The Washington International Horse Show!

There are a few differences between horse shows and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS).  A primer before I dig into the behind the scenes goodness:

“Horse Shows”:

  • Some have indoors and outdoors.  
  • Lots of trailer parking
  • Loads of stabling, permanent and sometimes temporary, too. 
  • Longeing areas and plenty of designated warm up areas.
  • Space to hand graze your horse. 
  • No ice hockey rink sharing the same space as the horse show arena.


The WIHS arena is sometimes a hockey rink!  And a basketball court!


  • Indoor only, 
  • The warm up ring is indoor, too!
  • Streets of downtown Washington DC are converted into stables.
  • The Capitals and Wizards (Hockey and Basketball) share the space!
  • Sidewalks, horse paths, and manhole covers are red carpet ready for horses. 
  • Amazing classes, many not found in any other shows in the US - Puissance and Gambler’s Choice (in costume!!) and the famous Shetland Pony Steeplechase!


The warm up!  It's large enough to safely allow horses to warm up, including over fences!  The footing in the warm up is top notch, just as in the main arena.  More horse friendly red carpet!


Getting to the WIHS begins the process of exploring the uniqueness of this show and it’s amazing presence in Downtown D.C.  We took the Metro. I was accompanied by my right hand gal, Ryan, and her camera, too.  Exit on Gallery Place - Chinatown and we are there. 




Show set ups were similar to any show not in the middle of a busy downtown street.  Trunks, banners, chairs, dogs, tack. 


The first thing we saw was a street, blocked off with a fence, containing stables.  Yes, stables.  The stalls are the same that you would see on any showgrounds, they were just taking up a city block.  The sidewalks around the barns are covered with a heavy duty pad for the horses to walk on. Squishy and safe.  The manhole covers are also protected.  Thoughtful and prepared.



The sidewalks and manhole covers all sported cushy and safe coverings.  Red carpet all the way!


As I arrived we also notice the horses walking back and forth from the stables to the grounds - which is really the belly of the Verizon Center.  The arena, warm up, more stables, storage for jumps and the tractors that move them like a well choreographed ballet, mobile ambulance and other horse show necessities are housed down the padded ramp.  


There’s a large rig on the street, loading up a few horses.  We learned later that horses can be shuttled back and forth from the Prince George Showgrounds in Maryland.  No trailer parking in D.C.!  


Quite literally a Pony Express at a busy downtown intersection.  Lots of security and police to help with the traffic and people.  


We were there to see our friend Allison Brock and her stallion Rosevelt perform a special GP dressage freestyle demonstration in between the evening classes.  Allison filled us in on a few other nuances of the uniqueness of this show.  Because there is limited warm up space, and the main arena is the only one, schooling can only be done when classes are not going on.  (Classes go on all day and into the night.)  Schooling is done after the classes finish (sometimes as late as 10pm and before the am classes start at 7am)  Allison schooled Rosevelt in the wee hours of the morning, will dozens of other riders and their trainers.  This allowed Rosevelt to be introduced to the arena, the jumbotron overhead, and the overall atmosphere.  This also makes for a long night for Carrie, Allison’s Groom, who has loads of post ride work to do as well.  Some of the other Grooms told me about lining up at 1am in the morning waiting in line to lunge in the main arena.  So very past my bedtime!


That's me, Allison, and Ryan before she hopped on to warm up Rosevelt for the Freestyle Demo!

We were also able to watch and shoot the WIHS Equitation Finals, which was the last work off round where riders were on their competitor’s horses!  The grande finale of the evening was the $125,000 Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Washington.  Lots of big name riders and trainers!  There is not a bad seat (or empty seat) in the house, and with the jumbotron above, the action is right in front of you. These seats were packed!! The announcers, BTW, had lovely accents and kept the crowd entertained with groovy music and jumbotron camera angles of dancing fans.  Quite fun. 


There's nothing small about the 1.60 meter fences!  



The show is definitely spectator friendly and horse savvy!  See you there next year, also!