The 65th Annual Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) returns to the Washington DC area October 23-29, 2023 at The Show Place Arena, Prince George’s Equestrian Center (PGEC) in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Celebrate 65 years of WIHS with 7 days and 3 nights of top equestrian sport, time-honored traditions and blockbuster entertainment.
This prestigious fast-paced and fun event has been an equestrian tradition since 1958, with more than 500 of the top national and international horses and riders coming together to compete in seven days of thrilling competition, entertaining exhibitions and special events for the whole family.
Washington International Horse Show 2023
October 23-29, 2023
The Show Place Arena, Prince George’s Equestrian Center
14900 Pennsylvania Ave, Upper Marlboro, MD
The schedule will offer seven days and three premier nights of top hunter, jumper, and equitation classes, as well as exciting exhibitions and entertainment.
Tickets go on sale August 1 for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Every other day, all day long, and daytimes Thursday through Saturday is FREE for all spectators. This family-friendly DC sporting event is a don’t miss. Add the WIHS to your fall family adventure list in 2023.
BARN NIGHT: WASHINGTON GOES WESTERN! – Thursday, October 26 (6:30pm)
- Barn Night celebrates the camaraderie of barns and horse-loving groups with contests and prizes. Full of fun with contests and prizes, WIHS Barn Night brings groups from local barns and organizations together for an evening of great competition, exciting exhibitions, and fun.
- International Jumpers debut tonight in the first of three nights of exciting jumping.
MILITARY NIGHT – Friday, October 27 (6:30pm)
- A special night recognizing the service and sacrifice of the U.S Armed Forces. The centerpiece of the evening is a competition with a special American Flag jump, if cleared raised funds to support the mission of Tragedy Assistance program for Survivors (TAPS), a national nonprofit organization providing compassionate care and comprehensive resources for all those grieving the death of a military or veteran loved one.
FREE KIDS EVENT – Saturday, October 28 (10:00am – 12:00pm)
- WIHS Kids’ Day is a free, fun, family-friendly event. Children participate in hands-on educational and fun activities, including pony rides, coloring station, face painting, pony brushing lessons, a horseless horse show with an opportunity to jump courses on foot and win ribbons, a pony kissing booth, carousel rides, plus special guest horses, ponies, and more.
A new Washington International Horse Show in 2022
I sat down with the Executive Director of the Washington International Horse Show to hear what is new and what is tried and true in 2022 for the WIHS.
Interview with Mary Helen Shaughnessy:
Adv Fam: I am here with Mary Helen Shaughnessy, the WIHS Executive Director. Thank you for meeting with me.
MHS: Thank you for coming! Glad you could make it and hope you enjoy Barn Night.
Adv Fam: It looks like a great crowd already, we can’t wait!
MHS: Yes, we are ready for tonight!
Adv Fam: You guys were off during COVID? How was that?
MHS: We were off for two years and unfortunately we were sort of orphans that relocated to Tryon International Equestrian Center. They took us under their wing and they let us host our show there. But it wasn’t the full Washington show and it wasn’t in our hometown area, which is so important to us. So this is our first year back since 2019 with a full show under our own wing and a new home.
Adv Fam: So what was the transition to this new location like? Was is just out of necessity?
MHS: It was a bit of both. Unfortunately, we would have loved to have stayed downtown at Capital One Arena. However, the schedules with the hockey and basketball teams due to the COVID restrictions that were placed on events and spacing social distancing would not allow us to return. So then we underwent a very extensive venue search to find a facility that was both horse and rider friendly, as well as being compatible with the local community and encouraging folks to come out and ultimately resulted in this. We’ve had a great relationship with this venue for a while. It’s hosted our regional show, but we’ve never had a full scale show here. So it was important to us to be able to really make it feel like Washington even in Upper Marlboro.
Adv Fam: But I feel like it’s not too far away.
MHS: That it’s not, you know, it’s right within the same DC corridor. And we’re happy to have a partnership with National Harbor as our hospitality campus. So it kind of gives you that DC feel. There’s even like the same restaurants that there were downtown there and all that kind of vibe.
Adv Fam: That’s nice. I noticed that you were hosting the family day at National Harbor.
MHS: Yes, so we had a kids day last weekend at National Harbor and we are actually having another kids day this weekend on Saturday here. And that’s a free event. Kids can come, you park in the infield totally free parking, and there’ll be pony rides, groom a pony, meet a pony, mount a police display. Sort of educational, hands on horse experience.
Adv Fam: Awesome. So what was it like during COVID when you guys couldn’t do the shows? How did that change the direction of the International Horse Show?
MHS: Definitely in the years that were during COVID it made us really sort of zero in and focus on just the competition aspect and the sport element. It was very non fan focused. It was truly just to put on the show where our competitors could receive the accolades and justice they deserved after a year of showing, to qualify. But that was never really the heart of Washington. We always thought of ourselves as both entertainment and sport. We totally lost the entertainment part for two years. And this is the first year where we’re back doing it that way, welcoming spectators, people who know the sport, don’t know the sport, exhibitions, family of fun things like you mentioned, kind of bringing back a little bit of that entertainment feel that we lost a bit.
Adv Fam: So you guys are back, you’ve hit your stride.
MHS: I’d say we’ve hit our stride, but it’s the day of one of our biggest nights.
Adv Fam: The turnout looks good so far.
MHS: Yeah, I think. We’re really excited. We’ve gotten great engagement from the community, from the state, from the county. We felt incredibly supported by everyone here. And I know that our riders and everybody, they’ve traveled — we have over ten countries of different international riders. The entire 2020 Tokyo US Olympic equestrian team is here. So, it’s really a great turnout and people are really excited with what’s going to happen when the stands are full.
Adv Fam: So fun. I noticed that tonight’s theme is Going Green, and I was interested how is that impacting the Washington International Horse show moving forward? How is Washington International Horse show going green?
MHS: I think it’s really important. We always said, just as Washington DC was sort of a pioneer in sustainable practices and sort of civic city environment, that we wanted to do the same in a horse show world. So for us, it’s important that we start with little tiny, small things like you’ll see around the concourse, QR codes for people to scan for programs. We’re not printing any of that this year. So it’s sort of as small scale as that to be able to access everything digitally. And, as large scale as you look at how can you recycle manure and shavings bags, recycling both exterior and interior. We’d really like to look at being a more pioneering United States show in terms of sustainable practices. We think it really starts from the ground floor up. So it starts with the people in the stands, it starts with people in the barns, and it kind of grows from there.
Adv Fam: That’s true. So it’s part of your mission going forward to increase that every year and just grow that along with the show?
MHS: Definitely. I would say it’s important for us to be at the cutting edge of not just what’s happening in our sport, but what’s happening in the world. That’s obviously a very essential part of world conversation and leadership, and we won’t want to be left behind.
Adv Fam: Is this a new thing in the equestrian community or is there pushback?
MHS: I would say there’s always a little pushback. Like when we say, no, we’re not going to hand out 100 individual bottles of water. You’ve got a water jug, you got to bring your own. That takes a little bit of messaging, but I think ultimately what we’re feeling from all our exhibitors and people is one of great understanding and knowledge that it’s important to move forward if we want our sport to have a future.
Adv Fam: Really.
MHS: Right, exactly. If we want to have a future, we want to have a future.
Adv Fam: Right, exactly. Well, I have little riders and I was curious what you thought in terms of getting young riders to participate in the sport?
MHS: I mean, to me, I think the most important thing is for a kid to be able to look in the ring and see themselves in the face of the rider that’s out there. So I think it is as important to have diversity among gender, ethnic background, economic background. So I think that’s a thing that we strive to do here. Yes, you have people at the very top of your sport at the Olympic level, but we’ve also got our Shetland pony steeple chase, which is lots of little kids running on the ponies. We have exhibitions which are really fun. We have our pony riders, we have our junior riders, our amateur riders. So I think anytime you can look out there and, if you’re a little kid, you see a pony rider that you see yourself in. If you’re a senior citizen and you always wanted to ride and you see yourself in somebody that’s out there, that’s kind of equally as important. We try to show the representation across the sport as much as possible.
Adv Fam: It makes it feel a little bit more accessible to everybody.
MHS: It does. I think one great thing about this venue is that it’s very intimate. You can be sitting in the stands and you feel like you can almost touch and grab a horse, whereas in a lot of venues, you have no level of accessibility, you’re set so far back. And here, I feel like you really feel like you’re on the ground there with the riders.
Adv Fam: I was noticing that it seemed like a much better venue for being able to see the riders and see their performances when you’re sitting in the stands. Capital One Arena is so large.
MHS: I think so. I think that it’s a trade off. Capital One Arena is a major sports venue. There’s something very exciting about being down there, but here it does allow you to have that really genuine interaction with the crowd and the community. It kind of makes it kids day every day. Because people can come see the horses, feel like you can feel them and it’s more approachable.
Adv Fam: I definitely got that feeling. That was the first thing that we noticed when we came in today. My kids were like, you can see it. It’s so close. Right when you first enter, you feel like you can touch them.
MHS: Exactly. I feel like that’s important.
Adv Fam: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
MHS: No, thank you. I’m so glad you guys come out, and I hope your girls love it.
Adv Fam: Oh, they love it. They’re over there already talking about the show.
MHS: That’s awesome. I’m excited to see the stands really packed. I’m a little scared and very excited. It’s great. It’s hard after a little break to have that messaging that we are here, and then again the secondary messaging of yes, but it’s in a new location. But we’re excited, so I’m glad you guys could come out as well.
Adv Fam: Thank you so much.
MHS: No, thank you.