The 65th annual Del Mar National Horse Show is about to get underway in San Diego. This is a huge event in the equine world and features three types of riding over the three weeks of the event: Western, Dressage, Hunter/Jumper.
The show debuted in 1946 with 350 riders competing for $20,000 in prizes. The show was part of the San Diego County Fair and so it remained until it outgrew the fairgrounds in 1979.
This year will see more than 3,000 horses competing for over $350,000 in winnings.
Del Mar has a reputation as one of the toughest, most exciting, and richest horse shows in Southern California. The riding arenas feature many different breeds in the different competitions and there's something for nearly every horse lover. Even non-equine-addicted folks can have a thrilling time watching some of the most magnificent horses and their talented riders compete.
Horse Show History
Del Mar has seen some fascinating points in it's long history. Just a few of the points from Del Mar's website are:
1948: The prize list for the third annual Del Mar National offered stall rent for $10.00/horse-tack stalls (first bedding included) for the duration of the show.
1956: A small tornado ripped the metal roofs from several barns. Damage totaled $4,500, no horses were injured.
1966: More than 2,000 horses entered this year. A five-year-old mare, Paniolo, made headlines when she competed in a jumper class the day before giving birth to a healthy foal!
1971: The AHSA designated the Del Mar National as a "star show," an honor reserved for the top 20 horse shows in the country.
1990: Long-awaited construction began on the new $5.4 million arena complex now named the Del Mar Arena.
2002: The Del Mar Equestrian Center at the Del Mar Fairgrounds was voted the "Best Show Location" by the members of the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association (PCHA).
Some of today's equine superstars were past participants at Del Mar as juniors, amateurs, and lead-line competitors. If you go today, keep in mind you may be seeing equine history in the making.
Three Thrilling Weeks
It all begins with Western on April 21st. This includes an American Quarter Horse Association Show that features Trail, Western, Reining, English riding and more.
Western Week has an old west feel to it but anyone who loves equine events is sure to enjoy it.
Next up is Dressage Week, beginning April 28th. Among other events, this week's spectators can witness the Open Equitation Championship & Battle of the Sexes. All participants will show in their best competitive finery that typifies the elegance of dressage shows.
Finally on May 3rd is the start of Hunter/Jumper Week. Airborne equines are the order of the day in this breathtaking display of horsemanship and skill. Green Working Hunter competitions and High Performance Working Hunters alternate with Junior Hunter Owners, Accumulator competitions, and more.
If you're going to be in Southern California and can make it to this wonderful event, you'll be glad you did. Saturday nights have special events that are well-attended. Weekday events are less crowded. Put this on your calendar for this year or some year but if you love horses, get there.