We sent an e-blast to our readers to find out what they thought of the 2007 Washington International Horse Show and Fair Hill Festival in the Country. The response was enormous and there were just too many comments to print in the December “2007 Internationals: Overview” printed column. Below you will find direct quotes and comments from our readers.
If you’d like to voice your opinion as well, e-mail us at email@example.com.
Washington International Horse Show
We asked our readers the following questions:
1) Did you attend the Washington International Horse Show this year?
2) Did you enjoy yourself?
3) Is WIHS able to fulfill the dual goals of providing a premiere hunter/jumper horse show for horse people and an entertaining equestrian show for the general public? Why or why not?
4) If not, do you think it is even possible to be both?
5) If it is not possible, then which way should the show go? Should it just be an elite horse show, and relocated to a smaller venue (with the understanding that ticket prices would probably go up, do to fewer seats available for the “big” nights)? Or should it drop the “real” horse show part, and just focus on being equine entertainment for a city audience?
6)Will you go back?
Here is what our readers said:
Holly Harrington (Gaithersburg)
3) Sort of. It’s a difficult juggle. I dislike the pure entertainment stuff; I assume the general public doesn’t understand the actual horse show part.
4) Yes, I do. Run it like an elite horse show but include commentary and explanation about what they are seeing. Use this as an opportunity to educate as well as entertain. Possibly have a situation where “real” people can meet the equestrians or pose questions.
5) If you turn it into equine entertainment then I won’t go.
Megan M. Draheim (Washington, D.C.)
2) Yes, but I felt that Thursday night was a little weaker then it has been in pervious years, in terms of content (were there always only four dressage participants?). BUt maybe that’s part of needing to appeal to both horse and non-horse people, which I think is important. In that case, I’m for it!
3) Yes. Two of the people with me were non-horse people, and they both enjoyed themselves. One thing that would be great would be to have the trick rider back – I know other non-horse people in the past really enjoyed that.
Mary Anne Kirgan (McLean, VA)
3) This year I only got to go on Friday night but I took my cousin and her daughters – it was very entertaining for the trained eye and anyone who likes horses! Over the years, I have taken many “non-horse community” people who have had a great time.
6) Definitely and continue to take others.
Vicki and Lynda Bazan (Frederick)
1) Yes I did.
2) For some of the show.
3) No, there were not enough horse events.
4) Yes, I believe the WIHS should go back to a diverse agenda. Such as stomp races, Arabian costume class as well as hunter, jumpers. The place needs to be changed. In the middle of D.C. is not conducive to have horses, and competitors do not want to warm up on concrete.
6) I’m not sure, I was not happy with Jewel’s program.
Elizabeth Madlener (Lothian)
5) It should continue to do both. However, I think the public would have been more entertained with Dressage Freestyle than they were with the barrel racing, which was – um – “ok.”
Wendy Barnes (Columbia)
3) We had a great time. We took two Western people from the farm and they totally enjoyed themselves. We were there for the President’s Cup on Saturday. One admitted that they thought they would be bored with the jumpers, but when he saw the course and the number of jumps and turns, he was very impressed with the horsemanship and the horses. We were able to watch the warm-up area and it was quite educational, as any horse person would admit, these are highly trained horses and riders. They also enjoyed the terrier races and the barrel racing. Wish there would have been a dressage exhibition that evening.
5) Please don’t change anything. It’s always been the local hunter/jumper event with the professional jumping, since I can remember. The first time I went to the show was 1971, when we drove down from Philly with our rider instructor who was a graduate of American University and we stayed on campus and then went to the Arena for the show.
Amy Reams (Silver Spring)
1) I did attend the Friday and Saturday night programs this year.
2) I found both evenings enjoyable.
3) I believe that WIHS was able to fulfill both goals of being a premier horse show while providing an entertaining experience for the general public. I believe that the show provides a venue for people just entering the horse world to become exposed to a variety of horse related events. I also believe that the WIHS provides people who have been in the sport for years a venue to watch great competitions at the top level of the sport. I appreciate the variety the show being not only a hunter/jumper show, but showing dressage and barrel racing. Predominately, I ride dressage and I really appreciate that the WIHS includes it in its competitive schedule.
I really enjoyed the musical appearance of Jewel this year. I thought she was great and really interacted well with the audience. I also thought she was a great fit for the audience. In years past I have felt that the musical performance could sometimes be a strange fit for a horse show’s target audience.
6) I will go back to next year’s show. I’ve been going to the WIHS for many years as a mother-daughter bonding experience. My only concern is that the ticket prices seem to keep going up and up. In years past we have always also gone to the Thursday evening performance. This year we skipped it. The tickets for all three nights performance would have just been too expensive. So, we went to the two days which featured the events that we were most interested in, the Puissance and the President’s Cup.
Brittany McGuire (Gambrills)
3) I defiantly think so. Not only is it always exciting for the equestrians, but also they provide some background information as well as rules to the activities for the audience members who don’t have a clue.
4) It is and it has been done. My boyfriend has attended both years and has enjoyed himself just as much as I have, and he is not into horses at all.
Michael A. Celso (Hampstead)
3) Yes and No – The featured events lacked that “by the edge of your seat” competitive thrill with low entries and even fewer headliners. WIHS should consider changing the schedule to giving more time to put the spot light on more exciting events.
4) Yes… the Syracuse Sport Horse Invitational does an excellent job of meeting both needs.
5) I think they should be committed to the sport’s growth by peaking public interest. Do what is needed to make it entertaining and attractive to the public as an equestrian sport… Otherwise the sport will continue to loose its future interests.
Lois Conner (Port Republic)
1) I have attended the show for the last 20 years, only missed once or twice.
2) Always enjoyed it a great deal, usually came with a group of four or more friends. However since the show moved to the Verizon Center, it has been more difficult for us to attend. I noticed that there aren’t nearly as many vendors, and this year one of them told me what her booth cost and it was about three times as much as what the US Air Arena charged. The charitable groups do not attend at all now, due to the cost… horse rescue groups used to use this as a fund raiser. The show itself is pretty much as it used to be. We enjoy the Gamblers Choice performance, but miss the celebrities that appeared at the old location. Over the years we saw Zsa Zsa, Bo Derek, William Shatner, Robert Duval, and others perform on horseback. Is it my imagination, or is the show shorter now?
5) I have often wondered why the Equestrian Center at Upper Marlboro wasn’t used. The accommodations for the horses would certainly be better. Maybe that is a political or contractual issue. As far as the format for the show, I would prefer that it be geared to the ‘Horse People,” rather than the general public. The reason being that that is the group that will support the show year after year faithfully, and they will be the ones to buy the gifts and products that the vendors sell there. Hardly a year goes by that I don’t buy at least one piece of jewelry, and gifts for my horsey friends at the International. As Forest Gump says, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
Kathy Beauchamp (Princess Anne)
3) They did a pretty good job at both this year, but I thought the Jewel concert was a bust, no one seemed to care when she was entertaining. We were disappointed in the vendors this year, no tack to speak of just jewelry and gift items.
4) I do not think it is possible to do both really well.
5) I would like it to stay an elite horse show as it always has been, even if it means going to a smaller facility and ticket prices rising.
Harold Wenner (Frederick)
1 and 2) I attended the Washington International Horse Show and was very disappointed.
6) Will most likely not attend at all next year.
Dr. Steve Alcuri (Frederick)
1) I attend the WIHS every year, with a regular group of horse people. We make an evening of it – dinner first at a nearby restaurant, then the show. The group includes people from a variety of different locations, who don’t get to see each other very much except for evenings out like this.
2) The generally shared opinion among our group members is that the WIHS has deteriorated over the years. I saw my first WIHS about 20 years ago, and even then, it was the opinion of the older members that it was nothing at all like it used to be. The process is something like childbirth: every year we go; every year we are disappointed – although of course not at everything; some of it remains a good evening out; every year we decide we probably won’t go back again, and every subsequent year we forget the last years’ disappointment.
3) The mission of the WIHS has always been to present a concentrated sampling of the best-of-the-best, in a not only pleasant and enjoyable, but cultured and graceful atmosphere. The region’s horse people always regarded it as a social crown jewel, and attended it accordingly. When the planning committee decided that somehow this mission needed to be amended – perhaps to be brought into line with the new millennium, perhaps on the recommendation of a consultant, the deterioration began.
The proof of my opinion, as I see it, is the declining attendance over the years. There was a time WIHS had no trouble at all filling a large venue to capacity with area horse people. On the evening I went this year, it was about a 15% house.
One of the most serious mistakes, in this one person’s opinion, is the premise that, in order to give the WIHS a ‘general appeal’ effect, it must be dumbed down, and be made less like an exhibition horse show, and more like a hockey game. The occasional laser light show – if well orchestrated into the events at hand – improves the quality of the program. Flashing lights, loud noises, and asking the audience to scream, is just trashy behavior on the management’s part, and needs to be eliminated.
Since the Friday and Saturday sessions of the WIHS conflict with fall competitions, we have taken to going on Thursday – ‘barn night.’ The concept of ‘barn night’ is a perfectly valid planning and marketing strategy, designed to bring in groups of amateurs from local training barns and direct the evening’s content toward them. In plain language, this means groups of young-girls-in-love-with-horses. Nothing wrong with that: they are one of the backbones of the sport. A couple of years ago, the WIHS, like an alcoholic out of control, hit bottom, when through some temporary whole-group loss of their mental facilities, the planning committee decided to offer male strippers as part of the evening’s entertainment. Yes, you read that correctly. In between two of the principal events, the program offered a farce: a small jumping course was set up, ‘teams’ called into the arena (groups of of un-mounted people… all of them male, by the way), and those people ‘jumped’ the course in the manner of a puissance. Perfectly good fun… until one of the teams began to discard their clothing, Chippendale-dancer-style. I suppose the concept was to give all the little girls in the audience a cheap thrill. Who, in their right mind, decided that such a thing was appropriate for the WIHS? What deranged consultant proposed this, and what perhaps well meaning but temporarily brain damaged member of the planning committee approved it? Did it not cross anyone’s mind that these little girls have parents, and that some of those parents might regard this display as pornography, ok so it’s not like the pornograpy you’d see on an adult x-rated movie site like sex tube v but still it was partially naked males!
If the WIHS planning committee believes this is a good way to expand the appeal of the show, then they are dead wrong. Not only are displays like this in the worst of taste, they border on the criminal. It is behavior like this that has caused the area horse community to walk away from the WIHS – whence the gradual decline in attendance over the years. The planning committee will not regain it’s once-loyal following by dumbing down the programming, and the manner in which it is presented. Wake up people. You need to fire all of your marketing consultants, immediately if not sooner. If you want to go to a smaller venue, then use the money you save from firing your consultants to subsidize the ticket prices. Such a thing will not be necessary, by the way, if you simply allow the WIHS to return to quality. Take out the trash please.
6) And finally: next year, the disappointment of this year, like the pain of childbirth, will be forgotten, and I probably will go back… but mostly as an opportunity to see people I don’t get to see very often, and with hopeful but limited expectations as to the quality of the evening’s programming – not so much the events themselves, but the manner in which they will be presented.
Holly La Barre
1) I attended the Friday night WISH as I do every year. There were seven in our group.
2) We all enjoyed the show except we all felt the concert was inappropriate. One or two songs would have been fine but it was way to long.
3) I always have liked like mix of horse show and entertainment so I can bring my friends that normally wouldn’t attend horse shows. I feel that the show should be kept with a horse theme. In the past I’ve enjoyed the 6 horse hitches, Tommy Turvy and other horses related entertainment. The free style dressage and the puissance are the reasons I always go on Friday. I hope the emphasis will be placed on these two classes.
T’mi Finkle (Marbury)
2) Not really, the environment was not conducive for the horses, spectators or competitors.
3) Yes to horse show, and no to entertaining the general public.
4) No. Some folks like hockey and some like figure skating. I would rather see focus towards pleasing those who have interests in the equine community and related disciplines.
5) Move the horse show to an equine facility like the Show Place Arena. An event held at such a venue is somewhat high scale, plenty of parking for spectators, reduced stress environment for the horses. There is also much less crime and/or the fear of being a victim of crime and encounters with aggressive panhandlers. If focus needs to be on entertainment for a city audience then follow the business that Globetrotters basketball team uses, as it is not a REAL competition, but it is very entertaining.
6) No! This was my 3rd time going and I will not return to WIHS if its held within another city such as Washington D.C. .
Dede Bierbrauer (Clarksburg)
1) I attend yearly with a group of friends and clients. We go to dinner at a local restaurant then attend the show.
2) Every year I am amazed at the continuing decline of the WIHS.
3) In the past the WIHS was the concentration of the best horses in the country with the atmosphere of culture and tradition. There was respect for the competitors and their efforts to qualify for such a competition. Among the competitors were members from various Olympic teams from many countries, coming to compete at one of America’s premier shows. Unfortunately, now it has declined to include a type of “entertainment” which seems to cater to a new audience, not to horsemen. It is a shame. I am afraid it will soon become “just another show.” The planning committee needs to revisit their “mission!”
Mary Overfelt (Huntingtown)
1 and 2) I spent several days at the WIHS this year and enjoyed it for the most part. The only reason I was able to go two of those days was because I met a person who gave me two of her extra tickets. My point is that the cost of the day events is too high for the entertainment value to the average person. Even horse people can get bored with these classes sometimes.
5) My first suggestion is to lower the price. More people would be able to afford to come. Second, include learning demonstrations and information in the program. A better-informed audience is a more interested audience. I have been out of the horse industry for so long that I have forgotten the fine points of the class requirements, etc. I can imagine how confusing it must be for those even less informed. Add fun things during the day such as costume classes, miniature horse demos, driving demos (training included), how and why to properly lunge a horse, a round pen demo. This would help the less informed in the audience appreciate what they are seeing.
The only advantage I can see to having the event at the Verizon Center is that it is fed by the Metro. The showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro is otherwise a more logical place.
The web site was poorly designed. The “schedule” published had only the times and made no mention of the events that took place throughout the day. An explanation of the classes, participants, prizes, etc. would again, make your potential non-horse owning attendees feel more connected to what they are about to see.
Why charge separately for day and evening? You are killing your chances for a bigger audience by making it cost prohibitive, especially when your web site does not even tell a visitor what they are going to see when they get there.
If WIHS would improve the web program and the advertising ahead of time, making it more family fundable and interesting, the number of attendees would go up, which would help fund the event.
Debbie L. Morris (Willards)
1) Yes we attended the WIHS this year.
2) I am a 4-H leader and our “Barn Buddies” 4-H club enjoyed the day. There were 4 adults and 7 4-H ers. We live on the eastern shore of Maryland and we rented a van and took off. We took the Orange line subway to the Verizon center. We did enjoy the show however, we think it should change locations. We did not like the idea of horses being in stall on the streets of downtown Washington DC. We attended the Saturday afternoon show and it was ok. The shopping seemed to be somewhat limited this year. I did not see as many vendors as usual. We then took our train/subway back to the original destination and went home.
5) I think it should be an elite horse show and relocate to a smaller venue.
Jack and Paula Butler (Marriottsville)
1) Hi. We (my husband, two sons and myself) attended WIHS this year on Puissance night.
2) My eldest son rides and had never seen anything like a Puissance before, so he was very interested. After paying $160 for admission, we had missed the two smaller jumper classes (I guess they started early or they had small numbers of entries) but to make matters worse, the Puissance had only four entries and one dropped out. The class doesn’t seem to be the same “big deal” that it was in years past. The whole WIHS doesn’t seem to be the “big deal” it used to be. The actual title “Washington International” doesn’t even really apply anymore. There used to a Nation’s Cup, and more often than not, we’d have teams from England, Germany, Canada, and France competing.
5) Yes, I think they should move it to a smaller venue, and forget about trying to entertain the “city people” – they just don’t get it and aren’t willing to pay $40 a seat, especially for what we saw that evening. Having the singing entertainment didn’t seem to please anyone, horse people or non-horse people. Even when people were invited down to the stage area, people didn’t come flooding down to be near the performance. Why not move the show to Prince George’s Equestrian Center (they have a really nice indoor) avoid the expense/aggravation of moving horses into downtown D.C. and change the name of the show to something like the Washington Classic, or whatever. Either that or try to renew the actual international class.
Addenda – The terriers were great, as usual. They need to make it more public how people can get their terriers involved. That would be a way to draw in some non-horse people.
Jen Rogala (Glydon)
1) I had attended the show on Saturday night for the Grand Prix.
2) I found attendance to be way down from past years. First and foremost, the price of admission is very expensive. How can the average family with a horse crazy child afford to attend? At a minimum of $40 a ticket, a family of four is spending $160 just to enter for maybe at most four hours of entertainment. Then they have to buy over priced food and you can’t leave without getting some sort of souvenir from the night for that little horse enthusiast. Why go to the show when you could spend the same admission and spend an entire day, not just a few hours, at an amusement park? I enjoyed watching the grand prix. I would have liked to of seen the “High Performance” hunters, but I was not going to pay for a separate “matinee” fee. I instead walked through parts of the Smithsonian.
5) The WIHS would not have to charge more for seats at a smaller venue, because the numbers there on Saturday night would easily fit in the Prince George Equestrian Center, or a new venue in maybe Baltimore. It would also be less money to rent a smaller venue and possibly easier to avoid scheduling conflicts. The change in date did hurt the turn out. There were many other competing events. I also remember when Washington really was an International show. We had a nations cup and competitors from outside North America. What happened? The location is okay, but exhibitors have to ship in and out for classes. I wish I could have gone when it was held at the Capitol Center. Aside from the spectators view, they need to work on encouraging exhibitors to return. Without them, there will be no show.
Cindy Milligan (St. Leonard)
5) Several years ago, the show was excellent. You had a singer sing during intermission. I think it was Valerie Simpson. But I can’t really remember. This time, the performance by Jewell was just too long. Two songs are plenty from the non-horse entertainment venue. Do you really attract a “city” audience who looks for non-horse entertainment? In my opinion, have one other non-horse entertainment, but definitely limit it and have more horse entertainment. I enjoy seeing things like the Barrel Racing & Bull Riding that you have done in the past. A variety is fine, but at least have the entertainment horse-related! Jewell’s performance dragged on & on. We came to see horses!! You can have it at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center since most of the seats at the Verizon Center are empty anyway on the nights I have been there. You also need to have vendors that normal, everyday people can afford to purchase from. Most of the vendors there are over priced. Ordinary working class folks own horses too and we have money to spend. But not on over priced jewelry & other things. Offer a variety of vendors that appeal to all people.
Nancy Tunis (Rockville)
1) I went to the WIHS on Friday evening.
2) I have gone to the WIHS every year for the last 5 years and I was most disappointed this year due to the ridiculous waste of time with the performance of the singer, Jewel. I don’t think there should be any singers at the horse show, but certainly not for as long of a performance as she was allowed to give. I go to the horse show to see equine or equine-related events, not to go to a concert. Bad idea WIHS!
5) I don’t think the WIHS should try to appeal to “the masses,” but rather, should stay true to the elite equestrian event that it purports to be.
Audrey Dreibelbis (Arlington, VA)
1) Yes, as both an exhibitor and a spectator.
2) As a spectator yes, as an exhibitor mostly.
3) Generally yes. Because I am “horse people” I might be biased, but I think it is a wonderful entertaining equestrian event. The quality of competitors was very good. The quality of horse show grounds, well obviously, is lacking. But what do you expect in the center of a city. I’d be curious how much more it would cost to have a larger outdoor schooling/lounging area.
4) I think it will always be difficult to do both. This comes as close as possible I believe. Unless you go back to the 70s at the Garden. But that was a different time, and the facilities still lacked for the horses.
5) I think it should try to survive as it is. There are so few events like this, don’t let them go away.
6) As a spectator yes. As an exhibitor doubtful. The schooling ring underneath was the death of me. I’m not sure I can do that again.
Robin Elvove (Ijamsville)
1) Yes, I have been there every year for the last 45 years.
3) I was very disappointed that there were no international riders, and so few national riders. There were only four contestants in the Puissance. The wall has long been what the WIHS is know for. Jewel, the singer, was a big mistake. There were many there that enjoyed her, but for the rest of it, it went on much too long.
5) The prices were already too high. However, it should move if that means it will regain the international riders and go back to the venue of the 80s and 90s.
6) Yes, I will be there, no matter where it is, no matter what the cost. I started going to the show at the Armory where I could stand by the gate and talk to the grooms. I was there with Rodney Jenkins on Idle Dice.
Anna Harper (Bethesda)
3) I don’t know there doesn’t seem to be general public at these events.
4) Probably not.
5) Smaller venue.
Robyn Koons (Fairfield, PA)
1) Yes, as did our barn.
3) Yes. I especially liked the fact that Barn Night offered a bit of everything – dressage, jumping, barrels, dogs, etc. Much better then when we attended the PA National Horse Show this past week. We attended on a Friday for the NAL Jumpers, but the only other discipline they had that night was Saddleseat.
6) Yes, and take the barn.
Nancy K. Jones (Darnestown)
1) Yes, on Friday night.
3) I think so, although the general public probably balked at the ticket prices. The dressage musicals on Friday were very good, but there wasn’t much jumping that night – Puissance was down to three riders after the 1st round and wasn’t terribly exciting. I think it was a waste of time to have the musical entertainment – we were there to watch horses after all (unless they could have gotten Bruce Springsteen to play since his daughter was riding).
5) I think it would be a mistake to make it just entertainment. If the equine world wants to build participation, we need urban events to drive interest.
6) Probably, although with my daughter off to college next year, there won’t be as much push to go.
Laura Schroff (Vienna, VA)
1) I went to the WIHS. I actually showed there this year.
2) I enjoyed myself, however, the evening performances were really focused on show and not so much on the horses. The schedule change this year really limited the number of international competitors the horse show had.
3) The show probably met it’s goals. But I really didn’t understand why we needed to have a Jewel performance on Friday night. It only delayed the real part of the show for me. Harrisburg is much better at attracting the crowds every night.
5) WIHS should remain focused on being a AA Hunter/Jumper show. I personally think we need to get it out of the Verizon center and back to a more horse friendly location. It was put downtown to attract the city folk and that sure hasn’t happened.
Kim Stewart (Jefferson)
1) I did attend the Washington International this year as a trainer and a spectator.
2) I do enjoy the show though I think there is always room for improvement.
3) While I was in the audience watching the jumper phase of the Washington Equitation Finals there were spectators asking me questions about the class. They wanted to know what it was judged on, how old were the riders, did strides matter etc. This made me think that the show needs to be more informative for the general equestrian public to make it more interesting for them. I did speak to board members about this and they thought next year they could make some video clips on the jumbo tron to show the differences between equitation, hunters and jumpers and perhaps answer some questions about why they walk the course how they qualify etc. Perhaps having some handouts explaining scoring and bios on riders could make it more interesting as well. I really liked the hunter Challenge with the natural fences and handy element. I remember when they use to have the working class at night and the top ten on the weekend and how much fun that was. I think they should try to do more of those classes again. It was unfortunate this year with the schedule that more International riders didn’t come. I miss not having the Nations cup but hopefully that will be back next year.
5) Overall I think it is great to have the show in the city, which makes it unique.
Anne Lubinsky (Waldorf)
2) I enjoyed the show this year more than any other year I’ve been. More horses, less “junk.” The dressage exhibitions were wonderful, I just wish there had been more participants. I was also very happy to see the new charity cup class added. Hopefully in the future they’ll be able to get more community involvement in this event, perhaps by letting ticket buyers ‘choose’ which charity a part of their ticket price will be donated to, perhaps even providing a flag or some other colorful banner for the audiences to wave for their charity of choice? Jewel’s performance Friday night was excellent.
3) I think the show is finally bouncing back from the BETardization it suffered during the year’s of Sheila Johnson’s management and is on the right track to become both a premier horse show and an entertainment venue for the general public. I met several people who traveled from as far as Atlanta and Chicago just to come to the show who weren’t there to show themselves, which to me is a sign that the show is pleasing for it’s core audience.
One thing I did miss, however, was seeing the jumper riders do the barrel racing, and I do think that there should be an entertainer lined up for Saturday night as well.
One thing I do think the show suffers from is a lack of advertising to the general public, and it is still running a bit too late on Wednesday and Thursday nights. We are horse people, after all, up at the crack of dawn. I’d also like to see some lower level sponsorships that can get more of the community involved. I would be happy to sponsor a month’s worth of riding lessons or something like that for an inner city child, but all the sponsorship levels currently offered are too expensive. I think something like this would be very good press for the show.
5) I wouldn’t mind if the show moved to a smaller venue, although, since I work downtown, I do enjoy stopping by to catch a hunter class or two during my lunch hour.
Tim McGrath (Frederick)
5) Take the show out of the city and get hunt night back.
Cheryl London (Woodstock)
1) I went to the Washington International on two nights. The night Jewel, the entertainer was there and the $100,000 Grand Prix night (Saturday). The place was mostly empty on Saturday and the seats were $40 a piece for the cheap seats.
2) Most of the people in the expensive seats were members of the competitor’s team (ie family, trainers etc.) I think this is ridiculous. There should be open seating for $40. For the $40, you get competitors that are paying mostly $1,200 each to be there that night and also needed to qualify which probably cost them another $4,000 or more. I think it is expensive for a family to go there to watch. The show was truly great though!! I cannot take anything away from the show!!! I keep coming back year after year but I do not understand the “extra entertainment.”
3) Last year or the year before, we had a local school choir that was not interesting for horse people. This time, Jewel (the singer) was probably ok, but we used the time to go shopping. The seats were mostly empty at this time and the promoter could have saved their money. Years ago the trick horse was more interesting and keeping with the crowd.
6) I will keep coming back but I think if they had open seating at $25.00 and either no entertainment or horse related entertainment, they would save money and make more money and better entertain their audience.
Terry Pennington (Huntingtown)
2) Yes, but it was not very well attended on the day I went.
3) I think so!
5) Equine entertainment might be more fun for the public. It also might be nice to go to see it in a smaller venue with parking such as the Prince George’s Equestrian Center.
Kathy Plummer (Bel Air)
2) Yes, except for Jewel (the singer sang for too long).
3) Yes they did. It is nice to sit and watch the changes made for the jump off, then on to the dog races, dressage, then back to jumping. Gives you time to be social and move around. With the TV’s everywhere you can look and still not miss any of the action.
Jeannie Whited (Centerville, VA)
1) Yes, one night only.
3) I’m not sure the “general public” cares about anything equestrian except the occasional horse race like the Kentucky Derby. Certainly the only non-horse people at the show when I went were significant others, siblings, and parents. On the other hand, I didn’t think much of speed jumping until I saw the Gambler’s Choice event, and that was extremely fun!
4) I think you’d fail if you try to target a “city audience.” I only go for the sidesaddle night. If it didn’t take me nearly an hour to get there (on metro, forget driving!!) maybe I’d go another night, too.
5) If you have a sidesaddle division.
1) I need to begin with a confession: it’s probably been twenty years since I last attended an evening event at the WIHS. My husband, Erik, and I have taken our two girls to a few of the weekend afternoon performances in years past, but that was about it. The girls, ages nine and twelve, are now allowed to stay up late for special occasions, so we picked Friday as our big family night out at the WIHS.
2) Everyone was excited about going. My youngest kept mispronouncing “puissance” all week and asking: “How high will they jump? Higher than papa (who’s 6’4”)? As high as the ceiling?” I had never seen a high jump competition in person before, so all I could tell her was yes, the fence was probably going to be higher than papa, but, no, probably not as tall as the ceiling.
The prospect of seeing Jewel on stage was also thrilling to the nine-year-old. She had an old mini hit-clip that she used to play constantly by the singer, so seeing her perform in person was a major bonus.
We got to the Verizon Center a little late and came in just after the Charity Cup jumping competition had gotten underway. Since this was the first such WIHS event, it took a bit of time to figure out how they were keeping score, but the short course and the quick rides made it exciting to watch. Very cool to see the logos of two well-known Maryland charities, Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon and the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Glenwood, displayed up on the jumbotron, too.
The terrier races were a hoot. Those stubby little legs sure can bound them forward at a pretty incredible rate of speed. We had invited a couple to join us for the evening and they had never seen anything like those races and couldn’t stop laughing. Erik did point out that none of us had been drinking heavily enough—two glasses of wine with dinner won’t do the trick—to try and bet on a winner.
My favorite class of the evening was the freestyle dressage. Watching the horses move gracefully across the ring, feet suspended for a split second in midair when performing some of the intricate required movements had me leaning forward in my seat so as not to miss a single second of the routine. Their gorgeous muscles rippled under gleaming skin as they pirouetted and pranced their way through the choreographed dance steps.
The puissance didn’t disappoint, either. Four contestants entered the ring to take on the very solid looking brick wall, which started out at 5’8”. That’s about two feet below what one of my friends had told me was the world record, and all four horses cleared it easily. We got nowhere near the record that evening, however, although the fence rose to a respectable 6’8.5” My girls were really rooting for the only female rider in the group to win, but she and her mount couldn’t quite pull it off. Maybe they were all tired, because the high-jump competition started so late in the evening.
Which brings me to the one downer of the night. Jewel may have a lovely voice and win much praise from critics for her thoughtful lyrics, but she yodeled (yes, that was the high point of her performance) on for much too long. If they had put her on last, instead of smack in the middle of the program, the horses and riders would have been fresher and maybe they would have had a real shot at the world record.
“High Fashion” – Gwen Donohue
At times, the vendor concourse at the WIHS seemed like the Washington metro at rush hour. The crowds were so thick Saturday night it created bottlenecks, especially near the silent auction display.
They weren’t just window-shopping, either. The WIHS souvenir stand “sold out of almost everything” by Saturday, according to a volunteer at the stand.
The fastest-selling items were the reversible vest and boot socks in the very fashionable color combination of light blue and chocolate brown. The quilted jacket was the only item that didn’t sell well, said Executive Director Susie Webb, “The unseasonably warm weather was definitely a factor!”
Baby doll tops and ball gowns are two things you’d expect to see on the E! Channel and not at a horse show vendor stand. But Biba N.Y., a boutique with a retail store in Southampton, N.Y., has recently found success on the horse show circuit.
Owner Barbara Blatt, who set up booths at Wellington and Lexington this year, said, “We definitely did well during the days, when exhibitors had time to shop and spend.”
Contributing to the crowded concourse were autograph-seekers waiting for a moment with their equestrian heroes, who generously donated their time. Notable was the range of ages, from young girls clutching magazines for a signature to elderly ladies still thrilled to be in the midst of horse show excitement.