For seven days in October, D.C. isn’t just about politics. It’s not just another bustling city, and it’s famed Capital One Arena does not just host basketball games and hockey matches. For that week, Washington, D.C. is a horse show mecca. Running from October 21 through 27 during its 61st season, the Washington International Horse Show, presented by MARS Equestrian™ (WIHS) once again transformed the downtown streets of our nation’s capital into a horse haven and captivated both regular horse show goers and new fans alike.
Highlighting the fanfare was a career high for U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Laura Kraut. There isn’t much this rider hadn’t won, but before WIHS, the $136,300 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Washington, presented by Events DC for the President’s Cup, still remained on her bucket list.
When she broke the final timers during World Cup Night, she and the mare Fleurette brought the crowd to their feet and she checked “win the grand prix at Washington” off her list.
“It’s been a class that I wanted to win for many, many years,” said Kraut, who has been making the pilgrimage to WIHS since she piloted small ponies in 1978. “I think I’ve been jumping in the international division here [at WIHS] since the late ‘80s. I’ve had quite a few seconds and thirds and fourths, but it’s just always seemed to elude me. I said at the beginning of the week, ‘I think this is going to be my week.”
Kraut, who is a U.S. rider but bases herself in England, flew Fleurette to D.C. specifically for WIHS. “She flew to New York on Sunday, was in quarantine on Monday and Tuesday, and then got on a truck and came straight here. She’s just amazing because not a lot of horses could put up with that. She’s one of these horses that I think has all the jump, all the scope, is careful, is brave, is sensible, and lets you ride her. My goal for her would be [the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games].”
Walker Wins with Waldo
Sam Walker became the first Canadian to win the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals when he topped the 2019 edition of the coveted class riding Missy Clark and North Run’s Waldo. Walker, 17, is making the most of his final junior years and scored a 93 in the hunter phase and a 92 in the jumper phase from WIHS Equitation Finals judges.
“I was 10th place here last year and third the year before, so I was a little bit hungry to get back in the ring here,” said Walker, who hails from Nobleton, ON. “I always look forward to coming to this horse show. It’s extremely well organized and a great atmosphere. It’s a real show. In regard to my horse and preparation, we just kept it simple and tried to stick with the plan. I’m just really happy with how [it] went.”
It’s no secret that Scott Stewart of Flemington, NJ, is the one to beat as soon as he steps foot into the hunter ring on just about any horse. But, at WIHS, he did something that’s rarely done. Not only did he claim the 2019 WIHS Grand Hunter Championship and his 10th WIHS Leading Hunter Rider title, he also swept top call in every professional hunter division championship along the way.
“I know I’ve come close [to sweeping the championships] before. There was possibly one other time that I did, but it definitely hasn’t happened a lot!” said Stewart, who claimed two reserve championships in addition to his five division championship titles.
Betsee Parker’s Cameo captured both the High Performance and Grand Hunter Championships, in addition to the Protocol Trophy, given to the high-point High Performance Hunter from the Devon Horse Show, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, and WIHS.
Stewart also partnered with Parker’s Private Life to the High Performance Conformation Hunter Championship and Bikoff Equestrian LLC’s Critics’ Choice to the Green Conformation tricolor. Love Note, owned by Richard Prant, and Stewart topped the Green 3’6″ Hunter division, while Sports Page, owned by Alexa Wesiman, and Stewart claimed the Green 3’9″ Hunter title.
While she may not have won five tri-color ribbons, Becky
Gochman became the instant crowd favorite when she handed one of the blue
ribbons she did earn with Catch Me to an eager child in the Capital One Arena stands.
Gochman, of Wellington, FL, claimed the Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6″ Hunter Championship, and the Leading Amateur-Owner 3’6″ Hunter Rider title.
What Makes WIHS Special
While the competition at WIHS keeps spectators on the edge of their seats, there’s plenty of other entertainment, shopping, and equine-inspired activities at the show during the themed Barn Night, Military Night, and Kids’ Day.
The Garrison Forest School’s spooky Barn Night video earned them a 2019 clinic with top grand prix rider Aaron Vale, thanks to BarnManager, when they won the annual video contest with the theme “Halloween on Horseback.” Other groups won a golf cart, Dover Saddlery gift certificates, and more top prizes in Barn Night contests.
Local children were introduced to show jumping and the four-legged stars of the sport, some for the first time, when Kids’ Day took over F Street NW. A free and family-friendly event, Kids’ Day embraces the unique role that WIHS plays in the local community welcoming local families to Capital One Arena for hands-on educational and fun activities. Visiting children tried their luck at a horseless horse show, got kisses from a very popular miniature donkey, learned how to brush a pony, and more.
Thanks to unwavering support from sponsors, horse sport fans, and the city of D.C., WIHS has become a special part of the community, and also one of the most popular international sporting events in the world. As such, plans are already in the works for the 62nd WIHS, which returns to Capital One Arena at the heart of Washington D.C. from October 20 through 25, 2020! For more information, visit www.wihs.org.