first published in the October 2017 Equiery
This past July, Maryland equestrians and outdoor sports enthusiasts alike jumped for joy when the U.S. Equestrian Federation announced that Fair Hill International in Elkton had been selected as the U.S. location for a future CCI4* event. “All parties involved are very excited and proud to be from Maryland,” said FHI executive director Carla Geiersbach. “You know Snoopy’s happy dance from the Peanuts cartoons? That was me when we got the news!”
Geiersbach went on to say that FHI’s current sponsors are just as excited and that conversations with more perspective sponsors have already begun. “There is a lot of interest to be part of the FHI family,” said Geiersbach.
Although the USEF has approved FHI, the final decision is up to the FEI. The USEF proposal went before the FEI Eventing Committee at the end of September but any proposal will not be voted on until the FEI annual convention in November. “It is a big deal to add to the international calendar. It takes a lot of time to go through the official process,” Geiersbach explained.
In the meantime, the support from the community has been incredible and improvements to the racetrack are on schedule to begin this fall, according to FHI competition manager Ann Haller. “So many of the groups that use Fair Hill all wanted these improvements to happen. It seems that our bid for a four star was the catalyst needed to get it all going,” she said.
A Love Affair with Fair Hill
For over fifty years, Pennsylvania resident Sam Slater has had a love affair with Fair Hill. Decades of steeplechase races at Fair Hill, decades of race horses too. Sam’s wife Lornie Forbes competed in her first three-day when she was 14 years old (1969) at Fair Hill. His sister Joy was the first woman to win in sanctioned race at Fair Hill (1976). He film/videoed Fair Hill for decades, and was the television liaison for the series of Breeders Cup Races held on site in 1986.
Over the last 40 years, he has served on the boards of Fair Hill Equestrian Events, Fair Hill International, Fair Hill Training Center, and the Cecil County Breeders Fair. The family ties run deep. “I’m the only person in my family to NOT have had success with a horse at Fair Hill,” jokes Sam.
But with a life so intertwined with the legacy of William du Pont, it was no surprise to this publisher when Sam took the lead on establishing a charitable foundation to raise money for much needed improvements to the track, grandstands and stabling. Although Sam’s ties are closest with racing and eventing, he helped to ensure that the board of the Fair Hill Foundation represented the full depth and breadth of Maryland’s equestrian community.
Happily, the launching of the Fair Hill Foundation coincided with the State’s bid to be a 4-star event. A public-private partnership was immediately cemented, and the funding was found for the state’s first feasibility and development studies. Of course, more money will need to be raised for the projects to follow, but Sam is confident that the Foundation will succeed in raising the necessary funds.