage and show-jumping arenas, as well as upgrades to Fair Hill’s historic turf course.

“The facility there is unbelievable,” said Olympian Boyd Martin, who will be competing at the Maryland 5 Star. “The topography for the cross-country is beautiful, and the new rings for the dressage and stadium are as good as anywhere in the world.”

Furthermore, riders believe that having two five-star events in the United States will boost the country to the forefront of eventing competition. “It really makes America one of the horse centers of three-day eventing. To have two five-stars here in the states really puts America on the map as being one of the leading countries for eventing,” Martin said.

An aerial photo of the Fair Hill Special Event Zone, showing the dressage and jumping competition and warm-up arenas. © Eclipse Sportswire Photography

A Rich History

The state of Maryland has a rich equine history. According to Newman, the horse industry in Maryland has a $2.1 billion economic impact for the state and provides jobs for 28,000 people. “Maryland has the most horses per square mile than any other state. We’ve heard that 52% of Marylanders consider themselves horse enthusiasts,” remarked Newman. “The event is something that provides another opportunity for Maryland to celebrate its rich history.”

Fair Hill International, and now the Maryland 5 Star, are just two examples of major equine events in the state of Maryland. It’s also home to the Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Million and the Fair Hill Races.

“To have the event in Maryland, which is really the center of many horse sports—not only eventing but racing and jumping and dressage—and to have a world-class facility built there, is going to make this region even stronger in horse sports,” Martin said.

Moreover, these events garner tremendous volunteer support and attract thousands of spectators, which stimulates the state economy. “We hope the event will be a stimulus for Northeast Maryland and going into Delaware. The event provides guests for hotels, it provides local businesses the opportunity to be at the event, and we encourage people to visit Cecil County and all that it has to offer,” Newman said.

Phillip Dutton and Fernhill Singapore test the new show-jumping arena at the Fair Hill Special
Event Zone. © Amy K. Dragoo

Old Traditions, New Memories

How will the Maryland 5 Star differ from its antecedent, the Fair Hill International? Some aspects will be the same, but others will be brand new. The competition itself at the Maryland 5 Star will be a caliber that surpasses previous Fair Hill International three-day events. And the freshly minted cross-country course will pose challenges that competitors have never seen before, and the layout of the facility has changed.

“Exhibitors are going to see a little bit different look overall with it being in the Special Event Zone in the infield,” Coldren said. “All of the vendors, the retail, everything’s been expanded and there will be lots more to look at and see and do.”

But the parts of Fair Hill that competitors and spectators alike have loved for three decades haven’t changed. “The cross-country course itself, at the five-star level, is going to be a more difficult and challenging course,” Coldren acknowledged. “But at the same time, you’re going to see a lot of the same faces who have been around for 30 years running the Fair Hill International.”

Newman added, “What people have seen for 30 years of Fair Hill International is great competition and a great family event that will continue.”

One of the most treasured traditions that will not be changed but improved is the tailgating on cross-country day. Martin commented that he thinks the slight change in venue from Fair Hill will make cross-country “more spectator friendly.”

At the Maryland 5 Star, there will be tailgating options in each of the three different fields of the cross-country course. One field will have the start and finish, the second will have some of the most technical jobs for horse and rider combinations and the third will have the water complexes.

“Tailgating is a huge part of cross country, and we can’t wait to be able to have people experience that for the first time on this new course,” Newman said.

Looking Forward to October

The stage is set for the inaugural year for the Maryland 5 Star. Competitors and spectators alike will experience the beginning of a new dynasty of eventing competition in America at the pinnacle level of the sport.

“We’ve got something special here in Maryland, and we hope that the Maryland 5 Star becomes a platform to showcase that,” Newman concluded. 

For more information about the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill and to purchase tickets, visit Follow Practical Horseman’s coverage of the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill on Facebook and Instagram with Mane ‘n Tail, Cowboy Magic and Exhibitorshere

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