Celebrating 60 Years of Tradition and Top Sport at the Washington International Horse Show

Beat Mändli won the $130,000 Longines FEI Jumping World CupTM Washington, presented by Events DC, in 2017. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

“I think there’s something wrong—I was only charged $2 for my ticket,” read the message sent to the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS). But there was no mistake at all. Admission for the first day of this year’s WIHS on Tuesday, October 23, is just $2, the same price tickets were 60 years ago when WIHS first began. And the show programs will cost just $1 to reflect the 1958 price.

The downtown setting for WIHS is truly unique.

Organizers have a very special edition of the WIHS planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic show in downtown Washington, DC, on October 23-28 at the Capital One Arena. The show will not only recognize its rich history of top equestrian sport, but also shine the spotlight on current and future stars in the hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions.

Fans will get to explore highlights from the 60 years of WIHS in the “Through the Decades” historical timeline exhibit and memorabilia, including a display of WIHS posters through the years, and also see an exhibit showcasing the U.S. presidents with equine ties.

Philip Smucker, journalist and author of Riding with George: Sportsmanship & Chivalry in the Making of America’s First President, is joining WIHS as the Official George Washington. Smucker will walk the concourse dressed as George Washington, signing books and taking photos.

In its first year in 1958, WIHS took place at the National Guard Armory, and spectators enjoyed viewing saddle seat riding, carriage horses and dressage in addition to the hunters and jumpers. High society in their black-tie best filled the stands during the evening performances and as the show grew over the next few decades, it became a fixture on the Washington, D.C., social calendar. Luminaries like First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy and Pat Nixon served as honorary chairs for the show, while U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald R. Ford, and John F. Kennedy watched riders from all over the world jump in the prestigious open jumper classes.

In 1973, George Morris showed a hunter at WIHS during its D.C. National Guard Armory years.

Legendary equestrians like Rodney Jenkins, George H. Morris, Kathy Kusner, and Frank Chapot created magical memories in the ring at WIHS over the years as the President’s Cup and Puissance classes became showcases for top performers. WIHS is still home to the standing indoor Puissance record, set at 7’7½” in 1983 by U.S. rider Anthony d’Ambrosio and Sweet ‘n’ Low.

“Those were exciting days,” said amateur rider Betty Oare, who rode in the very first WIHS in 1958, winning the Virginia Horse Shows Association Medal Final, and continued to show as a professional and amateur hunter rider at WIHS for more than 50 years. “When you talk about the history of people like Frank Chapot, Kathy Kusne, and Billy Steinkraus, I pinch myself that I saw them ride every year. It was like watching Hollywood stars.”

The WIHS Shetland Pony Steeplechase Championship Series, presented by Charles Owen, is a crowd favorite.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

In 1975, the show moved from the National Guard Armory to the USAir Arena and then back to the heart of D.C. at the Capital One Arena in 2000. Along the way, the show has added more exciting sport and entertainment to the schedule, with the Gambler’s Choice costume class and the WIHS Shetland Pony Steeplechase Championship Series, presented by Charles Owen, starting to capture the hearts of fans in 2013.

Legendary Australian horseman Guy McLean will entertain WIHS crowds while Barn Night on Thursday and Military Night on Friday offer activities and entertainment for all. Kids’ Day on Saturday is a free event happening both on the concourse of the arena and on an adjacent street closed for the event.

This year, WIHS is also partnering with Billy & Blaze Film Partners in promoting their upcoming movie, Billy and Blaze, based on the beloved 1930s C.W. Anderson book. Fans can meet Blaze the pony and learn more about the Billy and Blaze movie during Barn Night and Kids’ Day.

With the President’s Cup Grand Prix as part of the Longines FEI Jumping World CupTM North American League, WIHS offers coveted qualifying points for the 2019 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Göteborg, Sweden. WIHS also spotlights the talented youth of the sport with the WIHS Equitation Classic, now known as The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals, which features the country’s top junior riders in one of the most coveted year-end equitation titles. A blend of tradition and innovation, WIHS truly offers something for everyone.

For more information on WIHS, please visit www.wihs.org, join WIHS on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Tag them using #WIHSTurns60, #WIHS2018 #HorsesInTheCity, #FEIWorldCup, and #Longines.

The 60th annual Washington International Horse Show returns to the heart of Washington, D.C. from October 23-28, 2018. The event attracts more than 26,000 spectators annually as riders compete for prize money totaling more than half a million dollars. For a complete schedule of events and more information, please visit www.wihs.org.

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