Administrators are delighted with all the horsing around expected today at Howard Community College.
The eighth annual Columbia Classic Grand Prix national horse jumping event, which begins at 10 a.m., benefits the college's Educational Foundation scholarship program.
Since the Columbia Classic began in 1987, the event has raised about $650,000 for the foundation, including $200,000 last year, bringing the endowment to more than $1 million.
"The majority of the funds were raised over the last four years because the event has grown and gotten so successful," said Sandra Harriman of Laurel, who has been the foundation's executive director for five years.
This year, however, organizers are expecting to net only $100,000 as a result of a plan to move away from national sponsorships and cultivate local support.
"In the long run, we want to lay down the foundation for local sponsorships," said Randy Bengfort, HCC's public relations and marketing director.
More than 100 students have been helped through funds raised from the Grand Prix, including Rouse Scholars selected immediately after high school on the basis of academic accomplishment.
The Columbia Classic is one of about 30 competitions in the National Grand Prix League and one of 15 in the Eastern Conference, which features the President's Cup in Washington.
About 5,000 people are expected to attend the daylong event, which will include show jumping events, equestrian exhibits, miniature and show horses, pony rides and specialty boutiques.
This year, 30 riders -- including those outside the league from Hawaii, Mexico, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada -- will compete for a $30,000 purse.
Points accrued in Grand Prix events also help determine who competes in the 1996 Olympic's equestrian show jumping event.
In today's Columbia Classic, horses will negotiate obstacle courses designed by 1984 Olympic gold and silver medalist Conrad Homfeld.
The courses will be laid out with a series of jumps over at least 12 fences -- some as high as 5 feet 3 inches, and as wide as 4 to 6 feet.
Horses with the fewest faults will qualify to enter the "jump off" on an obstacle course. Riders with the best times and least faults place in event.
The second program is the Junior/Amateur Jumpers Classic for riders younger than 18 and amateurs of any age. It features about 30 riders from New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland competing in two categories for a $7,500 purse.
Last year's Junior Classic first-place winner, Amanda Forte, will compete again with her winning horse, Fabulous, a 9-year-old German Westphalen. The Pennsylvania 10th-grader performed in the recent movie "Something to Talk About," starring Julia Roberts and Robert Duvall.
Amanda, 15, who has been riding since she was 5, hopes eventually to compete in the Olympics.
"I will be eligible in the year 2,000," said Amanda, who lives on a horse farm in Glenmore, Pa.
Gates open at 9 a.m. today for the Columbia Classic Grand Prix at Howard Community College. The Grand Prix will begin at noon; the Junior/Amateur Classic begins at 10 a.m. Lawn seating is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. Bleacher seating is $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. For more information, call 992-4828.