The U.S. Equestrian Federation’s board of directors have chosen Maryland’s Fair Hill over a competing site in Virginia to permanently host an annual international event of jumping, cross country and dressage.
The board made the decision Monday night to recommend Fair Hill over the other finalist, Great Meadow International in The Plains, Va.
The Kentucky-based federation’s recommendation still must be approved by the Federation Equestre Internationale, the international governing body for the Olympic sport known as "eventing." A decision is expected this fall.
The American federation had said previously that it was confident that whichever American venue it selected would exceed the international group's requirements.
The event is known in horse circles as a "four-star." Fair Hill would become just the second American site — and seventh in the world — to host one.
The competition, which spans four days, could bring an estimated economic impact to the state of $20 million to $30 million per year, according to Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland Sports, which seeks to draw large sporting events to the state.
The nonprofit Fair Hill International hosts a three-star equestrian event at the site each October; attended by about 15,000 people. The four-star event is more challenging than the three-star, with higher fences for jumping and a more challenging cross-country course.
Fair Hill said as many as 80,000 spectators may attend over the four days.
Fair Hill's nomination to host the event “is a reflection of our rich equestrian tradition and establishes our state as a premier destination for equestrian events and equine activities," said Gov. Larry Hogan in a news release. "We are proud that numerous private sector organizations, boards, and state and county agencies and elected officials all worked together to get Maryland to this point in the process, and we are extremely optimistic that we will secure final approval."
If approved by the international governing body, the event would be held in 2019, following a series of upgrades to the site.
"This announcement has awakened a sleeping giant, which is our $1 billion-plus equine industry,” said Ross Peddicord, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, in a written statement. “It will make Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region the center of the international horse world each fall and have a lasting impact on our industry for years to come.”