Washington In Stride
2002 marked the third year for Washington International Horse Show at the MCI Center. The venue is no longer “new,” but
of course, to horse people, MCI will be the “new” location for a long, long time (heck, there were still people referring to USAir
Arena as the “new” location because it was not the D.C. Armory).
The show is beginning to seem “comfortable” in its new location. Competitors and vendors know the ropes now, they know where to find the show office, how to wind their way through the underground labyrinth of stables and offices, how to juggle loading and unloading horses in downtown D.C.
Spectators have figured out the routine of traveling into the city. Vendors now know which hotels are the most convenient and offer the better rates. In addition-and perhaps most importantly- the city seems to have embraced the show. Washington International Horse Show is now another “happening” in D.C., offering good, wholesome family entertainment. It is getting more air time on local stations; DJ.s are talking about the show on their radio programs.
Of course, being in the Capital City, the show feels the effect of national events. Last year it was the terrorist attacks. This year it was the sniper attacks.
Twelve months of public relations to secure those coveted morning live spots on T.V. out the window because of “live and late breaking”- but it is hard to be peevish. After all, they caught the sniper, and this is “just” a horse show. Nevertheless, it can be disheartening.
But the staff at Washington soldiers on with tenacious good cheer, and is rewarded with radio talk show hosts praising the horse show as the perfect tonic and antidote for detoxing ones family from all that fear and hibernation.
Friday night, featuring the Big Wall, saw one of-if not the biggest-crowd in the history of the show, and if that doesn’t warm the cockles of a horse person’s heart, nothing will. The organizers seem to have figured out a way to package the entire show to appeal to the general public-and the public are attending.
And this is a good thing. This is good for the horse community. This makes the sponsors happy. This makes more people excited about horses, and those people then become interested in taking lessons or going on an equestrian vacation. The show is still tweaking the details of the program, figuring out a formula that works, the right combination of competition and spectacle, but in general, they are presenting a more complete package to the public, and they are marketing it better to the public as well.
We are, however, losing parts of the show that are meaningful to horse people (hunt night, side saddle), but perhaps there is a place for those elements in the other show. Perhaps Local Day will continue to evolve into a “happening” in its own right. But as long as the Washington International Horse Show continues to feature the best of the best in equestrian competition, we will be there to support it.
Could it be more people own horses than last year? Wouldn’t that be nice-we could then thumb our nose at the idea of a “recession.” While we cannot say more people own horses than last year, we can say that more of the respondents of this year’s survey own horses this year than last year. This year, 90% of the respondents own horses (average number: 2.7), versus last year when only 75% did. The downward ticking trend of fewer spectators foxchasing continues (whether
this is because fewer riders foxchase, or because fewer foxchasers are attending is unclear). Hunter/jumper/event and dressage riders are still the cornerstone of the equestrian spectators. Last year, we saw some western riders, but this year none participated in the survey.
TREND SPOTTER: Fewer people are attending more than one night. Last year, 12% attended three or more times, and 36%
attended two times. This year, only 10% attended three or more times, and only 20% attended the show twice. This reverses the trend from 1998 to 2000 which had equestrians increasing the number of attendance.
Publications Rule! Internet Getting Stronger; Direct Marketing Down.
While, yes, we realize that because this survey appears in a publication, the survey participants are, by default, Equiery readers
and users, we are, nevertheless, thrilled to know that publications are the primary information source for respondents. This continues an upward trend: last year 57% of the respondents indicated publications were their first source of information, this year 68% did. Internet as a primary source was up from 12% to 16%, while direct mail took a sharp dive, from 21% last year, to 8-10% this year (some respondents listed both publications and direct marketing as their primary source).
68% of the respondents said that the internet was their secondary source of information; only 24% said that they used the phone. This is following a steady trend over the last few years: publication tickle the interest, the internet provides, the details.
Respondents gave an average 7.6 score to “ease of getting information.” However, while compiling the results, a trend was reported. Those who reported using the telephone as their secondary source of information (who never used the internet), gave “ease” scores of 1, 2 or perhaps as high as 4. People using the phone were very unhappy with their service. However, once their scores dropped, the ease of use and satisfaction score average becomes 8.2 (with lots of 10s) – pretty darn good.
So although phone users are becoming an increasingly smaller percentage they are feeling more exiled than before.
Comments included compliments on the brochure and the website: “Internet access is great! All info right there on the site!”
“WIHS has a good website and abbreviated mailers is 75% ok” One respondent did report that she had never known about the show, and found out about it from a brochure at her child’s elementary school! 80% pre-purchased their tickets, and only 20% purchased their tickets on the site, and ease of purchase received an average score of 8.8 out of ten, and there were no complaints about ease of purchase.
KUDOS: When The Equiery first started publishing these surveys in the mid-1990s the biggest complaints from local equestrians about Washington was the lack of information made available before show and the hassle of trying to buy tickets. Local riders were becoming increasingly resentful that the organizers of Washington did not seem to see the need to reach out to them, to make sure that the horse people knew when the show was and what was happening each night. Riders felt like they had to go look for the information, to play hide and seek. The ticket buying process also brought forth reams of complaints. The bottom line: Washington was not perceived as “user friendly.” This trend has not only been halted but completely reversed. We no longer hear complaints, only compliments! From Washington’s outreach (blanketing Maryland and Virginia with information via advertising and direct mail), to their well designed website and improved the phone systems, organizers are now receiving nothing but praise.
Tallying up these scores was like tallying a good dressage ride: lots of 9s and 10s, occasionally dipping down into the 6s and 7s. Seating/viewing receiving nothing lower than a 7; average score was 8.5. However, many horse people still yearn for good ol’ days at the Cap Centre, where the arena staff did not care, during the slow times, if they find it baffling when the MCI staff will not allow them to do so.
The announcer also received an 8.5, as did the technical and 95% of the respondents thought the announcer provided good background information. 15% of the respondents, however, felt that more information was needed on each class or phase, what was required for that class, and more information on how the horse and rider were faring in the competition, and 20% reported that they did not understand how a class was being scored.
Nevertheless, 95% of respondents felt that the announcer added to their enjoyment (interestingly, one respondent was “neutral” on the topic). The announcer did receive a score of 5, but with the score came this constructive comment: “Gambler’s needs great announcing, otherwise BORING. No excitement in this years Gambler’s Choice!” The Equiery agrees – The Gamblers Choice cold be and perhaps should be the most exciting class of the show, but the responsibility for making that class exciting rests in the mike of the announcer.
60% of the respondents reported having contact with WIHS staff, and 95% of those respondents found the staff to be helpful, friendly and polite. 88% of the respondents reported think the demonstration add to their enjoyment, and 12% find they detract from the enjoyment. Many of our respondents would like something else “horsey” added to Friday night, preferably another competition rather than an exhibition, but many would be happy to see the mounties again. Our survey respondents tend to be primarily English riders who in general do enjoy watching and appreciate barrels and good reining, and indicate that they would even enjoy more of that. However, the bull riding is just not going over well.
“Bull riding is not relevant to show.“Starting to seem more like a circus”
“Cost of tickets for evening performance are too high for only one class; the exhibitions do not justify the cost of either a $30 or $60 ticket.”
“Drop the bull riding – very boring & not top level.
“WIHS is a CSIO, not a rodeo!
“Move bull riding to the afternoon – not prime time.”
“Jack Russels were fun.”
“Need more jumping.”
“The Arabian Nights receives mixed reviews: Trick riding was a bit silly and juvenile.”
“Guy with trick pony was best part!”
“Horse people seem to understand that this is a performance designed to entertain non-horse people and hopefully get them enchanted with horses.”
Wow! 50% of our respondents purchased programs! In 2000 and 2001, most of the respondents did not purchase programs. The primary inhibitor in the past has been the price, coupled with the fact that the content was often a stale re-hashing of the previous year’s content.
How did the content fare this year? Competition and background info each received a 7.6, and horse and rider information received a 7.8.
“Good overall coverage.”
“Love the photos from previous years!”
“Too expensive and too big.”
“Good articles, value as reference source.”
“Schedule of events per day should be more prominent.”
“Competitors get a small schedule- should be available to the public as well for a nominal charge.”
“Lack of class lists for major events; lack of background info on horses and riders in those events for 1st time visitors.”
“Love the explanation of classes.”
Everyone loves the shopping! No doubt about it, the vendors add to the entire Washington experience. In fact, putting on a riveting performance in the arena can be a mixed blessing: “Friday night’s show, with the Grand Prix and all the demonstrations, was fantastic. The pacing was terrific- I never left my seat! I didn’t get any shopping done this year!”
85% of the respondents, however, did get some shopping done, which again begs the question: what recession? In 2000, only 40% made purchases, and last year 66.6% made purchases. Very interesting!
85% also found there to be a good selection of vendors. Interestingly, one would presume that on those 15% of the surveys
that thought there was a poor selection of vendors, one would assume that those people were the same people that did not
Wrong. Almost 100% of the respondents who thought there was a poor selection of vendors nevertheless made a purchase. Go figure. Only 20% purchased souvenirs-up from 9%.
“Need to add some new vendors that support new products that have been introduced during the past year, such as saddles, supplements, etc.”
“Not as many vendors as past years? Where was Ariat? Bevels?”
“Like to see more horse rescues”.
“Need more vendors with cheaper goods the average person can afford.”
“More tack shops!”
“I always enjoy the vendors. It is my second favorite part of WIHS!”
“Too many vendors selling to people with horses-not enough vendors for horse lovers without. Pricey too.”
The Raspberry That Will Never Heal
Food at the MCI Centre. It will forever be a problem-a problem about which WIHS can do nothing. It is what it is, and to quote ourselves from last year: “the food continues to be tolerated and the prices scorned.”
Fewer of our respondents rode the Metro in this year, which could be a reflection of current events more than anything. Those
that parked found the location convenient, and people were pretty evenly split on whether they thought the price high or reasonable.
TREND REVERSAL: In 1999.100% of the respondents said they would return, then in 2000 only 50% said they would
return and in 2001 only 48% said they would return. The tide seems to have turned: 95% of the respondents said they
TREND SPOTTER: In the 12 years that The Equiery has been publishing and following the “big shows,” the general local
horse-public has never linked an individual name or personality with the show, the way Alan Balch’s name was linked
with the National Horse Show in New York.
However, the new president of WIHS, Dr. Sheila Johnson, has dedicated herself and her immense resources into developing the
show, and has put herself, her image and her reputation forward as the face of the show. We tip our hats to her, because this takes a combination of confidence, guts, conviction and passion to do, to be willing to be the public “fall guy” if things don’t go well.
So, tell us what you really think!
“Good job Dr. Sheila Johnson!”
“It is exciting to see world class riders!”
“Presidents Cup was superb! Nice evening.”
“Keep terriers too!”
“Miss the Dressage League Finals.”
“The opportunity to see professional riders in person helps to inspire all of us.”
“Still do not like show at MCI-too congested for horse and riders.”
“Well run show-good attendance this year!”
“Bring back InternationaI Teams and Nations Cup.”
“Get rid of Puissance-PR disaster waiting to happen.”
“I had three former instructors in WIHS! I was very proud of them.”
“The quality of the riders ~ wow!”
“Get rid of music clips before every rider – awful not a horse person thing.”
“Love the music clips for each rider, adds to the excitement!”
“Bring back the Lippizans – the real ones.”
“I thought the show was excellent Kudos to Dr. Johnson, she was GREAT!”
Fair Hill International Rebounds – Thanks to Equiery Readers
Hats off to our readers! Power of the press! Last year, we published what you thought of the 2001 Fair Hill International-which
wasn’t much frankly- and the organizers listened to you. Noted Louisa Emerick: “It was evident that organizers had listened to
reactions to last year’s FHI, reported in an Equiery survey.” “That article was in hand a number of times,” commented Diane
Trefry, FHI Board member and Secretary of the Driving Committee. It showed! The return of the agility dogs, the expanded trade fair, the food court, exhibitions, children’s activities, and general layouts were but a few of the major improvements.”
In short, “The Festival in the Country” was back-and how. Was this the biggest trade fair Fair Hill has ever had? If not, it sure seemed like it. The new layout was terrific. The dogs were back. Last year we used the terms “worn out” and “bleak.” This year there was an energy and an excitement – stuff was going on, and the biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to be in more than one place at any given moment.
This is a good problem for Fair Hill to have! And Fair Hill needed a good year under their belt, as next year they will be hosting the Pan American Eventing Championships. The 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, won’t include eventing, just dressage & show jumping. The last Pan Am Eventing Championships were held in ’91 at Bouckaert Farm in Georgia since eventing was not part of the Games in Havana, Cuba.
Organizer Trish Gilbert noted that they will use the same cross country course for both competitions. There should be no problem accommodating more horses (although there were only about 60 entries in this year’s three-day, some years have had nearly 100), the biggest change is they might have to start dressage on Wednesday.
95% of the respondents are horse owners, up from last year’s 70% (same uptick as WIHS). Last year, the WIHS respondents owned more horses; this year, the average number of horses is about the same: 2.4.
Again, like Washington, more non-English riders attended; this year, none of the respondents were involved in Western riding, and the disciplines were pretty evenly spread across the spectrum of English.
85% are amateurs. 46% attended one day, 40% three days. Saturday had the highest attendance, and Sunday was the second busiest day (whereas last year, Friday was the second busiest).
Publications & The Net
In ’98 & ’99, 50% of the respondents cited publications as their primary source; this went up to 90% in 2000, then to 70% in 2001 and this year it was 60%. Last year, 10% cited direct mail as their primary source, this year no one cited direct mail. Last year, 20% cited the intemet as their primary, which went up this year to 26%.
Another weird trend: internet, as a secondary source of information, continues to tick downward for Fair Hill (directly opposite of Washington). In 2000, 90% of the respondents cited the intemet as their secondary source, in 2001 it was 60% and this year it was 46%. Weird. We confess that we have not checked out their site, so perhaps it has something to do with what is or is not being posted on their site. Use of phones as the secondary source of information holds steady at 40%.
33% purchased their tickets in advance this year, which is up from previous years. Ease of purchase got mostly 10s.
KUDOS: The ease of getting information, and the accuracy of that information, shot up dramatically. Last year this column was
peppered with 1s and 3s; this year the columns were dominated with 8s and 9s (although there was an occasional rogue 3), earning a 7.4 for ease and 7.6 for accuracy.
KUDOS: Thank you to the organizers for running ads this year with correct information- that makes you look better and us look better!
Fair Hill-never a bad view. Mostly 10s didn’t bother to average them.
Trend Spotter: The scores just keep getting better for the announcers: overall went from 8.6 to 9.6, technical from 8.5 to 9.4 and content from 9.1 to 9.6. Everyone felt that the announcers gave them enough background information on the horses and riders, but 33% thought they didn’t give enough description of the phase and requirements for that phase, and 10% didn’t hear anything about the ranking of horse and rider during the event. But everyone said they understood how the competition was judged and scored. However, some people said that when they were on cross country, they could not hear any commentary.
85% of the respondents did come into contact with staff or volunteers, and 100% of those people said that they were helpful, friendly and polite, up with 83% from last year.
Over 90% of the respondents think that the demonstrations add to the overall quality of the event, and everyone was happy to see the dogs back. Most people wanted more dogs over the course of the weekend, and not just Saturday afternoon.
Only 70% purchased programs this year as compared to the 90% last year, though the program continues to receive scores, across the board for content, competition, horse and rider information. No complaints about the price, and this year 100% of the respondents found the program easy to use, whereas only 60% thought it was easy to use last year. Some of the people complained about the inserts and that they could blow away (which then of course creates a trash problem). One rider noted she would like to see the dimensions of the obstacles in the diagram.
Shopping & Food & Parking
Yes, the shopping this year was fabulous. 95%, up from 90% last year, though the selection of vendors was good. 75% made purchases, which is down a bit from 90% last year. 45% purchased souvenirs, up from 40% last year, and double what Washington sells. Respondents continue to praise the selection, quality and price of food at Fair Hill which definitely leads to the “Country Festival” experience. The big tent for seating with food vendors around the outside, and the pub tent were both very popular and very appreciated by all. No one griped about parking like they did last year; no one thought the parking was inconvenient, although some did think it cost too much.
Hope It Is A Trend!
Last year, only 80% said they would definately come back. This year, 100% said they would come back!
So, tell us what you really think!
“Loved the kids area for the kids to run around-thanks!”I would go all weekend.”
“Need more trash cans and port-a-pots.”
“Need more food vendors.”
“I love being able to take my whole family.”
“Individual times should be made available to spectators.”
“Love the cross county diagrams!”
“Liked the large map and schedule displays posted throughout the venue.”
“Shuttle should have reached far points on course.”
“Shuttle service was a great idea! Please do it again!”
“Program needs to explain scoring for cross country, the number of refusals allowed, etc.”
“$12 admission is too high.”
“The event is the best!”
“Please post a schedule for dog agility, we keep missing the small dogs.”
“Love seeing Olympic caliber riders.”
“I’ve been going for 8 years, and this was the best! Management listened about the bathrooms (very clean and well stocked) and the dog agility. It’s always a great feeling when you know they actually care!”