Past Amateur Champions Share Their Memories of the Washington International Horse Show

Jane Gaston and Henry the Hawk


The Washington International Horse Show returns to Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C. on October 21-26, 2014, for an exciting week of world-class equestrian competition in the heart of our nation’s capital. The country’s leading metropolitan indoor horse show, WIHS hosts more than 500 horses each year participating in show jumping, hunter, and equitation competition during its six-day event. As WIHS celebrates its 56th year, some of the show’s past amateur champions shared their favorite memories with some very special horses.

Photo © Alden Corrigan

Betty Oare: Warrenton, VA

Amateur-Owner Hunter Champion

  • 1983: Spirit of Song – EMO Stables
  • 1984: Spirit of Song – EMO Stables
  • 2002: Estrella – Mr. & Mrs. Ernest M. Oare

“I actually have been going to the Washington International Horse Show ever since the year it started. I started there as a junior, and I have ridden professionally and have now been an amateur for thirty-some years. As a junior in 1958, the year the horse show began, I was able to win the Virginia Horse Shows Association Medal and that was pretty exciting. I think so much of the Washington International Horse Show. It is a great event. I have attended or judged or showed there ever since it has been held. It is a great group that works on Washington, and I have had some wonderful memories there.”

“The most memorable WIHS of all would have been with Estrella in 2002. I broke my leg rather badly that year, and it was sort of down to the last minute whether I would be able to show. I was cleared just a couple weeks before the show started, and I was able to get on some horses and get fit enough to get in there. We did go and we did win the older amateur-owner championship that year. She was a really special horse for me. Sandy Ferrell had ridden her there as well in the Regular Working Hunters and Sandy and my brother, Bucky Reynolds, trained her. That was as memorable a year as I can think of.”

“I also won two times with Spirit of Song in 1983 and 1984. That was when WIHS was at the Capital Centre. He was four years old when I won that with him the first time. That was exciting. That was very memorable and that was a long time ago. It’s a long history and you get older by the moment, but it was so much fun.”

Tracey Weinberg: Lovettsville, VA

Amateur-Owner Hunter Champion

  • 1997: Adam – Tracey Weinberg (tied with Big River – Christina Simeone)

Amateur-Owner Jumper Champion

  • 2007: Larone – Tracey Weinberg
  • 2010: Larone – Tracey Weinberg & Weinberg Brokerage Group

“My favorite memory would be when I was grand champion with a horse named Adam. I had just purchased him 10 days prior to Washington. I had tried him at Capital Challenge and bought him. I had only jumped a couple of jumps in the schooling area and went right to Washington having never jumped a course. I was out of town for business in Chicago. I shipped in early and schooled and then I won the first two classes and ended up champion and then grand champion.”

“My other favorite memory was my first jumper championship when I switched over to the jumpers on my horse Larone. I was working with the horse show at the time and I had gotten some people to sponsor that division, and then I ended up winning the championship. That was very special because those sponsors ended up presenting to me. I won a lot with Larone. He was definitely my horse of a lifetime. He was the perfect horse for Washington because he was always on his game. I could get him out between classes and just walk around the schooling area and know he would give me his all. He didn’t need a lot of preparation.”

“It was bittersweet when I decided to retire Larone two years ago and the last class I ever showed him in was at Washington in the stake. I cried all the way around the course. I just remember bawling my eyes out because I knew that was his last competition, and I wanted that to be where he retired. It is such a special venue. It is always so wonderful to be at center of the city in a coliseum like that with amazing crowds.”

Jane (Womble) Gaston: The Plains, VA

Amateur-Owner Hunter Champion

  • 1976: Henry the Hawk – Miss Jane E. Womble
  • 1977: Henry the Hawk – Miss Jane E. Womble

“That was during the time at the Capital Centre, and he was a horse that I had bought from Sallie and Kenny Wheeler when he was a Second Year horse. I trained with them then. I showed him in the Amateurs and the Green Conformation, and then the following year I was doing the Regular Conformation and the Amateur Working Hunter. He might have even been champ in the Regular Conformation too.”

“He was always a fun horse. He was just really sweet and a super jumper. He was a delight to deal with anywhere you took him. One of the beauties about Henry was that he was a nice, quiet, easy-going horse, and you didn’t have to worry about preparation as much as you did with some horses. He was just fine hopping around in a 50’ area as much as a 200’ long ring. He was a great horse to have. The second year I had him, he won a lot of classes at Washington, not just in the amateurs. He was awfully good that year. He was kind of in his own that year, so it was really nice.”

“I loved it when the show was at the Armory. I have great memories of the Armory because that was a wonderful ring to ride in. I had Sign the Card, who was champion there in the amateurs, and she was just a phenomenal animal in whatever division she showed in. Then Third of August came right behind her and was really good. I had multiple horses that went to the Armory and they were different types of horses, but every one of them liked it there.”

Danielle Torano: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Amateur-Owner Hunter Champion

  • 1998: Classic Importer – Danielle Torano
  • 2000: Classic Importer – Danielle Torano
  • 2001: Classic Importer – Danielle Torano

“Indoors was always a much more intense feeling, especially at Washington. The atmosphere always feels so special being right in the city. It was nerve-wracking, but really nice to be able to win there. There was the added pressure of the small schooling area, which makes it tricky, but he was he was always good. He was pretty straight forward.”

“I was very lucky to have him. He was one of my horses of a lifetime for sure. He just was so perfect. He always wanted to do well, and he had a special presence to him too. I think having the attitude he had helped, knowing that he was always ready to do his best at those big venues. It made it fun and very rewarding to go there and win. He was pretty special. I don’t know if I will ever have another horse you can depend on like that.”

“He was 16 when we got him. He had done a ton. He had gotten injured, and they tried to bring him back. Once we got him they said he would never be sound, but we took amazing care of him. When you watched him you never would have thought he would stay sound, but I think a lot of it had to do with the horse having so much heart. It was pretty amazing. He loved doing it, and he wanted to do it. He was 21 when I showed him the last time. He was champion three years at Harrisburg, three years at Devon, and three years at Washington.”

Robert Kraut: Malvern, PA

Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Champion

  • 1982: Summer Wishes – Stephen Kraut Stables
  • 1994: Lego – Robert Kraut (tied with Avalon – Rachel Benoit Baker, Dos Equis – Court Lin Frae Farm, Paul Harvey – John Bartko)

“The first time I ever showed there was my first time going out East. I’m from Wisconsin, and I went to do Harrisburg, Washington and then New York. Those were the three big indoor shows then, and that was the biggest thing of the year if you were a rider. They were super important shows and just to go there and compete and do well made you keep coming back for more. The first year I went to Washington, I had a horse named Summer Wishes. She was a little Quarter Horse mare, and she was my first jumper. Back then they had two classes in one day and then the third class was the next day. I won the first two classes in one day. That is definitely my best memory of Washington.”

“For me it was special because you had all of the famous riders there watching you. You had Michael Matz, George Morris, all the great peers from my era there watching and to ride with all the best in the country and to do well, that was a lot of fun for me. I was young then. I was a junior. I also showed a horse named Lego as an amateur and he was a great horse. Lego was a famous horse before I had him, and he was always competitive.”

Martha Lindner: Cincinnati, OH

Amateur-Owner Hunter Champion:

  • 1982: Hoodwink – Mr. & Mrs. Carl H. Lindner, Jr.

“I started showing at Washington as an amateur in the mid 70s. My third year qualifying there was the first year that I showed Hoodwink and I won a few ribbons, but nothing great. The next year I was pregnant with my daughter. In 1982 I had my daughter, who is now 33, and she went to all of the horse shows with me. I showed everywhere that year, and Hoodwink was champion a lot. That year was kind of my year, and then I found out in August that I was pregnant with my second child. I was actually about three months pregnant when I was champion at Washington that year. Hoodwink was just unbelievable. He won two classes over fences. The first two, I think.”

“He was just ready to win. He was calm. He was spooky by nature, so we always had to make sure the spook was out when he went in the ring. That was really the big year. After that I sold him. The girl who bought him won a ton too in the amateurs. He was a great horse. I bought him from Rodney Jenkins, and he was green and very spooky, but he was an incredible jumper, a beautiful gray. I stopped showing after that to focus on my family and then my daughter started riding and I got other horses, but Hoodwink was for sure my best horse.”

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Originally published in the October 2014 issue.