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The other day I was explaining to a well meaning friend from the “real world” what “Indoors” means to a rider. The response was a stare of semi-comprehension, as often happens when a horse person has to explain why an otherwise meaningless term holds special reverence in our unique world.
But you know, just as well as I know, exactly why we spell Indoors with a capital “I.”
Indoors is special, and chief among the venerable East Coast Indoor circuit is the great Washington International Horse Show. Since the 1950s it’s been a required stop on the end of year fall horse show circuit. So special that I know this even as a West Coaster who has never even been to Washington, D.C. or this particular show.
Luckily, that all changes this year, when ProEquest heads East to D.C. in a few weeks to take in the WIHS live and in person.
Before you buckle your seat belts and fly to the nation’s great capital with us, let’s all take a look back at some unforgettable moments of WIHS from years past. In 54 years of action there have certainly been many to choose from. Here are 8 of my favorites:
Anthony d’Ambrosio Sets the Indoor Puissance Record
These days we know him as one of the best technical delegates and course designers in the world, not to mention he’s also an extremely friendly guy and this year's course designer at WIHS. But back in the early 80s, Anthony d’Ambrosio was at the height of his career as a rider. In 1983, he broke the World Indoor Puissance record at WIHS by clearing 7 feet, 7.5 inches with Sweet N' Low, an off the track Thoroughbred. Twenty-five years later, that record still stands!
The wall is heartstoppingly high, check it out:
Day Dream and Margie Engle Retire Puissance Trophy
A mere nine years later, Margie Engle had the great honor of retiring the Puissance trophy, after winning the puissance for the third time aboard Daydream. Retiring trophies is a bit of a tradition at WIHS; a trophy is officially retired when a rider wins it three times in a row. Then, the trophy can be “re-donated” back to the show, or winners can start a new trophy.
The trophy Margie won was “The Congressman’s Challenge Trophy, donated by the Late Honorable Rogers C.B. Morton and the Late Honoroable F. Robert Watkins, of Pennsylvania.” Whew, that’s a mouthful. True to form, Daydream Associates redonated the trophy after Margie won it for the third time in 1994.
Reed Kessler Wins Small Pony Hunter Championship
Given her recent accomplishments and breakout year, it’s a bit mind bending to imagine Reed Kessler competing in the Smalls only seven years ago. But, if you were at WIHS in 2005, that’s exactly what you saw, as the pint sized future Olympian rode Helicon Take Notice to the Small Pony Hunter Championship at WIHS. Talk about an upward ascent from there. She soon left the hunters behind to focus solely on the jumpers, and as everyone knows, that was a very wise choice!
A victorious Reed poses with Helicon Take Notice in 2005. Photo ©Jennifer Wood Media
WIHS Moves Back Downtown to Verizon Center
I’ve heard tales of past WIHS locations, places where one couldn’t leave a car in a parking lot, in a desolate area that lacked restaurants and cockroach-free lodging. Therefore it’s with great relief that I’ll be attending WIHS at its new-since-2000 home at Verizon Center, right in the middle of downtown in a cross-section of Chinatown and Penn Quarter. Verizon Center is home to NBA and NHL teams, making it a legitimate sports venue that can hold 20,000 crazed hockey fans or dignified equestrian spectators, give or take the week. Here’s hoping that WIHS fills those seats with the latter.
Above, hacking in the show ring. Photo ©Diana DeRosa
TLC’s DC Cupcake Films at WIHS and Builds World’s First Cupcake Jump
If you remember anything from last year’s show, visions of a huge pink cupcake likely dance in your head. Having a bona-fide reality show film during the 2011 WIHS was super exciting for organizers, and they welcomed the TLC show DC Cupcakes. The subject of the show is local shop Georgetown Cupcakes, and as a WIHS sponsor since 2009, the famous cupcake bakers worked with WIHS in a very unique collaboration to highlight horses – and cupcakes.
2,000 cupcakes later, they’d constructed the final fence on course in the $20,000 Gambler's Choice Costume Class. Fittingly, the class was won by Sweetheart, with Todd Minikus (dressed as “Uncle Sam”) in the saddle.
Posing with the cupcake jump in the background
The Year Rodrigo Was Speed Racer
Speaking of the Gambler’s Choice, Rodrigo Pessoa’s costume in the 2010 class was unforgettable. Leave it to Rodrigo, who is a dedicated fan of Formula One car racing, to bring out an authentic Formula One racing outfit to wear for the costume class. The full face racing helmet didn’t stop Rodrigo from going all out on course, even when it was obvious that the weight difference between that helmet and a normal riding one was causing…..issues.
I love this video:
Sapphire Becomes Second Horse in WIHS History to Win Second President’s Cup Grand Prix
Oh Sapphire. I still get a little twinge in my heart when I think about the greatest mare ever, now happily retired in New York. Her epic reign over show jumping was at a high in 2010, when she won the $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix with McLain Ward. The legendary duo also won in 2008, making them just the second pair in history to win this class two times. Idle Dice, who won in 1970 & 1971, is the other record holder.
Nick Skelton Wins 2011 Puissance
Last year, Nick Skelton and Unique won the Puissance class, and this year he’ll be back, perhaps to try for two wins in a row. Nick’s got a long history of competing, and winning, Puissance classes. And after his unforgettable summer capturing gold for Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics, it will be exciting to see him on American soil again.
The Washington International Horse Show begins on October 23 and runs through October 28. Visit www.wihs.org for more information. The entire show will be broadcast live and free online, and until then you can check out the excellent WIHS video archive here.