first published in the December 2022 Equiery
This year’s MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, presented by Brown Advisory, was a bigger event than last year, with more vendors, more tailgate spots, more shuttles and simply… more! The addition of shuttle buses on cross-country day, to many other improvements throughout the venue made that the organizers listened to the 2021 spectators and presented a fantastic 2022 event.
In order to compare survey results from this year with last year, The Equiery’s survey questions were identical to last year with identical answer choices. The results of this year’s survey of attendees mainly acknowledge improvements with a few places where attendees still feel tweaking is needed. Scroll to the bottom of this post to read the full list of comments.
About 100 people took this year’s survey. Spectators comprised most of our survey responders at 78.6% with volunteers making up 18.4%. Vendors were 5.1% and sponsors were at 4.1%. This year only one competitor replied to the survey, while one owner of a competing horse, two breeders of horses competing, and one family member or groom of someone competing also took the survey. We had one FEI official and one member of the media reply.
For those who did not attend this year’s Maryland 5 Star, which made up 8.2% of those who took the survey, most replied that they did not attend due to conflicts with other activities taking place that same week. Only 2% said they did not attend due to ticket pricing and only 1% said they did not know about the event.
As in 2021, most survey takers attended Saturday’s cross-country day (80.6%). The second most popular attendance day was Sunday’s show jump finale (46.9%) and 37.8% attended the Friday session of dressage. Interestingly, Wednesday’s first horse inspection saw an uptick in attendance over last year, according to our survey, while Thursday’s dressage day was slightly lower in attendance, which may be due to the rainy weather.
Of note, 66% of those who took this year’s survey said they attended the 2021 event, while 34% of the respondents had not.
The biggest change in our survey results was the overall impression of the event. In 2021, 50.9% stated the event needs improvement while only 25.6% said it exceeded expectations and 16.4% said it was “just right.” This year, 37.8% stated the event was just right with 34.4% said it needed improvements. Twenty percent said this year’s event exceeded expectations. A similar number of people clicked “other” and wrote in comments.
The majority of the comments in “overall impressions” were complaints about the cross-country course being “too long” and “too spread out.” While we understand why some spectators may have felt that way, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the dimensions of the cross-country track are not in the organizer’s control. FEI rules require that a CCI5*-L course be 6270-6840 meters long, which translates to a 3.9 to 4.3 mile course. FEI rules also require the course to include 40-45 jumping efforts at a speed of 570 meters per minute. This means any cross-country course at this level will, by definition, be long and spread out.
Many survey takers said the addition of shuttle buses on cross-country day was much appreciated. One such comment was, “Thank you for the shuttle from parking to the gate and the other tailgate areas. Huge help! It was especially nice at the end of the day when I had walked for miles to be shuttled back to my car.”
According to this year’s survey, 26.5% of respondents felt the shuttle service was adequate and only 9.6% felt it needed improvement. This is a substantial improvement over last year where only 8.8% felt the shuttles were adequate and 51.2% felt the venue needed improvement in this area.
A write-in comment about transportation from a competitor was, “Personal golf carts should be allowed, especially for competitors and our handicapped owners.” The commenter suggested that golf carts could be limited to certain areas of the venue to help owners and competitors get from stabling to the main arenas more efficiently.
Fair Hill as a Venue
The Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area is run by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Thus, the Maryland 5 Star is run within both FEI and DNR parameters. Much of the infrastructure of the Fair Hill Special Events Zone, where the bulk of the Maryland 5 Star is located, is comprised of event-driven temporary structures. All the tents, walkways, special seating, etc. must be taken down after the event to preserve the natural aspect of the park. That is why there are no plans for more permanent seating, bathrooms and walkways, a move several survey respondents suggested.
In general, this year’s survey showed that 43.9% felt the facility was great with only 8.2% said it needs improvement. These numbers were similar to 2021. With that said, many of those who took our survey still have comments and suggestions on the overall flow of the grounds and how the venue layout could be improved upon.
Parking saw a large jump in approval this year with 64.8% stating it was “just right.” Only 45.3% had felt this way about parking in 2021. Only 15.9% said parking needs improvement, which was down from 31.1% last year. One person wrote in “Much better than last year. There is always room for improvement, but this was a step in the right direction.” Another comment on parking was, “We had to wait to get into parking, which was a bummer because it made us late to get settled out on cross-country course, but we were able to get out and on the road at the end relatively quickly.”
There were additional comments about the new Saw Mill Preferred Parking area with many people saying they appreciated that option for cross-country day. Others who had not known about that parking area said they plan to use it in 2023.
Improvements were also noted for bathrooms with 57.1% of respondents saying the bathrooms were adequate and only 5.1% saying they were not. Comments included praise for the additional port-a-pots that were in the parking areas and spread out across the cross-country course.
Another improvement in 2022 was the ease in which attendees could find things. In 2021, this question was evening split between “easy” to find things and “difficult” to find things. This year, 48% said it was easy and only 18.4% said difficult.
Interactions with volunteers and staff seemed to be better this year as well, with 55.1% saying hospitality was “just right,” 23.6% saying it “exceeded expectations.” Only 6.7% said hospitality “needs improvement.”
An additional 4.5% said they did not interact with staff or volunteers, and 10.1% clicked “other” and wrote in comments.
One general suggestion from the comments that came up more than once was to better educate the shuttle bus drivers as to what areas were accessible from each bus stop. This way spectators knew which stop they should they need to use.
Tickets & Seating
Comments on ticket pricing were very similar to 2021 with 45.1% stating this year’s ticket pricing was just right while 20.9% stated the prices were too high. An additional 30.8% said they did not pay for tickets. The majority of those who did not pay for ticket were volunteers.
Those that felt the ticket prices were too high specifically commented about the VIP ticketing. One person wrote in, “I thought the general admission and dressage reserved seating was fair, but I was really disappointed in the VIP ticket packages and show jumping reserved seat prices. Land Rover Kentucky is cheaper!” Another suggested, “I would have loved to see a three-day package for general admission with reserved seating.”
Comments for viewing options were also similar to those from 2021 with 30.2% saying viewing areas were “just right” this year. Only 14% stated they could not see the competition well from their seats while 33.7% said they could see the competition well. More people clicked “other” this year (22.1%) and wrote in comments on viewing areas than last year (18%).
Most of this year’s comments related to viewing areas were about the sound system during dressage and show jumping days in the main arena… it was often hard to hear. This also was an issue on most of the cross-country course with many people at tailgates saying they could not hear any announcements or even who was on course.
One person suggested renting headsets for dressage and show jumping days so that those in the seats can listen to the commentary that was heard on the livestream. Another person requested that general admission seating for show jumping be closer to the arena for better viewing and hearing.
Shopping, Food & Demonstrations
While our survey shows a big improvement in both food and shopping vendors, one comment remains the same… too spread out!
Survey results for the vendors question showed that 57.6% felt the vendor options were “just right,” while 3.5% felt there were too many options and 17.6% said there were not enough options. These numbers show an improvement over 2021. The majority of the write in comments from the 21.2% that clicked “other” revolved around the flow of the vendor areas. Comments included:
• “Too spread out and no flow of traffic through the infield and the paddock areas.”
• “Having three separate vendor areas did not allow for me to always visit the vendors. It would be good if there was maybe a vendor village?”
• “The vendors on the outer rim didn’t get enough traffic.”
• “Great options but overall flow could be better.”
One vendor wrote, “I live close and hope to see continued improvements. I will not be a vendor again, however. I lost a huge amount of money on that. If $1000 (for a nonprofit) is the lowest price, there have got to be better results. I was not alone in this. I doubt any of the infield vendors will be back.”
Our survey showed an even split between people who felt the Maryland 5 Star logo wear was “just right” (26.1%) verses those who clicked “needs improvement” (22.7%). Thirty-three percent said they did not see any logo wear at the event. Most of the write in comments were related to pricing — many people said they “Liked it but too expensive,” “Expensive and not particularly compelling,” and “Choices were better than last year but prices were still too high, it was hard to locate the merchandise store.”
As for food vendors, this year’s survey showed a slight improvement over 2021.
About half of the respondents said there are not enough food options (50.6%), and 21.1% said the food options were “just right.” Most of the write in comments asked for more food vendors in general. “Options were sufficient and improved over last year. Probably need more coffee since that was crowded.”
There were several positive comments on the VIP tent food including, “The caterer in the VIP tent area was great!” and “VIP tent food was excellent.”
In addition, several people requested water stations for either purchasing of water or refilling reusable bottles. This was a request that was made in last year’s survey and showed up again this year.
Overall, our survey showed that more people were aware of the extra demonstrations and non-competition activities this year with only 24.7% clicking “did not know” as opposed to 43.5% stating this in 2021.
However, the number of people who clicked “needs improvement” went up from 7.9% in 2021 to 14.1% in 2022. Again, this year, several people stated they knew about the demonstrations and other activities but did not participate.
With respect to demonstrations, a comment that came up more than once was about Horseland, which is put together by the Maryland Horse Industry Board. Basically… please keep Horseland! Comments included, “Loved the Horseland area! Super fun options for kids that were there, educational and well done,” and “They were fun. Would’ve loved more.”
There was also more than one request to bring back a “Kids Corner” from the Fair Hill 4* days, as well as dog agility competitions and some sort of 4-H or U.S. Pony Club demonstration.
The lack of a printed program continues to receive the lion’s share of disapproval from attendees who took our survey. In 2021, 37.9% did not even know there was a digital program. This year, that number went up to 61.4%.
In 2021, 23.7% of those who did view the digital program said it was “just right” but only 19.3% felt that way this year. Only 1.1% said the 2022 digital program exceeded expectations while 9.1% felt it needed improvement.
Comments on the digital program included:
• “You cannot pull up the entire column/row on your phone. That is, if you were able to view it on your phone at all in the sun’s glare or pouring rain.”
• “Didn’t have a printer and if I tried to see it on my phone at the event, I couldn’t due to the sun’s reflection.”
• “Honestly, I never bothered to use it due to last year being so hard to read on our tiny phones while at the venue.”
• “Barely read it. There needs to be a printed program. I’ll read that.”
• “Too long. Needs a paper, nice looking program like Fair Hill 4* had. Can sell it to offset costs.”
We understand the organizing committee’s commitment to presenting a green and paperless event, but perhaps there could be sort of compromise, such as a limited-edition souvenir program with a very small print run, or printed copies only available with certain ticket options.
More than half of those who took this year’s survey took the time to write in additional comments at the end of our survey., and many had personal words of praise for this year’s organizing committee. A significant percentage of respondents, 77.6%, said they would come back in 2023.
• “Great job. Looking forward to 2023!”
• “Very very proud of you guys!”
• “It was a MUCH better experience than last year.”
• “Everyone thought this year was SO much better in organization and options than last year. WELL DONE FAIR HILL!”
• “Thanks so much for a great event.”
• “Well done and thank you for listening to feedback from 2021.”
ADDITIONAL WRITE-IN COMMENTS
• Perfect except for we would’ve liked to be able to hear the commentary in the Johnny Walker VIP venue
• Signed up for a tailgate and it was the most distant one. Lol. Did not really feel a part of the event.
• Much was great. A few areas need improvement. Due to the nature of the farm, it can be difficult to see multiple jumps other than from one or two places. Therefore, more video screens would be a huge help. It would be good to be able to watch a rider jump the jump near you, and then follow them along the rest of the course. Additionally, it did not seem like there were enough food vendors. Otherwise, it was an amazing event. I can’t wait to go next year.
• Beautiful day but long walks were tiring after a while. At the end of the day there were long lines for the shuttles. Maybe more available next year?
• I was able to see more of the venue this year than last, so while I am still thrilled to attend a 5 star in my backyard, I think that there is still work to be done, and I understand that the venue set up was better this year than last year, to me it had the feel of handing out under the bleachers during a high school football fame as you walk past the arena on the way to the XC course. Once you went past the “map” tent, signage was not great, and if you were not familiar with the venue, it was easy to get lost. I ran into a couple at the entrance to the Timber Field who were hopelessly lost and confused, wondering where the horse competition was.
• It felt commercialized, sprawling, and chilly. Anything more to warm it up and bring people together would be good.
• It’s a 4 mile course, I’m 77 and cannot get to many jumps. Can you improve on current shuttle services?
• I thought the general admission and dressage reserved seating was fair, but I was really disappointed in the VIP tickets packages and show jumping reserved seat prices. Land Rover KY is cheaper! We sat in GA seats for show jumping and while the view was fine, the VIP seating was almost empty. It was so sad to see. I was chatting with friends, and we agreed that maybe $500 for one of the VIP tents for the week would have been an easy yes, but $1000 was way too high. We would rather spend the extra money on shopping.
• I would have loved to see a 3 day package for general admission with reserved seating.
• Too spread out and no flow of traffic through the infield and the paddock areas. Separate small tends are not conductive to browsing and were unvisitable in the rain.
• Expected larger range of high quality merchandise. Also the layout is fairly scattered so I think some vendors didn’t get as much traffic. Contemplated a booth for a nonprofit there but probably won’t pursue because of the layout.
• Having three separate vendor areas did not allow for me to always visit the vendors. It would be good if there was maybe a vendor village? Everybody in close proximity so that there wasn’t a preferential area. I didn’t like that at Land Rover Kentucky either.
• Unable to visit due to volunteer duties
• The vendors may have been fine, but how would anyone know. The entry sequence – how visitors were guided through the venues and to the XC course – was poorly planned and didn’t really allow you to pass the vendor tents in a reasonable and predictable way. If I were a vendor I’d be upset.
• Didn’t visit. They were too far away. Too spread out.
• The vendors on the outer rim didn’t get enough traffic
• Didn’t get to visit as our tailgate spot was too far away
• I’m sure this was just for Saturday, but vendors too close and jam packed. No where to walk to look at items for sale. It was too crowded, need to spread them out and provide more space.
• Very spaced out, hard to see all the vendors
• As you walk into the venue, with vendors on both sides, it was impressive, but once you go past the arena, the tented vendors seem like an afterthought. I understand that those on the right side of the entrance to the Timber Field were pleased that the foot traffic was routed past them. I would have been disappointed to have been a vendor on the left side of the Timber Field entrance. I can only wonder how many people walked past the arena during the non-XC days (again, felt like being behind the bleachers at a high school football game)
• Needs more food and drink trucks. The lines were so long on Saturday and Sunday.
• Could have had more tack available versus clothing, etc.
• Too curated and little appeal to the local attendee
• Great options but the overall flow could be better
• Didn’t use. Had Johnny Walker VIP tickets
• Options were sufficient and improved over last year. Probably need more coffee since that was crowded. Of concern from last year was lack of water courses or sales out on the XC course. At least this year there were a couple of food trucks. More water please.
• Did not buy food
• Unable to partake. Veterinary receptions was yummy.
• Could still use a couple more options. But a massive improvement from last year!
• I’d prefer to see something like a “food court” set-up where most of the vendors are located in one central location. Needs more seating.
• Again, probably for Saturday only, but not enough food vendors to keep up with the demand, wait times way too long.
• We didn’t utilize the food vendors, just one of the beverage vendors and they were great
• The caterer in the VIP area was great!
• I think that there needs to be more. I found the variety interesting, but when I went to buy an overpriced crab cake sandwich, I was told the wait was 45 minutes to an hour. I understand that they are cooking to order, but they were also overwhelmed by the volume of people. I noticed long lines at the other vendors. Although it is great to have seating areas for people to eat, I was searching for portable food because I needed to be back on the XC course. I cannot walk and eat a salad and many of the other options I saw were also not portable. But props for the diversity of options. I wish that I were able to attend more days, because I would have loved to try some of the seat and eat food options.
• I had a tailgate so did not visit food vendors
• More options because lines were crazy! And vendors we visited were running out of food and/or drinks.
• Lunch was provided for us. Thank you.
• VIP Tent most days. Food was excellent.
• We had great viewing with our Johnny Walker VIP tx
• We could see the competition well with our ticketed, covered seating. However, we could not hear the commentators during any of the Friday dressage competition. Background music was fine.
• The weird private tent (Heradera club?) had no upside to it. It was expensive, had no views and was in the way of infield vendor tents and access to the west side stands. The Crab “shack” or whatever it was called by the water was prohibitively expensive. I’m curious as to how many people bought that ticket.
• We could see all the fences, but an enormous amount of walking. Need more shuttles for older, less physically able spectators.
• good seating, but thought there were too many VIP tickets vs. general admission sitting. Most of VIP was empty or half full, so could consolidate that some to provide more affordable seating for show jumping
• For lack of a better description, the course was laid out like a long bent paper clip. This demanded long walks if you wanted to see more than a few jumps. The course should be, basically, a triangle. Then a spectator could easily walk to multiple areas and see more of the course and competition.
• For show jumping I wish the general admission seating was closer and I didn’t know it included a seat until someone told me.
• Too expensive for what was provided
• “I think it would be helpful to not have a bottle neck of a one way out to the cross country, it created a mob, that was difficult to get away from
• As a vendor, could not get to watch much of the competition!
• We walked the cross country course during the 3 star and we could see everything. We watched the 5 star from the Brown Advisory chalet. Need another jumbotron in the arena for those in the chalets. The small TV screens in the chalets were difficult to see.
• I was in the MARS tent and unfortunately, the jumbotron TV blocked the view of show jumping. It also was very scary for the horses after their dressage test.
• It was hard to see inside the Main Arena with just General Admission
• Wish we could see the cross-country better
• Seats in the general admission had bad angle for the dressage and stadium. Rings should have had the long sides parallel to the stands.
• Good for some sections but not others
• There needs to be more transport from the entrance to various locations around the cross country course. only one school bus running; very long queues for transport.
• We had handicap which was great
• I had a volunteer experience in parking only and it was fine
• Much better than last year. There is always room for improvement but this was a step in the right direction.
• I wish there was a little better information about how to see both halves of the XC course. If you were going to the back, you had to get your band and go back out to the shuttle.
• The parking location is fine, I just didn’t think the traffic was managed well. Kudos to the police officers, however waiting in line to go half a mile for 25 minutes I thought it was kind of a little unnecessary. Obviously telegraph Road is packed with people because of the event. Let them park, let the traffic move. I also acknowledge I am not a policeman, and I probably don’t know what else is involved
• Parked in stabling with other vets
• Certainly an improvement over last year. Was able to get out of the general parking in a reasonable amount of time. The shuttle from parking to the show grounds was appreciated.
• We had to wait to get into parking which was a bummer, because it made us late to get settled out on xc course, but were able to get out and on the road at end relatively quickly.
• Thank you for the shuttle from parking to the gate, and the other tailgate areas. Huge help! It was especially nice at the end of the day when I had walked for miles to be shuttled back to my car.
• Parking itself was ok, wish the shuttles were a bit more organized/consistent.
• Had our own parking. Thank you.
• Parked in stabling
• I liked the sawmill parking for xc day
• long lines at the main shuttle. but really appreciate the addition from last year. less walking this year.
• I think for the facility being new on the scene 2nd year hosting this large of an event, it went fairly well, I am assuming as time goes on, permanent facilities will be built
• We would have liked to have found a shuttle on cross country to bring us back to the main arena. One of our party was two weeks out of the hospital and the hills exhausted him.
• There’s a lot to see and do, and it’s hard to do it in one day.
• The facility was great. Just wish there had been more signage. Or maps sent out with tickets.
• Still too spread out with inadequate shuttles. It took 2 1/2 hours to walk from the crab water, to the arena and back. A shuttle on the road is not adequate.
• Personal golf carts should be allowed especially for competitors and our handicapped owners
• overall – huge improvement over 2022 in terms of being able to find where things were located
• Needs better (permanent) arena seating with more capacity.
Hospitality of Staff/Volunteers
• Some were great. Others were fine.
• Most volunteers were friendly and helpful. Many golf cart and gator drivers were totally out of line; they drove too fast (especially in the mud) It was unsafe for passengers and pedestrians and rude; and they yelled rude admonishments to spectators!
• Only interacted with volunteers at the entrance, cross areas and they were lovely.
• All staff was amazing except 1 person on a cart on the paved path in the woods that yelled to everyone to get off the path. We were walking all the way to the side with room for the carts. I have a bad ankle and the path off the paved path in that area was muddy. There is nothing wrong with asking people to move to the side but this one person was extremely rude.
• The bus drivers who were to ferry spectators to the various tailgate areas had no idea what they were to do and this part of the visit, not unlike last year, was unorganized. If the bus I was on hadn’t had a FH staff member, I don’t know if we would have ever gotten to the tailgate area.
• fair hill has always done a good job and maintains an excellent volunteer base, the partnership model they have produced with the community, I wish existed elsewhere, closer to home
• As soon as we entered, we asked where the Brown Advisory lunch and hospitality would be found. We were directed to the Brown Advisory cross country fence. Then we were told is was at the Sawmill water fence, so we walked there. We had to walk all the way back to the main area and FINALLY found it in the main arena. NO ONE knew where it was, not volunteers, not jump judges, there was nothing on the maps.
• For the most part, excellent. I did have an unpleasant experience with a security guard, who, while he was doing his assigned job, was rude rather than helpful.
• Our tailgate hospitality person was not seen until 3 pm. Did not have trash bags until then.
• You cannot pull up the entire column/row on your phone. That is, if you were able to view it on your phone at all in the sun’s glare (or pouring rain). There was a paper order of go but it typically came out too late to be of any use. In summary – HORRIBLE
• Didn’t have a printer and if I tried to see it on my phone at the event I couldn’t due to sun’s reflection
• Barely read it. There needs to be a printed program. I’ll read that.
• Didn’t use. I would of liked a paper/book program with my ticket purchase
• There should be a paper program and more jumbotrons for spectators to tell who is on course
• honestly – i never bothered to use it due to last year being so hard to read on our tiny phones while at the venue
• Too long. Needs a paper nice looking program like Fairhill 4* had. Can sell it to offset costs. Also need printed order of go. Digital unreliable and too many dead batteries.
• Wish there had been more
• Just black. No light colors to choose from.
• Liked it but too expensive
• You needed a bigger sigh to show where it was! We didn’t find it to the end. The logo was okay. Wild Have liked a horse on.
• Expensive and not particularly compelling
• Don’t like the logo, so I won’t be purchasing any logo wear
• Choices were better than last year, but prices were still too high and it was hard to locate the merchandise store.
• Items were VERY expensive
• Did not know there was a specific shop for it, so I missed out on getting some souvenirs
• Very expensive
• Very very expensive
• They were fun. Would’ve loved more
• Knew of the non-competition demos & activities but did not make use of such
• Not interested
• Did not go to any of these
• Did not participate
• Did not participate, will try next year
• Unable to visit
• No time to check them out
• I was a volunteer in Horseland for one shift. I’m familiar with the venue and had some trouble finding it. One of the primary HDCs staffing it did a very poor job of being present, which made things difficult for the other primary, as well as any floating volunteers (like myself). I did not participate in any other non competition activities, though I knew they were happening
• Knew they were there but none going on when I was there. Bring back dog obedience.
• I am really not there for those things, I am there to watch the horses and riders compete.
• Did not attend
• Loved the Horseland area! Super fun option for kids that were there, educational and well done. Please keep offering this as an option and thank you!
• Did not seek
• Did not participate so no option
• Did not see them
• Great job. Looking forward to ’23!
• At 4:00 pm on Saturday, after waiting to no avail for any form of ‘spectator transport’ from the upper Saw Mill area back to the parking area, I (and many others) walked the mile and a half, noting that traffic on Saw Mill of vehicles actually operating (mostly catering vehicles and privately operated golf carts) was impeded by the fact that Saw Mill was being used as ‘two way’ traffic. A ‘Loop’ using Saw Mill Road and Foxcatcher Road would have made more sense with smaller vehicles able to travel over the ‘bridge’ on Foxcatcher Road – and frankly, that bridge (over Gramies Run) should be re-built so that it would be suitable for ANY people-moving vehicles – particularly, SCHOOL BUSSES which were the norm for MANY YEARS, for moving people from the FH Rt 273 parking lots to the FHI main gate on Gallaher. When I reached the Stafford Pavilion, I saw that one of the ONLY TWO tractors/people wagons was IDLE – no operator, at all. I may be wrong, but I’m fairly certain that those tractors/wagons were not being operated by volunteers, but by paid operators. Not much value, when such vehicles are sitting idle just as such is most needed, after the cross-country competition. When that people-transport issue is resolved, the $40 price for a general admission ticket on Saturday might just be justified.
• Bathrooms were greatly improved from last year. Many more vendors. Need more non alcoholic drink options
• Very very proud of you guys!
• It would be nice to have a paper map of the cross country to follow it better with a brochure to follow competitors. It would be nice to know whose ridding by looking at their pennies.
• Would love to see more 5* competitors
• The VIP pet experience is great. Horseland is way below par. Please see the Kids Korner at the FHI 4* which was a great draw. Sorry but Renee’s ponies are not really kid friendly. There are pony rides at Ludwig’s Corner and Plantation Field that far surpass this. Also, at prior FHI 4* were sheepherding, Budweiser carriage, dog agility, falconry, drill teams and pony club games, and a beer garden. At Kentucky, there was a Parelli demo that was stellar, reining demos and of course the Horse Park museum. The MD 5* is really subpar in this area.
• It was a MUCH better experience than last year. There really was a shuttle. There was WATER and there were portapotty locations throughout the venue. There was food available at various locations.
• Emphasize that you need many more food vendors scattered about, on course, etc. Also need more & regular shuttle service around course.
• Although I appreciate the attempt to keep the YEH close to the main action, I do not think the layout of the 4yo jump course gave those horses the opportunity to establish a good galloping rhythm and show themselves off.
• Better overall management of VIP areas and understanding of what each level gets each ticket holder
• We came for three days with a big group of experienced equestrians who had a good friend competing in the 3* and 5*. Everyone thought this year was SO much better in organization and options than last year. WELL DONE FAIR HILL! We are so happy to have such a fabulous event here in Maryland and will be coming back each year. The food vendors were great, but lines got really long at peak times. Also, we would have appreciated more picnic tables – perhaps in the field where the vendor tents are? We ended up just sitting on the ground to eat. If food trucks have mobile ordering that might alleviate some of the crowds. Another suggestion would be to have drinks (esp water) available for purchase separate from the food trucks. It got hot on Sunday and it was a long line anytime someone wanted water. The vendors were AWESOME and several friends commented that they wanted a whole extra day to shop. Continue the awesome job getting fabulous vendors. On a constructive note, PLEASE try to get the shuttles for XC day improved. My husband waited for 20 minutes prior to the 5* start for a shuttle out to the XC field without seeing a shuttle. He also found it very hard to find the XC course having not been to FHI before and not having horse experience. Even the volunteers he spoke with weren’t really helpful in helping him locate our tailgate area. Your maps were good but the volunteers on XC day should be well versed in the XC fields and directions.
• More food and drink options on course. My pulled pork sandwich was pretty unpalatable lol… I’m not fussy, but it was that and a taco, and I had tacos the night before lol
• Need better (more) shuttle service to XC course. Do a better job of having vendors announce when they are having rider interviews/autograph signings, etc. Host more special events (meet and greets) with riders that are accessible to all.
• Infield vendors don’t get any foot traffic and move out was a disaster, move them to the Paddock area under a covered tent. Everyone wants a paper program, get with the program!! Get the Pony Clubs to replace Horseland and move all special events to the infield Iike Food fest and Beer and Wine Fest. Bad design not having permanent track crossings.
• The crab water element I think the spectators could have been kept out of the track area and maybe some bleachers so you could see more than the riders helmet bobbing thru
• I did not feel appreciated as a volunteer. I have volunteered for 18 years, including this year, at this event and its predecessor. I doubt I will volunteer anymore.
• I did not see any large people movers for spectators a la the big tractor with the hay cart from previous years. Lots of individual golf carts for volunteers. They were very loud. Parking was much easier to get out of this yr than last. Need more food vendors. Long lines
• Whoever is organizing the event, from the spectator’s point of view needs to rethink the problem.
• Course maps for XC jump judges and crossing guards would be VERY helpful.
• The port-a-potty in the general parking lot was appreciated; needed them closer/more convenient on cross country. They were WAY too far away on xcty. Lunches for the volunteers was dreadful.
• The music in the entrance & vendor area was too loud and not a good selection of music. The Music in the grand stand area while riders were competing was horrendous- too loud and again, not a good selection of music. The shuttle service to the xc (Alligator jump) took one hour to take- wait line very long & confusing. The merchandise needs a better selection of T- shirts, polo shirts, sweat shirts & more colorful selections!! Improvements of YEH jumping test location was an excellent choice. Now please improve more w/announcing the breeding, breeder, owner, & rider of the horse- or have it on your digital program!!! Let’s make MD 5* the best⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
• Was in the sawmill tent. The food was horrible. Salad with no salad dressing, cold fried chicken, ham on biscuits without cheese or any condiments. For $300?? Still no shuttle service that actually allows you to visit to different jumps on the course. Unless the hayride pulled by the tractor did that, it disappeared after two trips.
• I think this year was better than last year. I think more shuttles would be helpful. Maybe some even to the middle of the cross country course. I would love to see more vendors
• so happy, that Maryland and Fair Hill won to have the event in our home state,, I hope it stays for years to come. I hope it helps promote the sport and provides investment to expand the number of eventing venues in our region.
• Thanks so much for a great event
• We purchased the Hedurra VIP package and were very satisfied with the facility and the food, staff was very attentive, private bathroom was a plus, location was very convenient. Price was fair for the service but probably not an every year expense. If price were to come down a little would seriously consider consistent purchase.
• The biggest thing was the sound system. There was virtually no sound on course. If I had paid for a tailgate spot, I would have been upset that there was no sound. As it was, we were guests in the Brown Advisory chalet, but there was no sound in the main arena during cross country. You could barely hear a thing! That’s the biggest improvement needed. There should be sound throughout the course and there should be more sound throughout the arena and outside the arena.
• I really enjoyed my time there. They did a great job!
• We felt as though the vendors were really lacking this year, and as a potential vendor and hearing from friends we felt the vendor prices were very high which kept us away as vendors. As spectators, that go to shows around the world to watch our 5* competitors, the show/challenge of the course/design lacked extremely, and it felt like a horse trial they were trying to be fancy, and not a legitimate 5* performance. Last year was great for an inaugural event and while things needed to be improved, the opposite occurred in this situation. Hopefully next year things will get sorted.
• Lines for food were quite long and in some cases very slow – might need some additional options.
• the only disappointing thing was the rider who never heard the start whistle and how they handled that
• I enjoyed the day, and I was thrilled I got to see the venue this year.
• Much improved over last year, but still a few things to tweak.
• Need a decent coffee vendor; more food vendors I hear the shuttle service was very bad I had a great time; I hope you can keep bringing more high level competitors I’ll be back for 2023
• Dogs should not be allowed on the cross country course during the event, it scared the horses. The timing bell to start did not ring during the 5 star for one of the jumpers. She should have been stopped and restarted she clearly had no idea what was going on.
• Great coverage on MPT!
• Having been a long time vendor at Fair Hill international, I guess I missed that festival in the country feeling. I understand it is a different event, but it felt sort of like being in a foreign land.
• While sadly wasn’t able to attend in person this year, I was EXTREMELY appreciative of the livestream on MPT. Knowing that I could still “be there” in spirit via MPT was a highlight of my weekend. Please continue to share the event that way!
• Just needed more time as emergency services to view the vendor row! We didn’t have enough time to spend money! Thank you for having us!
• We unfortunately could not hear any of the announcements from our tailgate in the Timber area.
• Much improvement from last year More frequent shuttles and more food truck on course would be nice Had to hear the announcer at some jumps A bit expensive on cross country day fir families
• Improved over last year, but the layout still leaves a lot to be desired compared to the Gallaher road side. It is obvious the management is not horse people.
• This year, I saw some advance promo on MPT. Yay! Excellent! I watched some of it on MPT. TV coverage still seems addressed only to enthusiasts. Needs more cameras, angles, and especially cuts to closeups. I think the layperson is gripped by the personal, not the technical. Is the horse tired near the end? Froth streaked? Resistant? Relaxed? What is on the rider’s face? Closeups would create more intimacy and immediacy, more visceral sense of what the athletes are experiencing. Football or NASCAR has plenty of closeups interspersed. Pit crew, sidelines, driver/QB or other faces wherever possible. Totally understood that resources are limited … however, investment is needed to develop critical mass in TV production to approach breakout in fan base. (As reference, I’m a former horse owner, and have an intermediate knowledge base.)
• Needs to be better communication to volunteers. I received multiple emails saying different things. The assigned volunteer roles I was given did not actually exist, or had too many volunteers for that position. Poor communication between volunteer organizers. I’m sure I could have been used elsewhere but was abandoned in the warm up ring while someone went to “find something” for me to do. I saw other volunteers quit their job mid way through their shift as their position was over staffed and they had nothing to do.
• Stabling had inadequate grading for drainage. It would be a simple fix to put a swale around to prevent flooding. Also groom shuttles were insufficient especially on xc day. This too would be resolved if we could use our own golf carts.
• For older people, it was difficult to move around the cross country course. I was very surprised they didn’t offer some sort of shuttle option along the side of the course to help people move around better.
• Well done and thank you for listening to the feedback from 2021
• Need headphones and an entertaining knowledgeable commentator for dressage.
• It would be nice to have more food/drink options throughout the XC track. There seemed to be some issues with video/commentary near the sawmill tailgate. At one point there was no audio/video but clearly there were riders & horses still running the 3* track. Also, there’s a path from the sawmill to the vendor village (going past the stables). Perhaps to decrease the volume of people trying to shuttle over to the sawmill the event could add signs or mark the pathway. It’s significantly shorter than going all the way around the XC course. There may be some concern about people walking near the stables but positioning a few volunteers there to help guide people down the left side of the fork in the road towards the pathway would help limit interaction with the stabling area (right side of the fork in the road). I do not know enough about the FEI rules regarding start bells and the ability to ring a bell again/signal clearly to a rider who is waiting but unaware their time has started to speak to the issue that occurred during a round in the 5* show jumping phase, but clear explanation on the part of the announcer would have been appreciated. It’s not a good look to have a top rider penalized and drop severely down the leaderboard on something that in all honestly seemed like a misunderstanding/technicality that could have easily been avoided by the ground jury. Although I was not there for dressage, friends who attended spoke of ground personnel/volunteer issues also causing complications for at least one rider. Although things do happen, it’s important to do everything possible to limit these types of negative situations which could limit the number of riders interested in signing up for a new event. Perhaps additional training is required for volunteers in positions that potentially have direct interactions with riders/horses. Overall though I think this year made significant progress over the inaugural year and am sure it will continue to improve.
• Need spectator advocates and more seating along cross country
• very good event. As mentioned shuttles/school buses/transport around cross country needs to be more frequent and readily available. Also needs to be more seating around venue for sitting and eating food.
• Loved all the dog friendly touches!
Why or Why Not Attending in 2023?
• Had a ball!
• I will attend, because I will volunteer (this year, I did volunteer on 4 days, pre-show – but I also BOUGHT a $40 general admission ticket for my 82 yr. old friend who found the walk from SawMill down to the parking fields VERY TAXING). I think the people-transport issues that were so evident during the 2021 event were not particularly improved upon during the 2022 event.
• Lovely venue, close to Annapolis. Very nicely run.
• I am a local horse rider and want to support the sport and your efforts! Great press for our area! Kudos!
• We enjoy the facility; it was well presented looking forward to next year
• Always great fun
• I live close and hope to see continued improvements. I will not be a vendor again, however. I lost a huge amount of money on that. If $1000 (for a nonprofit) is the lowest price, there have got to be better results. I was not alone in this. I doubt any of the infield vendors will be back.
• I love seeing the competition. The horses and riders are amazing! With the improvements made this year, it was an enjoyable experience. It’s a fun weekend with friends.
• I live here in MD, enjoy it despite certain inadequacy
• Can’t wait! Might want to be there all the days.
• We are thrilled to have a 5* in Maryland. This year was so much better than last year (we had a great time then too), and we can’t wait to return.
• I’ll be there God willing!
• Had a great day. The only thing that would have made it better would be to have double the number of “vans” to ferry spectators from one point to another. We had to wait 20 min for a ride and given the long distances between various parts of the course having more regular and reliable service would be a huge improvement. Otherwise a great job! Enjoyed vendors and tailgating. Got some great pictures at various spots. Great work!
• I will attend in 2023 of great experiences in 2021 and 2022
• We’ve been attending the event since it started in 1989 and live nearby so it has become a fall tradition with my family. Fair Hill International and its volunteer army is what really makes this event happen.
• Looking forward to more improvements
• I will likely volunteer in the same capacity as this year
• I am no longer planning to volunteer and I don’t care enough about the event to pay for an expensive ticket to attend.
• Will be course veterinarian again for 2023 xcountry day. Thought this year was major improvement compared to last year for vendors and food. Still think there needs to be more people movers for middle part of the xcountry course. People able to get to parking to crab or to beginning of the course, but people still talked about hard to go from end to the other through the middle
• Great riders, horse, beautiful faculty
• will continue the venue and show. Needs to stay in Maryland and draw top competitors
• It’s a fun event and big improvements happened from last year to this year. I look forward to attending/volunteering again next year.
• I expect to attend in 2023 – again as a volunteer.
• First class facility, competitors, staff and Maryland should be very proud of hosting this great event
• Great event
• Support MD
• I definitely wouldn’t splurge for a tailgate spot again. It took a long time to get to our spot via shuttle, and we were so far from everything that we never made it to the vendor village, and didn’t get to see very much of the course
• No shuttle service around the course. Food served was truly ridiculous. After last year, I thought the shuttle would be improved. You need to provide free shuttle (or an affordable day-long option to use the shuttles) to everyone, including general admission. The shuttles should go out along the course so that spectators aren’t stuck at one jump all day. The shuttles should also go from the course to the parking lots, now that parking is such a long walk from the main area. I suspect you are losing a lot of older people and people who can’t walk well over rough ground by not providing this service. I don’t know what to say about the food at the sawmill tent. Find a more reliable caterer? I felt sorry for the service staff. There was also very little food and when they took it away, they just put out granola bars and chip packets from Costco. My tickets were a gift, so I am not vested in the outcome of what happened at the Sawmill tent, but I honestly think you should reimburse the people who purchased the tickets. My daughter flew out from California just to attend that Saturday and I was embarrassed by how bad it was.
• I love the Maryland 5 Star. I would love to see more course walks and meet and greets. Some fun activities for 4h kids or pony club kids would be great too.
• if rolex at Kentucky was closer, I would attend that one every year – Too much travel time/ expenses. Now that we have a 5 star so close to home, I am going to take advantage to be able to watch our top riders compete.
• Amazing sport and beautiful form. One or two tweaks would make it perfect. We are so lucky to have this in Maryland.
• Lodging was a challenge, we stayed in an affordable VRBO 20 mins away. The price for the same house next year has almost doubled. Lodging is an issue. Venue was beautiful, service was great, XC course was impressive, great event.
• We shall see
• It’s a top-notch professional event and a blessing that we have it here in MD.
• We plan on attending and tailgating again. We travel around the world watching and supporting our top level riders. We hope things will progress and get better.
• Look forward to watching that level of competition. May go on stadium day instead of Country–less walking
• Just depends on my schedule but would love to attend
• Why go abroad to watch a 5* when you can do it from home?
• Wouldn’t miss this important Maryland event!
• It’s a great yet intimate venue; good competition; enjoyed all the vendors – yes, I’ll be back in 2023
• Great event, will come again!
• I hope to attend in 2023 as it’s a great event and I think it will continue to to get better and better every year!
• Because it’s a fantastic event to have at this level local to us!
• YES we will be bringing our emergency service gator to assist again next year our members LOVE horse events
• We plan to attend again to help support the Maryland Horse Council.
• Fun event been doing for years
• I wouldn’t miss a 5* this close to home.
• Depends on whether it’s publicized well in advance (months, not days), either by email blast, tv spots or both. Does Jeff Salkin do a bit on Direct Connection? Would help if his coverage was publicized also via email blast. I watch him irregularly, but sometimes find his topics engrossing when I stumble upon them. I watch PBS almost exclusively (8 grownup PBS channels via antenna in Annapolis) and I often see filler promo clips in the minutes between shows, so this would make an impact if inserted into schedule. Don’t know if it was covered by the MPT magazine (am between contributions temporarily, don’t get the mag currently). Overall, advance promo is lacking in email, print, TV. (I don’t do social media, couldn’t care less about it.)
• I want the 5* in my own back yard to succeed
• Should be competing again
• I have friends and family who compete at that level. I have tailgated at Fairhill 4* for more than 20 years.
• I plan to attend to support the event. Attending Kentucky is not always an option due to the distance so as long as the Maryland 5* is run, I’ll attend. In addition to the event, the are surrounding Fair Hill is beautiful so it’s a nice break away or mini vacation from day-to-day responsibilities.
• I’ll be at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. Pity they coincide as the 22 Five* was an incredible day out!
• Great event for Maryland. Can get better and better
• More interesting offerings in October between shows and Steeplechase. Expense and spread out course. Seems less organized than the old Fair Hill 4*. I may go, but it isn’t a big draw.
• heard nothing but amazing things about the event. High level equestrian eventing.
• I hope to be a volunteer on XC day again!