Will the World Still Come to Maryland?
For ten years, this October column has been titled “When the World Comes To Maryland,” but after September 11, 2001, nothing seems so certain anymore.
This entire issue is devoted to Maryland’s role in the global equestrian community.
Yes, there will still be a Washington International Horse Show. Yes, there will still be a Fair Hill International. Yes, the Maryland Department of Agriculture will continue to make plans for future equestrian trade delegations to visit Russia.
Our President has asked us to move forward, that it is critical to move forward if our nation is to heal. Our Secretary of Defense has told us that to cancel our plans, to change our lives would be to capitulate to terrorism. We are reminded, again and again, of Roosevelt’s words: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
And so we go on, we make our plans, despite this uncomfortable lump in our throats and this nagging feeling of guilt, and with the knowledge that whatever the outcome of our plans, they won’t be the way we thought they would before September 11. But we don’t yet know how they will differ, we just know they will.
What Does International Mean?
There are six equestrian sports for which there is a World Championship or Olympic competition and which are governed by the International Equestrian Federation (Federation Equestre Internationale, or FEI). This October, Maryland is hosting 3 of those 6: show jumping, eventing and driving (the others are dressage, endurance and reining).
While FEI competitions are rather common in Europe, they are rare in the U.S. because the host country must underwrite the cost of the
travel for the invited countries.
Fair Hill International hosts both eventing and combined driving. The eventing is recognized by the FEI as a CCI*** (there is only one four star in the U.S., the Rolex Kentucky Event, and there is only one five star in the world, either an Olympic or World Champion event, depending upon the year).
The Washington International Horse Show holds the coveted CSIO designation for the FEI, which permits international team Grand Prix jumping.
If you attend either of these competitions, don’t forget to fill out our Reader’s Survey. We publish the results in the December issue, and believe it or not, what you say makes an impact, and sometime even inspires change. The organizers of both these events read these results, and try to respond to your suggestions. After all, they recognize that we horse people are their core audience.
Fair Hill International’s Festival in the Country
This year’s FHI driving competition will feature the — USET 4-In-Hand Championships, and the AHSA Combined Driving Singles Championships. With the cancellation of the Wethersfield Combined Driving Event, the AHSA (now the — USEAbut it will take us all a while to get used to that) has relocated their National Combined Driving Pony Championships to FHI. This will feature singles, pairs and teams. For drivers, dressage will begin Friday, cross country will be Saturday, and cones will be Sunday.
FHI will again feature the CCI***, with dressage scheduled for Saturday, roads and tracks (cross country) on Sunday, and concluding with stadium on Monday. Spectators are often invited to join in on cross country walks with Olympians such as David O’Connor or Phillip Dutton, so arrive early to find out about sign up times.
FHI long ago figured out the key to a successful horse event was to provide more entertainment than just horses competing. In addition to the de rigeur gift shops and tack stores, there will be the big hitches and the United States Dog Agility Association Masters Team Championships and $4,000 Dog Agility Steeplechase Championship.
Washington International Horse Show
The guest nations for 2001 are Canada, Mexico and Ireland. As of press time, it was unclear of any impact the international situation may have on teams planning to ship in their horses by air, but it is expected that neither Mexico nor Canada will have any trouble fielding full teams. Presently, organizers are still expecting that all teams will fully participate.
Last year, WIHS relocated to the MCI Arena, which is the most state-of-the-art sports facility in the country. Because it regularly hosts high ranking government officials and international guests, it has a security system that rivals any of the top government facilities.
By most accounts, the 2000 WIHS at the new venue was a roaring success, to the delight of nervous board members. Although the show was reduced from 8 days to 6, total ticket sales were up 25%, and the total attendance was in excess of 44,000. This also pleased the 58 sponsors of the show, 45 of which were first time sponsors.
And the competitors noticed. “There are a lot more people in the stands,” said Aaron Vale, who finished 2nd in the Puissance last year, “and I enjoyed that a lot. Moving the show to downtown DC just added more excitement for us, with the history and significance of the city.” Olympic gold medalist Joe Fargis concurred. “Now that WIHS has come to MCI, it has evolved in the very best of ways. The competition has broadened, it has kept up with the timesthey had the largest crowds ever, so I would say something right has happened. The attendance has been beefed up, more people are watching, and that’s good for the sport.”
Norman dello Joio, who won last year’s President’s Cup, was also pleased: “I think that [people in the stands] is one ofthe missing ingredients at most US shows. When we go to Europe, we are so in awe of the fact that over there, show jumping is a huge spectator sport, and we would love for our shows to grow more in that direction. The atmosphere definitely changes when there are people screaming and shouting and rooting for you. It does get your blood up and make for better competition.”
Fortified by all this, WIHS organizers were able to expand the show significantly this year. Of course, all the traditional big jumper favorite classes will be there, including the Puissance (Big Wall), Gambler’s Choice, President’s Cup and the Samsung Nation’s Cup.
Unfortunately, with changes in the qualifying schedule for the Dressage World Cup, WIHS will no longer host the finals for the U.S. Nevertheless, aware of how popular the musical freestyle is, organizers have arranged for an exhibition on Friday night.
Organizers have added more exhibitions aimed at attracting new spectators and getting them excited about horses, including excerpts from the Arabian Nights show, with a Black Stallion feature (see the article on the Black Stallion Literacy Program), bull riding, trick roping, and barrel racing. And yes, for the kids that come in the afternoon, FREE pony rides. Way to go, Washington (hint to FHIthink about itwhat better way to create lifetime devotees than to give them their first ride on a pony?).
And for us diehard lifers, a wonderful throwback: the costume class is back! Yes, yes, after the costume class got the axe due to that little debacle a few years back (sshhhhobviously the new organizer doesn’t know about that), we thought Washington might have lost its sense of humorbut it is back, Saturday night the $12,000 Pair Relay Costume Class.
Hey Stable Managers: Don’t forget to round up as many boarders, students, friends, family, and strays as possible to enter the Southern States Barn Night competition. The barn with the most people will win that free vacuum cleaner. If you have never had a vacuum cleaner, you can’t imagine how wonderful it is, particularly on those cold winter days (yes, the horses will have to be acclimated to it). If you already have a vacuum, well wouldn’t another be lovely?