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Well, even to an insider, it wasn’t something you see everyday. But at the Washington International Horse Show, those events were an annual tradition that brought out hundreds of local riders and equestrian enthusiasts to cheer on riders of ovines and equines for a night of fun entertainment.
Barn night at WIHS attracts groups of color-coordinated children representing barns and Pony Clubs in the Virginia/Maryland area, who compete for everything from best barn video to best barn spirit.
Packing over 30 groups of children on an overload of painted faces and glittery signs into one vast Verizon Center was an effective way to whip up a frenzied state of excitement, and that was before the mutton busting even began.
Mutton busting returned to WIHS for the second year in a row, and it was a hit once more. Originally conceived to give small children in the rodeo world an early taste of riding unpredictable, bucking animals let loose out of a chute, the pint size horse people who suited up to bust muttons at WIHS were perhaps a little more shocked than usual to find their faces in the sand, but it was all in good fun.
No children or sheep were hurt in the making of this photograph.
Hats off to the mutton busting champion, who rode her sheep well into the middle of the arena, sat a turn, waited a moment while the sheep seemed to give up trying to shake its small rider, and then slid to the ground.
All of that was a precursor to the main event of the evening. Have you ever watched Beezie Madden walk a course – while dressed as something that resembles a marshmallow cream puff? The $25,000 Gamblers Choice Costume Class brought out 15 of the bravest riders at Washington. I’m measuring bravery, of course, by the ability to own a ridiculous costume and jump clean over a course made up on the spot. The Gamblers Choice assigns a point value to each fence, and riders must try to jump for as many points as possible within the time allowed.
Lauren Hough as Wonderwoman, Christine McCrea as a cheerleader, Andrew Welles as Howard Stern, and Shane Sweetnam as a hot dog made for one of the more entertaining coursewalks I’ve ever watched. Do you know why these riders are the best of the best? Because they can keep a straight face while striding out a line dressed as Santa Claus (I’m looking at you, Nick Dello Joio.)
With belly and all.
The costumes were all in good fun, but if you wanted to know how to win a Gamblers Choice class, you needed only to watch Catwoman.
Last out of the ring during the coursewalk, Reed Kessler strategized with coaches Henri and Katie Prudent, walking out the lines several times and eyeing every fence through her Catwoman mask.
With Ligist, she coolly kept up a consistent quick pace and left all the jumps up. A joker fence set at 1.50m was an option for every rider to attempt before leaving the ring, and she cleared that too.
Reed and Ligist, jumping clear and racking up the points. Photo ©Shawn McMillan
Nicola Philppaerts, fittingly dressed in a matching costume with his brother Olivier as Mario and Luigi, came in 2nd with Diebrich de Kalvarie, and a hot dog….errr…..Shane Sweetnam, was 3rd with Solerina.
Charlie Jayne, who dressed as Avatar for this class last year, must have a closetful of skintight body suits; he brought another one out this year as a still debatable samurai and/or African warrior. Dressed head to toe with his costume covering his face, he was difficult to identify until his name came up on the scoreboard, but his showboating over the joker fence was much appreciated by the crowd. Anyone who can clear a 1.50m vertical one handed has earned the right to jump in a form-fitting body suit, I say.
Charlie Jayne and Valeska
Competition at the Washington International Horse Show gets a bit more serious today, with the $32,000 International Open Jumper 1.50m class and the $25,000 Puissance. There isn’t anything quite like this horse show in the city, and WIHS expects big crowds for its Friday and Saturday night events. If you can’t be here in person, watch online at www.wihs.com, and check back with ProEquest for more news and photos.
Top Ten - $25,000 Gamblers Choice Costume Class
Rider | Horse | Nation | Points
- Catwoman (Reed Kessler) | LIgist | USA | 1060
- Mario (Nicola Philippaerts) | Diebrich de Kalvarie | BEL | 980
- Hot Dog (Shane Sweetnam) | Solerina | IRL | 940
- Warrrior (Charlie Jayne) | Valeska | USA | 900
- Jockey (Laura Kraut) | Belmont | USA | 880
- Clown (Tim Gredley) | Unex Valvente | GBE | 880
- Howard Stern (Andrew Welles) | XM | USA | 870
- Cheerleader (Christine McCrea) | Victor E | USA | 830
- Wonderwoman (Lauren Hough) | Wonder Girl | USA | 730
- Luigi (Olivier Philippaerts) | Chicago VH Moleneina | BEL | 730
Photos ©ProEquest except where otherwise noted
Cool, calm, catwoman.
The super Mario Brothers
Not what you see everyday during a coursewalk
Horse names had something to do with costume choices, i.e. Howard Stern riding XM
Belmont and his jockey
Victor E and the cheerleader
Jessica Springsteen as Pocahantas