- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Kennedy McCaulley aspires to be an Olympian in her sport. She hails from the Chicago area, but like many equestrians young and old, she and her sister, Lauren, traveled to the nation’s capital this week to show their horses in competition.

“I love showing and I also just love riding,” said McCaulley, 16. “Even if I’m not gonna be showing for the next two months, I just like looking forward to going to the barn every day. There’s just so much learning that goes on with it. I don’t think you can ever really master the sport.”

McCaulley and her parents sat in Capital One Arena Wednesday waiting to see Lauren McCaulley and her horse appear in the dirt ring below, where a basketball court or ice rink is usually found. It’s all part of the 60th Anniversary Washington International Horse Show, which Capital One has hosted since 2000.

The show runs through Sunday and combines family-oriented events — like Thursday night’s “Halloween on Horseback,” where riders will dress up in elaborate costumes, and Saturday’s free “Kids’ Day” activities — with competitive equestrian divisions like show jumping and hunters.

It flaunts a distinct Washington flavor. First Lady Melania Trump is the honorary chairman. Washington team sports memorabilia are available for bid at the silent auction. And 15-year-old Lily Pollin, the grand-niece of late Wizards and Capitals owner Abe Pollin, won a children’s hunters championship Tuesday in the building her great-uncle built.

Perhaps the most accomplished rider competing in Washington will be McLain Ward, the LeBron James of show jumping.

The top-ranked American show jumper and fourth-ranked in the world, Ward has collected gold medals for team jumping at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics and for individual jumping at the 2015 Pan American Games and the 2017 Show Jumping World Cup. Last month, he delivered the U.S.’s first-ever team gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games by winning a “jump-off” against Sweden.

“It always means the world to represent your country,” Ward told The Washington Times. “This was not my first time obviously doing that … but it hasn’t lost the luster to me.”

Ward, 43, has been a professional show jumper his whole adult life and said 2018 is probably his 25th time coming to Washington’s show.

Very few horse shows are held in urban areas these days. Portions of 6th and F streets NW around Capital One were cordoned off for the week to put up temporary stables. The horses themselves are driven in every day from the Prince George’s Equestrian Center based on which ones are showing that day.

“Since moving downtown, it’s a real logistical undertaking to run a horse show in the middle of the city,” Ward said, adding that the unique layout “creates some excitement around it and help make it special.”

It’s also special for local equestrians like the Bishop family. Sisters Emma (16), Libby (15) and Daisy Bishop (13) are from Washington and riding this week, and their mother, Judy Bishop, is in her third year serving on the show’s board of directors. WIHS is an opportunity for their friends to see what they do close to home.

“Since events happen (at Capital One Arena) all year, so many people are familiar with it,” Libby Bishop said. “So they’re like, ‘I didn’t know a horse show was here.’ Yeah, because it’s a very big event, it’s really important to all of us like how hockey is important to you guys and basketball and maybe your concerts and everything. This is like our big moment for the year.”

The ins and outs of horse shows lend themselves to explanation with analogies to other sports. At each event, riders are presented with a uniquely laid out course of fences to navigate, just as golf course architects have their own styles in designing courses. Ward and his staff have a team of horses that are selected like a baseball team’s pitching staff — one or two aces, some that are young and developing or aging and competing less, and other “everyday” options that are capable of winning but aren’t championship-level.

“How we structure our own operation is very much how you’d see the building of a hockey team or a football team, and layering it and developing things in different ways,” Ward said. “It’s very, very similar, it’s just we’re doing it with horses instead of players.”

In Washington, Ward will compete Thursday, Friday and Saturday and ride a 10-year-old mare named HH Gigi’s Girl. And when riders and horses don costumes Thursday night, Ward’s will be Washington Capitals-themed.

“People should come out and enjoy it,” Ward said. “It’s a great family night out. It’s a great arena and a beautiful city, and I hope people come out and support it.”

Kennedy McCaulley promised, “It’s something like you’ll never see again.”

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide