It’s been nearly two weeks since the World Equestrian Games Prep Trials at Great Meadow, but the eventing community is still abuzz, hailing the event a wild success and wondering how best to channel the energy and excitement that weekend generated for the sport.
Rob Banner, president of the Great Meadow Foundation, believes the next step is bringing a CIC3* to the venue, which recently added an additional 174 acres to the existing 200 to create the land needed to build a world class cross-country course.
“Ever since I came to Great Meadow five years ago, people have been wanting me to bring back eventing,” Rob said. “It’s something that takes time to be done well and make it last forever, and I think we’re finally there. We’ve put together all the pieces of the puzzle, and it looks really exciting that we’ll be able to bring it back.”
The site has hosted the popular Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase race for the past 30 years, bringing between 20,000 to 50,000 people on the grounds each year. The venue is already known for top-notch equestrian sports in the area, and the WEG Prep Trials attracted nearly 6,000 people for show jumping and 5,000 people for cross country.
“I think a lot of that has to do with Great Meadow and its history,” Rob said. “Many people are familiar with Great Meadow as a steeplechase, polo and show jumping venue. They know the footing is beyond reproach, and we’ve spent the last 30 years creating that. It’s near a metropolitan area, and Washington has always been a sound market. It’s an easy-access facility that’s already accustomed to hosting up to 50,000 people.”
The next step to bringing eventing back to Great Meadow is building a three-star level cross-country course, which world-renowned designer Mike Etherington-Smith has already signed on to design, with former Rolex course building assistant Aaron Rust as the builder.
“The additional 174 acres will give us the opportunity to cultivate an eventing track that is separate from the steeplechase course,” Rob said. “We only use the course twice a year for two days of racing in the spring and one in the fall. Other than that, there’s a lot of mowing, aeration, fertilization and more mowing, which has created really nice turf that’s ideal for a cross-country course.”
Great Meadow will also build a large, all-weather arena in the middle of the property for dressage and show jumping, and Rob said the initial survey work is already underway, with construction expected to start within the next 30 to 45 days.
The goal is to host the new CIC3* starting next year, ideally in the third or fourth weekend of June, though the dates are still up in the air, Rob said, as he wants to ensure the event doesn’t conflict with any other horse trials currently on the calendar.
And while a new CIC3* will be a great asset to the Area II summer calendar, that’s not the end goal, as Rob has also set his sights on bringing a leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup to Great Meadow.
“We’ve proved that we can certainly draw a big crowd, and a lot of people realized at the WEG Prep Trials that we can handle the larger task as well,” Rob said. “We’ll get together the very best committee we possibly can to not only navigate the organization of a Nations Cup but also work with the FEI to secure a date.”
U.S. coach David O’Connor has been a big push behind bringing a Nations Cup leg to the States, Rob said, and David has already spoken to chef d’equipes from other national federations who have expressed interest in sending teams.
Rob is also involved in the very early stages of helping to secure a new vetport at Washington Dulles International Airport, which would allow European riders to fly their horses directly to Washington, D.C., for a Nations Cup at nearby Great Meadow.
“It would be a thrill if we could get the vetport secured to help horsemen who bring horses from Europe,” Rob said. “Having that here would be a great asset to Great Meadow and other area venues. We’re urging for it to happen, and, so far, Dulles seems to be interested in having this kind of activity at the airport.”
The future looks bright from Great Meadow, thanks in large part to the financial generosity of the equestrian community, Rob said. “This is our mission — to preserve open space for equestrian and community service. It comes with a certain benefit of knowing that your donation goes to a cause that will bring eventing back at the very highest level to the benefit of everyone in the area and the country.”
Stay tuned for much more about Great Meadow as the dream of bringing a CIC3* — and ultimately a Nations Cup — to the venue becomes a reality. Click here for more information about the foundation and here to learn about how you can support Great Meadow. Go Eventing.