Bring on the clowns! And the horses too!
Every Friday Counter-Canter Culture features the important US and International Horse Shows
The Ten Most Eye-Catching Horse Shows of 2014
When counting down the ten best horse shows of 2014, there are so many criteria that could be applied: the number of attendees; the amount of prize money; the world records broken. The list goes on.
But for this countdown, I concerned myself with just one thing. The horse shows this year that were so eye-catching that they simply had to be liked, posted, tweeted, retweeted, pinned, and you get the idea. To achieve this goal, each show offers something worth celebrating.
For their five star accommodations, signature equestrian displays and outstanding branding, the following ten shows fit the bill!
10. Horses And Stars
The Horses And Stars show in Austria is aptly named. This horse show pulls out all the stops to create a one-of-a-kind experience befitting horses and its past all-star attendees, like Sharon Stone, Hugh Grant, and Naomi Campbell.
There’s a celebrity chef to entertain the masses and a dog lounge where you can have your beloved pooch pampered in style. With an upgrade to VIP, attendees also have access to the Wellness Lounge, Styling Lounge, and Cinema Lounge. You may even forget you are at a horse show amid all this pampering! But the Glock’s 5* Grand Prix ultimately reminds everyone who the real stars are at this event!
9. The Angelstone International
The Angelstone facility outside of Toronto was opened just four years ago with a specific mission in mind – modernize the audiences experience at horse shows for both equestrians and non-equestrians alike. Since then they have leapt ahead of their competitors in their spectator offerings, and have already become a favorite with many of the best in the business, including Captain Canada himself, Ian Millar. It’s not hard to see the appeal.
It starts with a world-class facility modeled after Kentucky Horse Park. Then add an opportunity for reserved couch seating overlooking the main arena, and expert lighting provided by Dwight Crane, the film industry’s leader in high-intensity lighting systems, credited with many of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, including Iron Man, Transformers and X-Men. Finally, top off your evening with the Cloud9 experience at Angelstone’s very own nightclub overlooking the show jumping arena. We’re talking live music, drinks, and dancing amid a ‘Gatsby-esque’ ambiance.
Absolutely sign up for an evening at Angelstone next year!
8. The 71st Royal Windsor Horse Show
Queen Elizabeth has never missed the Royal Windsor Horse Show since it began in 1943. That may be because it literally takes place in her back gardens, but perhaps she also realizes that this show knows how to bring the perfect mixture of history and fun!
From the Musical Ride of The Household Cavalry and the Musical Drive of The King’s Troops to the competition for the ‘The Best Turned Out Trooper’ of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, all of The Queen’s equestrian military men and women certainly strut their stuff. And for the young ones, there’s the excitement of the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games and the highly competitive and adorable Shetland Pony Grand National.
Not to mention the fact that this is the largest outdoor equestrian competition in the UK, featuring four different equestrian disciplines and the opportunity to stroll the private grounds of Windsor Castle. Yes, please!
7. Stuttgart German Masters
In 1985, the unassuming city of Stuttgart, Germany, was given a horse show. Now, thirty years later, the Stuttgart German Masters is still going strong and is in fact better than ever. Today, the Stuttgart German Masters is the only horse show in the world with four World Cup classes on its calendar, in show jumping, dressage, driving and vaulting. Plus, the show exhibits an indoor eventing competition, making it a total of five disciplines on display.
And at Stuttgart, the shows are almost as serious as the competition. Opening night is traditionally an evening of all entertainment. This year’s program included the Stuttgart police’s mounted branch, the highly-popular herd of Arabians belonging to the state stud in nearby Marbach, “Dancing Fire” and “Dance in the Air” performed by Ana Ayromlou and Oliver Jubin, and the iWEST Hungarian Post 32-heavy horse riding formation from Oberland in Bavaria. These performances repeat all weekend long, including lederhosen-wearing Bavarians on horseback!
After the classes and official entertainment wraps up for the day, the party goes on in the catacombs of Schleyerhalle arena! Stuttgart cult-favorite cover band, “Königlich Württembergische Hofbräu-Regiment,” keeps the party going to the early hours of the morning with their historical costumes and rock and pop music that packs a punch. Now that sounds like a must see!
6. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014
Any year the World Equestrian Games graces the calendar, it deserves to find its way on to a most eye-catching horse shows of the year list. Normandy is no exception. Sure there was some bad press about the accommodations, but for once equestrians were could actually turn to the big guns like CNN and the BBC for coverage, which is always appreciated.
And, audiences loved the outstanding performances from famous horse and human teams like Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro and Beezie Madden and Cortez C, as well as the extracurricular entertainment going on in the Games Village. Most excitingly, the Alltech World Equestrian Games had a music festival! Right in the heart of the Games Village was a stage hosting eight nights of concerts over the fortnight of competition, including the currently very hot Aloe Blacc for the finale.
At the end of this year, it’s pretty fun to relive all of the international excitement!
5. Olympia, The London International Horse Show
The Olympia, The London International Horse Show, is the only event in the UK where you can see the FEI World Cup ™ Legs for three discipline – show jumping, dressage and now driving – whilst also partaking in equestrian displays and a Christmas Finale sure to put you in the holiday mood.
This one-of-a-kind horse show kicked off with a premiere of each of the equestrian displays. On display this year were the daring feats of The Ukrainian Cossacks, the adorably blistering pace of the Shetland Pony Grand National, and The Metropolitan Police Activity Ride complete with jumps through rings of fire!
And if great riding is the kind of thing that fills your heart with Christmas cheer, then how about two more dressage world records for Charlotte Dujardin and the incomparable Valegro? The mark of 87.46% in the Grand Prix phase beat the team’s previous record, set by the World, Olympic and European Champions at the World Cup Final in Lyons earlier in the year. And they were nearly flawless at the freestyle, receiving a standing ovation from a full house and a mark of 94.3% from the judges.
4. The Central Park Horse Show
This year, for the first time in over a decade, international caliber horse and rider teams took center stage in the Big Apple with the inaugural Central Park Horse Show! Day one kicked off with an almost unheard of event in America – a grand prix show jumping classed aired live during prime time on NBC Sports. And the class came to a fairytale ending when New York’s former first daughter of sorts, Georgina Bloomberg, took top honors.
Over the weekend, spectators were also treated to a unique Dressage Challenge, which saw the legendary horse, Ravel, come out of retirement to compete with Steffen Peters alongside a host of world-class competitors. On top of that, there were so called ‘matinees’ planned each day, ranging from the liberty demonstrations of Guy McLean, to the first annual Central Park Grand National Shetland Pony Steeplechase, and even a vaulting showcase from the U.S. Vaulting team.
And horse lovers need not fear another equestrian competition drought in New York City for some time. Donald Trump announced to primetime viewers of the Grand Prix that he has committed to holding the Central Park Horse Show for at least the next seven years. Welcome back NYC!
3. Gothenburg Horse Show 2014
Things heated up inside the Scandinavium Arena this year thanks to Sweden’s Gothenburg Horse Show. Gothenburg hosted a Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage event, a Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping class, and Eurohorse, Scandinavia’s biggest equestrian fair.
But it’s the equestrian shows at Gothenburg that really set this event apart. Gothenburg is home to “Fjordingar.” In this event two esteemed teams of the horseback riding elite compete on Fjords in three disciplines: dressage, driving and jumping. When the event first took place in 2012, even top German show jumper Ludger Beerbaum got in on the action. Dig up some photo and videos of this event, and I promise you will not be disappointed!
2. Los Angeles Masters
New York wasn’t the only American city to celebrate the return of big time horse showing. Not since the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 have so many top ranked show jumpers graced the City of Angels with their presents as were on hand for the inaugural Los Angeles Masters Grand Slam of show jumping. The LA Masters now serves as the American leg of the Masters Grand Slam Indoor series, which also includes the already prestigious European leg, the Gucci Masters in Paris, and the Asian leg, the Longines Masters in Hong Kong.
What the LA Masters accomplishes, which is actually extraordinary in the equestrian business, is selling the old world equestrian crowd on something new. There is live music at the LA Masters, played on a stage with lighting reminiscent of that at the Bootleg Theater in the artsy Los Angeles Silverlake district. And art from the Opera Gallery, whose mission is to bring modern art to this equestrian event. And bring it they did! From the clothes hanger “Stallion,” to the car engine turned equine “Cheval Mecachrome,” to the colorful works of André Brasilier, there was something for the edgy equestrian in everyone.
Last, but certainly not least, there was the most unique atmosphere in and around the arenas. The warm up arena was quite exactly center stage in the vendor village, allowing all attendees the opportunity to get up close and personal with the best riders and horses in the world. And inside the main arena, all clear rounds were met with a blast of popular music. What fun! Welcome LA Masters.
1. The Saut Hermès at the Grand Palais
In the world of horse showing, there are admittedly a number of pretty high-class events. But it’s hard to imagine anything more elegant than Saut Hermès. Simply pointing out that it’s a Hermès event says a lot. But then you have to get a load of the Grand Palais location as well! The gorgeous Grand Palais is situated in the heart of Paris, just a stone throws away from the Champs-Élysées, and the stunning main atrium has hosted equestrian competitions dating back to 1901.
Showpiece classes include the Grand Prix Hermès, as well as two unique events: the Saut Hermès and the Talents Hermès. The Saut Hermès features the 10 best male riders and the 10 best female riders after the qualifier on the first day. Mixed pairs then compete in two rounds determined by the clock. Final placing reflects cumulative points from both rounds and the time of the second round.
The Talents Hermès are special classes restricted to twenty riders aged under twenty-five mentored by competitors taking part in CSI 5* classes. The third class is a pairs competition similar to the Saut Hermès, except that the teams are determined by nationality.
The combination of the Grand Palais, top equestrian and equine competitors, and unique events make for the most wonderful horse pictures of the year, hands down!
I hope you enjoyed the ten most eye-catching horse shows of 2014! Of course, the real purpose of a story like this is to point out that horse shows are innovating all over the world to bring in bigger audiences for this wonderful sport. So go explore these shows and get sharing! Maybe next year we’ll all see equestrian crowds hit new heights!