It's close quarters but so much fun to be a part of. There's nothing more exciting than getting up at 3:30 am to hack your horse inside the Verizon Center with 150 other people. But this is a dying art, one that likely won't exist in another 25 years or so. The National left Madison Square Garden years ago and let's admit that Pennsylvania National in Harrisburg just doesn't have the same allure as being in Washington or New York.
The horses are shipped in from nearby Prince Georges' County Equestrian Center for a short stay in the city.
Most of the horses are stabled outdoors with tight security and lots of shavings to protect those expensive legs laying on the roads and sidewalks of our nation's capital. A few lucky (read well-connected) ones stay in the basement of the Verizon Center.
The Horse Show has an illustrious past with many famous faces in attendance. The show started out at the old D.C. National Guard Amory on East Capitol Street across from the old RFK Stadium. In the ringside boxes you'd find well-dressed spectators often in White Tie. At that time (the late 50's), the "indoor" circuit included Washington, Harrisburg, New York (gone, but moved to KY this year) and Toronto (the Royal Winter Fair).
Early on the show had a "Diplomat's Class" as many ambassadors had begun their careers in the calvary.
Here's a photo from the Kennedy Library with Jackie in attendance. Also in attendance are Eve Fout (who rode Jackie's horses at the show), Alice Roosevelt Longworth (daughter of Teddy Roosevelt), William Walton, Eunice Shriver, and Gore Vidal.
A more contempoary photo of McLain Ward on the famous Sapphire at the Verizon Center. The show moved from the Amory to the Cap Center (now demolished) and has signed a multi-year deal with the Verizon Center so it's not likely to move from its current venue at least for a few more years.
It's a thrill to ride there, to spectate and just to watch it all happen. The warm-up ring is TINY. You need a special horse to make it here. But it's an experience that I am proud to have been a part of, at least four times, maybe five, on two different horses. If you are in the area, by all means make the journey to watch it in action. You won't be disappointed.