The Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) is a hunter/jumper show par excellence. It’s an interesting blend of young and local competitors, along with seasoned international professionals. It’s also unusual in its downtown location at the Capital One Arena in the middle of Washington DC, including stalls on G Street!
There are day and evening performances. The day tickets are some of the best value for your horse show dollar because the competition runs all day, and never seems to stop.
Parking is available under the Capital One Arena for $20. If you come for the day, you can also stay for the evening performance. But there are a lot of street closures, and you can only get into the garage by coming south on 6th Street NW.
If you’re not up for the crazy DC traffic, and the extra challenge of the street closures, then go for METRO, Washington’s subway system. The Capital One Center sits on top of the Gallery Place stop on the red and yellow/green lines. From there, you can get just about anywhere you need to go.
Tickets can be purchased online, or at the Capital One Arena box office. Tickets are generally available the day of the performance you want to attend. But Barn Night is a pretty full house, so if you want to go on Thursday, I’d recommend getting your seats in advance. If you get a spot down low, close to the arena floor, be prepared for some footing to get thrown your way as the horses gallop down the long sides.
One of the challenges that riders of all levels have at this show is the fact that the ring is pretty small, but particularly narrow. That requires some steady nerves, especially good steering by the rider, and a good amount of adjustability in the horse.
Since you’re in the middle of DC’s Chinatown, there are lots of restaurants on the streets surround the Capital One Arena — everything from Fudrucker’s hamburgers to high-end food worthy of the gourmand in you. There’s a lot of ethic food, like Rasika for Indian cuisine, Oyamel for Mexican food, Cuba Libre for Cuban food, and Full Key for Chinese food. Consider coming early and having dinner in the neighborhood before you come to the evening performances.
Check out the show’s website at www.wihs.org. There you can get information on the schedule, special events, exhibitors, and other information. There is no app yet, but hopefully that will be coming soon.
Each evening at WIHS has a theme, like Military Night, or Buck Breast Cancer. And there’s a special program that goes along with the theme. For instance, Military Night, sponsored by Boeing, usually brings some of the horses from the Caison Divison at Fort Myer in Virginia, to do a demonstration. There’s also a Puissance, or high jump, competition. It’s always an exciting event to watch.
Thursday is always Barn Night, with a special costumed Gambler’s Choice competition with the pros. Hey! It’s not every day you get to see Cat Woman or a minion on horseback. And don’t let those lighthearted costumes fool you. These riders are intent on winning! After the riding is done, some of the riders come out to sign autographs.
Dress in layers. Late October in DC can be pretty chilly. And the way the arena is set up, there is an open path from the arena floor directly out to the street. It’s how the competitors get their horses from their stalls on the street into the warm-up under the concourse, and onto the arena floor for competition. But that lets all the cold air right in. And even with the heaters on in the venue, it can get a bit nippy, especially in the evenings. And by the time you leave at the end of the evening, it can be quite cold.
Since this is a basketball/hockey/concert arena, the food comes from the regular concessionaires that work those other events. But there are other food vendors that come in just for WIHS, like the cinnamon roasted almonds, and the fudge. Shopping is plentiful, and runs the gamut from saddle pads to high-end jewelry to summer camps. They are all set up on the concourse level, which runs like a racetrack around the arena. So if you miss a vendor, just keep going, and you’ll come around to them again.
If you stay in a local hotel, pay attention to who gets on the elevator with you. Lots of the riders are also staying close by. And the Smithsonian museums are just a short walk.