For the past 61 years, equestrians from around the globe have come together for a full week of events in the nation’s capital, in celebration of one of the earliest, and most prestigious, sports in the world: equestrianism.
Hosted in and around the Capital One Arena, the Washington International Horse Show, spanning from Tuesday, Oct. 22 to Sunday, Oct. 27, is far more than a competitive event. While each day will consist of amateur or professional competitions followed by award ceremonies, evening festivities include barn night, giving youngsters the chance to interact with horses, a commemoration of the military, pony races, vendor stations with boutique goods and more.
“This is the one horse show where the horses really come to the people,” says nonprofit Washington International Horse Show Association, Ltd. president, Vicki Lowell. “We don’t really have the pleasure anymore of having horses out on the street all the time, so when we bring the horses to DC and set them up in the arena, they are right there for everyone to see. It’s a unique opportunity.”
Lowell, who first competed at WIHS in the late ’90s, was working at Discovery Communications in 2008 when she was approached by then-president Juliet Reid about joining the team. She has led the event since 2013, bringing Olympic stars and talented horses to the arena for residents in the region to see first-hand.
Preparing for the week-long event takes extensive planning, according to Lowell, as there is a short window of time to actually set up the space before the show begins. The team behind this one-of-a-kind event has to set up stalls on the street, put the footing (fiber mix flooring) into the arena, decorate and build the stands for vendors in just two days before exhibitors, competitors and fans alike arrive.
There are also about 100 stalls for horses to stay in, yet over 500 horses travel from across the world to compete, making each day a 24-hour operation, according to Lowell. Plus, if the hoses arrive late at night, they stay in the arena for hours in order to exercise and prepare for the full day ahead.
But when it all comes together, the occasion brings thousands of people to one site for the celebration.
At this year’s show, guests can expect to see world-renowned talent, including Olympic show jumper McLain Ward, professional equestrian and owner of the team New York Empire Georgina Bloomberg, and last year’s champion of the International Open Jumper Section, Olympic athlete Beezie Madden.
“There’s no other competition in the world where you can have Olympic-level horses right on the street for interaction with people,” says Lowell. “I’m a believer that horses do such good for people, and I love the thought that many people get their first experience with a horse at this show.”
For a full schedule and tickets to the week’s events, click here. // Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, Washington, DC; prices vary
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