first published in The Equiery’s December 2018 issue

Thousands flocked to Elkton and Washington, DC, this past October for the 2018 Dutta Corp Fair Hill International and Washington International Horse Show. In Equiery tradition, at the conclusion of both shows, we asked our readers: What did you think of this year’s Internationals? With only a week to complete our survey, which was circulated through emails and Facebook, Equiery readers let us know what they liked and did not like about this year’s Internationals.

Out of the nearly 100 people who submitted survey answers, 36% attended FHI and 29% attended WIHS. Some survey participants even attended both shows! All who attended this year’s FHI said they plan to return in 2019. For WIHS, all but eight survey responders said they plan to attend WIHS in 2019. Those who said they might not attend next year mostly stated they felt the show was getting repetitive and wanted more competition to watch each night. The 71% who said they do want to attend WIHS in 2019 were all completely satisfied with this year’s show!

Equiery advertiser Laura Lee Jones at WIHS’ PwC Club

Most of the survey respondents attended FHI on Saturday for the exciting, action-packed cross-country day. The second most popular day at FHI was Friday, when spectators watched both levels of CCI dressage. Sunday’s show jumping finale was the third most popular day for our FHI survey goers.

For WIHS, Thursday was the most popular night for our survey participants, which is no surprise considering Thursday is WIHS’s annual Barn Night. Friday’s Military Night had the second highest attendance followed by Saturday’s big President’s Cup night.

The majority of those who attended FHI were completely satisfied with the level and amount of competition offered this year. In fact, 90% said “yes, completely satisfied” while 10% said “somewhat satisfied” and no one checked the “not satisfied” box.

The majority of Equiery readers who attended WIHS this year were also very satisfied with WIHS’s level of competition with 67% checking off “yes, completely satisfied.” One satisfied WIHS attendee specifically stated that the WIHS Junior Equitation Finals Ride-Off was “very impressive” adding, “It was really interesting to see how they adapted to their new mounts and how they rode the course.”

Twenty-one percent said they were somewhat satisfied while 13% said they were not satisfied with the competition at this year’s WIHS. The biggest complaint from those not satisfied was the small class sizes this year. Most seemed to want the show not to end, stating they want more riders for a longer night!

Margaret Winters and Tyler Witt won PwC tickets at the METS Silent Auction.

Food and Shopping
The food and shopping options at FHI this year seemed to be a hit, with 60% of survey participants stating they were very satisfied with the food options and another 60% being very satisfied with the shopping options as well. In general, FHI spectators simply want more. More food options and more shopping. One big suggestion for food at FHI was more breakfast options, especially on dressage days when the competition starts early. The most common comment from the 3% that were not happy with the shopping at FHI said they would have liked to see more tack vendor options and even some local vendors.

Food at WIHS seemed to be an issue for those who took our survey, though it should be noted that WIHS does not have control over what type of food is sold in the Capital One Arena. Fifty-seven percent were somewhat satisfied with the food options while 26% were completely satisfied and 17% were not satisfied. The comments were a mixed bag often conflicting with each other. Some people stated how much they liked the food in the PwC Club while others said they did not like the food at that same location. One highlight however was the fudge vendor, who was very popular with spectators.

The shopping results were also varied as 43% were very satisfied, 36% were somewhat satisfied and 21% were not satisfied. One survey participant stated, “Love the vendors at this show!” and another felt the options were better than in years past. Others would have liked to see more equine artists and there were some suggestions to have local associations and groups set up booths like the USPC booth that was at WIHS this year. For those who were not happy with the shopping options, the common comment was the price point was higher than their budgets.

Lydia McClain won tickets for her family through The Equiery’s WIHS Trivia Contest. She also competed in the Adult Hunters on Tuesday night finishing ninth.

Volunteers and Staff
In terms of their volunteers and staff, both FHI and WIHS knocked it out of the park! All but one person was completely satisfied with FHI’s staff and volunteers while all but five were completely satisfied with those at WIHS. And… not a single person had a complaint about the people they met at either location.

Comments about FHI included “great volunteers here,” “Our tailgate host was fantastic,” and “All amazing! Really outdid themselves this year.” One survey responder went on to state, “The volunteers are the greatest. Friendly, smiling and making sure you are enjoying the event! Hats off to the cross-country crossing guard staff. Some people don’t understand the danger they put the eventers in or themselves and I was so impressed by the guy who was behind Bucks tent and kept spectators in line about crossing in areas other than marked cross ways.”

At WIHS, comments included “Very friendly,” “Anyone that volunteers is wonderful” and “Staff at WIHS and Capital One Arena are top notch.”

When it comes to the location and facility, here again FHI was spot on with 100% of those who participated in our survey stating they were completely satisfied with the grounds and facility. Several survey participants made comments about the new glass VIP/Sponsors tent and hope it will return in the future.

Carol Dowling was the VIP PwC Club ticket winner from The Equiery’s WIHS Trivia Contest.

For WIHS, this is where things get interesting as 75% of those who filled out our survey were completely satisfied with the venue and 21% were somewhat satisfied. Those who were happy with the Capital One Arena pointed out how the atmosphere of a true city show is unique. One reader stated, “Having the show in the heart of DC makes it so special!” Those who were somewhat satisfied mainly commented on the difficulty of getting in and out of the city from more rural parts of Maryland.

Only one person stated they were not satisfied with the current location of WIHS. This reader said, “The location needs to be moved. It was always better when the WIHS was located at the US Air Arena. Since it has moved to the Capital One Arena (MCI/Verizon center) I believe it has ruined and will destroy this show.”

Ticket Prices
Ticket pricing is certainly an art as organizers need to price the tickets high enough to cover their expenses but low enough to get people in the door. For FHI, 93% were completely satisfied with the ticket prices. It should be pointed out that many of our survey readers stated they got into FHI free as a volunteer or with ticket vouchers.

For WIHS, 66% were completely satisfied with ticket prices. The 17% of those not satisfied with this year’s WIHS ticket prices all stated the prices were too high. One reader did note they were able to get discounted tickets through Groupon and another liked the group-discounted prices for Barn Night.

Future Internationals
As stated earlier, all those survey participants who attended this year’s FHI plan to go again next year while the majority of those who attended WIHS also plan on attending in 2019. But why go back year after year?

“I have attended [FHI] for the last 20 years. I love the event.” “My favorite event of the year! Love my FHI family!” “While my husband dutifully attends my dressage shows, he grudgingly agreed to go to Fair Hill with me this year. He loved it! Loved the food, loved the beer garden, loved the vendors, and actually enjoyed hiking from fence to fence. He’s already committed to going back next year!”

“WIHS was fun but we were all disappointed there wasn’t more!” “I love the demonstrations [at WIHS]” “A fun night in the city.”

Congratulations to The Equiery readers who won tickets this year! Thank you for reading The Equiery and following us on social media!

Sabrina Dobbins
Margaret Winters & Tyler Witt
Sarah Ashley
Tina Snyder
Susan Porter
Lydia McClain
Angie Leihy
Carol Dowlin

Dan Kramer
Ellen Stone
Ashley Aycock
Gale Joyce
Carolyn Bayer