Rob Banner ’75 has always had a love for horses but never suspected that he could make a career out of his passion.
After graduating from EHS and then from Vanderbilt with an English degree, Rob began his career working at several equine magazines, including the Horsemen’s Journal , Equus Magazine, and the Chronicle of the Horse. After working his way up through the ranks of advertising and publishing, Rob began serving on the board of the Great Meadow Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates Great Meadow Farm and is dedicated to preserving and protecting open space. After 17 years, Rob was appointed president of the foundation and began managing the daily operations of Great Meadow, a 380-acre field events center and steeplechase course located in The Plains, the heart of the scenic countryside of Virginia.
“You can see tens of thousands of acres of land without a single building in your view except a lonely silo and a barn… it’s an amazing view,” says Rob.
Throughout the year, Great Meadow hosts a variety of events that are dedicated to eventing and steeplechase, including the Virginia Gold Cup and the FEI Nation’s Cup of Eventing, an international team competition. In addition, Great Meadow hosts events such as Twilight Polo and the Scottish Games, which attract over 200,000 people to the farm each year. “It’s an amazing time to be at Great Meadow,” Rob says, “and the facility, after 30 years, is showing that it’s not done growing yet.”
Great Meadow is currently in the running to host a CCI 4-star eventing competition. The Concours Complet International (CCI), or the ratings for the equestrian sport of eventing, are given by the international governing body for the sport, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). CCI 4-star events are the highest level of international competition and are comprised of three events: dressage, cross country, and show jumping. Great Meadow has been selected as a finalist to host this international event from five other eventing centers across the country. There is only one other CCI 4-star event in the nation, and if Great Meadow’s application is approved, it would be only the seventh in the world. After another round of inspections and deliberations, the winner will be chosen from the two finalists in June, and Rob likes Great Meadow’s chances. “We have the experience, we have the facility, we have the volunteers, and we have the sponsors.”
Rob’s passion for horses and the sport of eventing has inspired him to become an advocate for horsemanship in the Piedmont region of Virginia. “My goal as a horseman is to anchor Virginia as a center for equestrian in the nation, and the Mid- Atlantic area is filled with top level horsemen,” he says. “It was conspicuous to me as to why we had never hosted any international level sport in this area. We’re in this great area for horsemanship, but we haven’t hosted the world.”