Skip to content
Washington International Horse Show Offers Top Quality
The Washington International Horse Show kicks off nearly a week of activities in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, culminating with the $100,000 President's Cup Grand Prix Saturday.
If you've never been to a horse show of this caliber, and you've got the money and time to spare, it's worth a trip. The quality of the riding is amazing. One of the most compelling contests (in my opinion; a friend of mine can't bear to watch) is the Puissance, or high-jump, event. Held on Friday night this year, it offers a $25,000 purse to the rider whose horse jumps the highest. The horses jump a single wall, which is raised after each round until nobody clears it. Talk about feats of athleticism.
The record-holder is Tony d'Ambrosio of Red Hook, N.Y., whose horse Sweet 'n' Low, a 17-hand off-the-track thoroughbred, cleared 7 feet 7 1/2 inches — yes, you read that right — at the Washington show in 1983. That record has yet to be broken.
The horse show has attracted some notable attendees in the past, such as Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Ford, Gen. William Westmoreland, Bruce Springsteen, and actor and rider Christopher Reeve. He attended the show in 2003, in his last public appearance, and after making a moving speech he received a 6-minute standing ovation.
The show has something for every type of horse lover. There's competitions in show jumping, hunters, equitation, dressage, four-in-hand driving, pony classes, and more. There's something called a "open jumper costume pair relay." Carson Kressley, of the TV shows "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "How To Look Good Naked" will participate in a Saddlebred breed exhibition. (Hopefully, he'll be clothed for that.) There will be terrier races. There will be celebrity hunt teams, featuring U.S. Olympic riders Laura Kraut and Karen and David O'Connor. The Canadian Olympic dressage team will give a demonstration.
There are lots of activities for youngsters, including a Pony Pavilion with free pony rides on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This is the horse show's 50th anniversary, and this year it is partnering with the D.C.-area chapter of Autism Speaks. On Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. there will be a "Day of Champions" celebration of special needs children and therapeutic riding. This event is free.
The show is held at the Verizon Center on F Street NW, and offers group discounts for members of the same barn, clubs, teams, etc. If you've got a group and are interested in going, contact the Verizon Center group sales department at 202-661-5061. For regular ticket information, call 202-397-SEAT.
For additional information and to see a schedule of events, go to www.wihs.org.
Besides being an equestrian, Bonnie Phillips is The Courant's city/suburban editor. Her horse is named Annie.