first published in the December 2022 Equiery
In its 64 year history, the Washington International Horse Show has been held in four different locations. Most recently, WIHS was held in North Carolina at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring due to COVID-19 restrictions for events at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. This year, however, the show returned to the Maryland area and took place at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro. The WIHS Regional Show and USHJA Zone 3 Finals were held at the Morven Park International Equestrian Center in Leesburg, Virginia.
With WIHS back in Maryland and at a new location, The Equiery surveyed our readers to find out what attendees thought of the event. This survey was specifically for the week-long show at The Show Place Arena, not the regional show at Morven Park. Full survey comments are posted at the bottom of the page.
Who Took the Survey
Around 60 people took our survey including four competitors. The majority of our survey takers were spectators (71.2%) with the second highest clicking “guest” (19.2%). In addition, 6.8% attended as media, 5.1% were a groom or family member of a competitor, 3.4% were owners of competing horses, and 1.7% were vendors. There were also a few volunteers to who filled out the survey (1.7%).
Overall, 42.9% of those that attended WIHS this year said the show “needs improvement” while 28.6% felt it was “just right” and 24.5% said it “exceeded expectations.”
Twenty-two percent said they did not attend this year’s show. When asked why they did not attend, 10.2% said they had conflicts with other activities happening the same week, and 5.15% said they did not attend due to the location. Only 3.4% said they did not know about the show, and only 1.7% said they did not attend due to ticket pricing.
We did have a few people click “other” and write in the reason they did not attend. One person said they tried to buy tickets the day of the show but the evening performance was sold out. The fact that tickets sold out pops up a few other times in our survey.
We also asked if those taking the survey had been to WIHS when it was in D.C. and 92.9% responded yes. Only 7.1% stated they had never been to the show in D.C.
WIHS offers both daytime and evening competition sessions. According to our survey, Thursday was the most popular day for daytime attendance at 22% followed by Saturday at 18.6% and then Tuesday at 11.9%. As for the evening show, which took place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings only, Thursday’s Barn Night was the most popular with 37.3%, followed closely by Saturday’s World Cup Night at 33.9%. Friday’s Military Night showed 15.3% attendance. Several people who took the survey attended more than one performance.
Tickets & Seats
A good percentage (48%) of those who took our survey reported that the ticket prices were “just right.” Twenty-four percent said they did not pay for tickets while 22% said the ticket prices were too high.
Six percent clicked “other” and wrote in comments about ticket pricing which included, “Face value prices were fine but the Ticketmaster fees were ridiculous. Would love options to purchase directly from the box office in person, especially for group sales.” The added fees for purchasing online were a complaint shared by many.
Most of the survey takers were pleased with their seats with 65.3% saying they could see the competition well and an additional 24.5% saying the spectator viewing options were “just right.” Just over 4.1% said they could not see the competition well from their seats, and 6.1% clicked “other.” One respondent was concerned The Show Place Arena does not have enough seating capacity for the “big” nights, such as Barn Night and World Cup Night.
One person wrote that their particular seating section was “partially obstructed by the ring entrance logo.”
Shopping & Food
Opinions on the quality of vendors were nearly split between “just right” at 40.8% and “not enough options” at 44.9%. Some people said that shopping was not a reason they attend the show, while others said there was not enough time to shop because of the packed competition schedule. One person wrote in, “Would have liked the vendors to stay open after the competition finished.”
Those who wanted to buy WIHS logo wear said what they saw at WIHS this year was “just right” (37.7%) , while 21.7% said the logo wear “needs improvement.” Several (34.8%) people said they never saw any logo wear. Those that clicked “other” (6.5%) felt the logo wear was either unappealing or simply sold out too quickly.
Food options, or the lack of food options, was a major concern to those who took our survey with 68.8% stating there were not enough options and only 10.4% saying the food options were “just right.” An additional 20.8% clicked “other” and wrote in comments. Comments included:
• “This is a big deal that will take some figuring out. I saw extremely long lines and limited choices.”
• “Terrible… Only one concession stand with limited selections. A few food trucks outside but most people didn’t know they were there and they ran out of food early.”
• “I was looking forward to the candy and fudge vendor, a staple at WIHS for many years. I was sad to see it wasn’t there this year.”
Parking at The Show Place Arena seemed to be an easy experience for those who took our survey with 59.2% stating the parking was “just right” and 10.2% saying it “exceeded expectations.” Only 16.3% of respondents clicked “needs improvement,” while 14.3% clicked “other.”
Comments on parking were generally positive with one person writing in “I thought the parking people did a good job.” Some people complained about the length of time it took to get out of the parking lot after the show was over.
Overall, 41.1% felt the facility was great, while 12.6% said it needs improvements. Most (47.5%) of the respondents said it was easy to find things throughout the facility while only 3.4% stated they had a hard time finding their way around.
The bathroom facilities were considered “adequate” by 40.7%. Only 3.4% stating they were “inadequate.”
Comments in this section of the survey included:
• “The PG Equestrian Center is a great facility!”
• “Although I missed the excitement and glamour of the show being downtown, I have to say I think the horses seemed happier and more relaxed. I also think it was a more intimate setting where the audience could be closer to the horses and see better, so I did like that.”
• “Have attended other shows at the venue. Spectacular place!”
There was a comment about the announcer being hard to hear at times. Foot traffic going through the
Media Center was a problem, specifically during press conferences.
Staff and volunteers got a positive nod from our survey, with 45.8% of respondents saying that the hospitality was “just right” and 25% clicking “exceeded expectations.” Only 4.2% of respondents said the hospitality needed improvement. A further 18.8% of respondents said they did not have any interactions with staff or volunteers.
WIHS decided to go paperless this year with the official program on-line only. There were a few signs with scannable QR codes that took attendees to the order of go and the schedule for each evening, but many of our survey takers did not see or know about the QR codes. In addition, 42.6% did not even know there was a digital program.
Thirty-eight percent of those who did view the digital program felt it was “just right” while 6.4% said it needed improvement. Several people wrote that they missed having a printed souvenir copy. One person “I have programs since my first year going. I did not like the switch to paperless” and another said, “Missed having the lovely keepsake printed program.”
There were some concerns that issues with cellular service within The Show Place Arena prevented some people from being able to look up anything on their phones while at the show.
Demonstrations & Other Activities
Demonstrations and other activities have always been a part of WIHS, though they change from year to year. This year, 26.2% felt the non-competition demonstrations were “just right,” with 4.8% saying they “exceeded expectations” and 21.4% saying they needed improvement. Nineteen people said they did not know about any non-competition demonstrations.
Commenters noted the lack of demonstrations on Barn Night. One person wrote that the lack of demos on Barn Night was “very disappointing” and another wrote that “there were no non-competition demos on Barn Night.”
More than one person expressed concern about the return of Jack Russell Terrier races. “Need to close the arena gates during the JRT races,” “I thought the Jack Russell Terrier races were a bit unorganized – maybe some sort of fencing could be erected to help focus the terriers on the race instead of just running around,” and “Terrier races were a joke! One dog actually got loose.”
The Shetland Pony Races continue to be a hit according to our survey!
Kids’ Day this year was held at the National Harbor in addition to Prince George’s Equestrian Center, but according to our survey, 68.8% did not know about it. On the other hand, 6.3% said that Kids’ Day exceeded their expectations.
There were other activities at the National Harbor as well, including the competitor welcome party. Here again, our survey showed these activities were not well advertised, with 77.8% responding that they did not know about them. Only 5.6% felt these activities were “just right.” The one write in comment for this section was “The exhibitor party was exceptional!”
The lack of food vendors was echoed at the end of our survey when we asked people to write in additional comments.
• “One food vendor and line was over 50 people!”
• “Water/drinks ran out in local vending machines.”
• “Need more food options and more alcohol.”
Another recurring theme in the additional comments section was how much people liked The Show Place Arena.
• “Loved the location. Beautiful horses and riders.”
• “Overall, I thought WIHS adapted to The Show Place Arena very well. It was certainly a lot easier to get to than D.C.”
• “Keep the same location in the future.”
• “I was glad to have it in PG County and not D.C. It was less stressful to drive to it this year.”
All in all, then WIHS at The Show Place Arena appears to have been a big success with 80.7% of those who took our survey stating they will return in 2023. One person even wrote “if at PGEC, I plan to attend!”
Did you attend WIHS as a…
• Watched much of the show through live stream, which was excellent
Why did you not attend?
• No tickets available!
• Did not want to. I trail ride and don’t show so no need for me to go.
• I thought the show was really nice with many improvements. I hope PG Equestrian Center will continue to have the support needed to host this level of competition in an even more improved facility. Things seem to be on the right track.
• More notice that tickets were selling out. Never had a problem buying same day before.
• Ticket prices were fine, $7+ fees on top of the ticket made it too expensive.
• Face value prices were fine but the Ticketmaster fees were ridiculous. (Added 50% in some cases) Would love options to purchase directly from the box office in person, especially for group sales.
• Not the main reason for coming – Lyndi Caruso
• Didn’t have that much time to shop. Would have liked the vendors to stay open after the competition was finished.
• You can never have too many vendors!
• Did not see any
• This is a big deal. That will take some figuring out. I saw extremely long lines & limited choices. Food trucks were a good option.
• Terrible…only 1 concession stand with limited selections..a few food trucks outside but most people didn’t know they were there and they were out of food early…then had to get back in the line to re enter the show. If you’re going to use food trucks they should be advertised and a little more convenient.
• I was looking forward to the candy and fudge vendor, a staple at the WIHS for many years. I was sad to see it wasn’t there this year. There were definitely not enough food options this year. Especially for people with food allergies.
• Woefully lacking in food vendors. Was the only complaint I had.
• From spectator’s perspective: terrible overall, not enough options, not enough capacity.
• Did not eat there
• Didn’t see any
• Only one concession stand and lines were always too long
• I could see well from my seat on Thursday night. Given how close to sold out it was in year one, I don’t know how the seating in the venue is going to keep pace with the show. Will need a different layout that doesn’t result in so many unsalable/limited visibility seats.
• I am very familiar with the venue and parked in the barn area
• Parking was ok. I thought the parking people did a good job. I had to park really far away on Friday night.
• Parking was just fine for the times I was there, but I did not attend any of the major evening classes.
• Took way too long to get out of parking lot. Took me 30 minutes to get out and we left before the awards ceremony.
• Fine for during the day
• The PG Equestrian Center is a great facility!
• Although I missed the excitement and glamour of the show being downtown, I have to say I think the horses seemed happier and more relaxed. I also think it was a more intimate setting where the audience could be closer to the horses, and see better, so I did like that.
• Have attended other shows at the venue. Spectacular place!
• Very hard to hear announcers – audio/sound system was not good – sometimes too loud, many other times too muffled to understand (although volume was not low) – probably a major acoustical issue that needs to be solved
• Keep working on the stabling options… just what I heard from others.
• The facility was great, but I think there needed to be an adjustment of the footing between the hunter classes and the international jumper classes. It looked very soft and deep. Also the foot traffic through the media center is not ideal and more problematic for press conferences.
• My phone did not have service inside building therefore, it was a fail. Luckily my guest had a copy.
• Missed having the lovely keepsake printed program
• I have programs since my first year going. I did not like the switch to paperless.
• My friend bought the tickets so we had to wait until everyone was there since the tickets were all on her phone. What about people who don’t have the ability to go digital? Can they not attend???
• Paperless is nice, but I do not recall anyone providing a link or QR code
• Unappealing options and very low stock
• Nice but I did not purchase anything
• It seemed like merchandise sold out pretty quickly and there could have been more options
• There were non on Barn Night. Very disappointed. Would love to see other demonstrations, maybe Equestrian Vaulting? There are several nationally ranked teams in the area and it would bring something different to Barn Night, something unique.
• Need to close the arena gates during the JRT races. Would have liked a dressage demo on Saturday night, too.
• There were no non-competition demos on Barn Night 🙁
• I loved the dressage demonstrations, and the Shetland pony races. I thought the Jack Russel terrier races were a bit unorganized – maybe some sort of fencing could be erected to help focus the terriers on the race instead of just running around?
• I don’t think there were any demonstrations on Thursday.
• The livelier demos were good. The dressage demo, was not as engaging. There was also a lot of time to prepare the ring for each event, so I wonder how spectators felt about that.
• Terrier races were a joke! One dog actually got loose. Hope he was caught. Dressage? What dressage? Other activities on Friday night were a waste of time. Couldn’t hear the announcer so we couldn’t understand what he was saying and why some of the horses were being honored/recognized. Sound system is DREADFUL.
• Only saw a couple but good
Special Events at National Harbor
• The exhibitor party was exceptional
Additional General Comments
• One food vendor and line was over 50 people! Water and snack machines that only take cash weren’t helpful.
• Water/drinks ran out in local vending machines. Lines for food and bathroom long. Portapotty options by food trucks would be helpful as well as more food options. Food trucks ran out of food before main event Saturday and lines indoor for food entirely too long.
• Need seat monitors as folks would not sit down blocking views. folks sitting n seats other than their own.
• The terrier races were dreadful. Big catastrophe as far as I’m concerned.
• Needed more food options and more alcohol. More money could be made for the venue if there were more of both.
• Loved the location. Beautiful horses and riders.
• The show lost some of it’s glamour at the new location. barn night was a big nothing and there were no alternative events. it’s also hard to get to during rush hour it was easier down town at least there is metro – Shari Director
• I love the WIHS…would like to see a better variety of vendors and definitely the food situation needs attention…also I think wrist bands would help when re entering the show …all in all…great show!
• Overall, I thought WIHS adapted to the Show Place Arena very well. It was certainly a lot easier to get to than DC. And I think a lot of people would agree with that, as well as enjoying the lower ticket prices. I absolutely love WIHS, and have attended since the 1970’s, sometimes as an exhibitor. There were so many positive things about the show this year due to its location (easier to get to, lower ticket prices, ability to see the horses better, horses not having to be shipped into the city). Unfortunately, I think a lot of people, myself included, were extremely disappointed by the lack of food choices and availability. Hangry people are not happy people. And I think that the food situation put a bit of a damper on the evening for many spectators, including myself. Part of the fun of the DC location was that you could go out to dinner at a nice restaurant and then go to the show. That, in my opinion, was something that was missing from the show this year.
• The biggest issues in need of addressing for next year, hands-down – lack of food/drink options (or even ACCESS!!) and parking.
• Keep the same location in the future
• Really enjoyed live-streaming since I was unable to attend in person. So happy WIHS is at Showplace now!
• Love the location. Has a really homey feel with all seating being close to the action. Love the large number of entries for the evening classes too! Maybe start a bit earlier than 7pm if class size continues to increase 🙂
• Audio quality inside the venue was extremely variable. I have typical hearing and was wishing for captions because it was so garbled from echo/speaker placement. (For accessibility, captions would be a great update even after the sound system gets sorted.)
• My seat was partially obstructed by the ring entrance logo.
• Attended Kids’ Day at Prince George’s Equestrian Center, and enjoyed it
• Again, I heard a LOT of complaints about the lack of food/drink options for spectators
• I didn’t get to go but I think the Equestrian Center is the perfect place! I only went once or twice when it moved to DC. I didn’t like the venue, the parking and driving downtown and I don’t like the subway at night since there’s not a whole of people going to the end of the line.
• The show did not feel special at all. Nomination, entry and stall fees were to high
• I was glad to have it in PG County and not DC. It was less stressful to drive to it this year.
• It was a great first year at this venue, and looking forward to watching it grow!
• I wish there was more advertising
• The WIHS has become an elitist gathering of entitled people with poor sportsmanship. I have attend every year since I was 5 until this year due to the ridiculous prices, the condescending attitudes and inability for all to be equally respected. I am a lifelong horsewoman, I have shown locally and at WIHS, PGEC often in years past. We have lost the flavor of these events in order to just make them a money grab. There is no access for local riders without large quantities of money to participate and the focus is consistently less and less on good quality horsemanship principals and sportsmanship. There is a lack of respect and inclusion of other disciplines. When they are included they are are included as a joke in a paired down fashion. If you are going to highlight dressage, show the best and show local, include an actual class and educate your audience along the way about how it is scored. Same for including western disciplines, make a class, not an exhibition. Show what it really means to be a ranch rider, reiner, etc. Include vendors that are accessible price wise for all guests. Include option for a fancy night out that more than the rich an famous who aren’t there to actually see the show can afford. It used to be that WIHS was a great community building event for the area, that is no longer the case. I would like to see it return to those roots.
• I thought the prices were way too high based on what it was. Capital challenge has more vendors and was there two weeks previously and is free…. WIHS Barn Night lacked the charm and fun that it has been in previous years and was so expensive that I’m not sure we will attend again next year. The all digital tickets (not to mention the ticket meter fees) were a huge draw back compared to how easy it was to purchase tickets for a large group in the past. I was also there with a large group of kids whose only option for dinner was fake nachos because everything else was sold out.
• Biggest issue was lack of food/beverage options
• We could only find one concession stand open and the line was always very long. We were not able to get food or drinks while there because we would have missed the show. Definitely need additional food vendor locations.
• More food options! More exhibitions!
• More pre-sale notice. I wanted to attend but could not buy a ticket for Saturday night on Saturday afternoon.
• I thought they did a super job of dressing up PGEC to make it feel special and different. The competition was great fun to watch and it was exciting to watch such high caliber riders in the rings that I have ridden in myself. The food needs more support. Only 2 food trucks and having them behind the indoor was silly. There need to be more trucks and they need to be in the area in front of the doors to make it easier and more accessible for spectators. Eating before attending the night classes was 100% the way to go this year.
Why or why not will you attend in 2023?
• It’s something we do as a Barn for Barn Night, however I was very disappointed in how Barn Night was run this year. It did not seem to have the same enthusiasm as years past and while it was great to see the house packed, the demos and other events were greatly missed.
• Love the show and the shopping. Very much prefer the new location, going into DC was awful.
• PG is a great location for our barn and the parking and ease of getting there (no DC traffic!!!) is a big improvement. More vendors and better food options next year please!
• Excellent competition close to home. Have been going since the Armory, late 70s as a participant or to see friends.
• Plain and simply, it’s a nice outing!
• Great time and it’s a local tradition. I’ve been going every year since it was at the Cap Center. We’re lucky to have it
• If at PG, I plan on attending
• I was starving. The food choices and availability was non-existent
• I will attend the show primarily because its location is so convenient
• I have attended for many years, and will continue.
• It’s the best!
• Locating is not good for me. Too far away.
• So excited that show is at Showplace now. So much more accessible and a beautiful venue!
• So excited to have it back in MD!
• I live in Upper Marlboro and want to support the show.
• Always enjoyed an evening of watching the events especially when a dinner buffet was offered. We enjoyed that a number of years.
• It’s a nice venue. Need more accessible food vendors
• Love the international jumpers, President’s Cup grand prix
• I missed going and I will probably go during the day since I prefer not driving at night. There is a lot to see during the day.
• The cost of the show to enter a horse is too high. Show was not well organized.
• Important to support this organization and this longstanding annual event in our sport
• To be honest…I have just retired and I hope to have more time to be able to attend next year. Plus, I want to support this show staying in this area.
• The quality of competition, the new 5* status, the thoughtfulness about the details
• Will attend in 2023, please do more advertising prior to event
• If the flavor of the event changes to be a community building event for our area I will once again attend.
• If the programing and vendor/food options ticket buying process changes we will consider it
• I will not attend again. I’m just not into show jumping; parking was good but getting out was awful; food concession lines too long all the time.
• Like horse shows in general. Reasonably priced
• So excited to have such a high quality competition held locally! Much easier than trying to get into and out of the city!
• Close by