Tradition and Excellence in the Washington International Horse Show Hall of Fame

Joe Fargis is inducted into the WIHS Hall of Fame in 2018. Photo by Alden Corrigan Media

By Amanda Picciotto Feitosa / JUMP Media

The Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) has been steeped in tradition since it was initially held at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory in 1958. The 64th edition of the elite competition will take place October 24-30, 2022, at Prince George’s Equestrian Center’s (PGEC) Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated supporters throughout its history, WIHS continues to delight fans with the brilliance of equestrian sport. Over the years, the show’s organizers have recognized 15 such individuals by inducting them into the WIHS Hall of Fame. 

Read on to learn more about three WIHS legends: Jane Dillon, Austin Kiplinger, and Robert Ridland.

The Best Is Yet To Come

One of the most treasured shows worldwide, WIHS continues strive for excellence, drawing top riders in equitation, hunter, and jumper divisions to vie for championship titles. The President’s Cup Grand Prix has evolved into a a Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) World Cup™ qualifier for the President’s Cup and continues as one of the most coveted and prestigious trophies awarded for a grand prix. The competition is further elevated with a new CSI5* designation for 2022.

“The President’s Cup has always been one of the premier grands prix in the country, and I still think it has that status,” noted Ridland. “It is one of the longest running and certainly one of the oldest — and one of the biggest deals — on the circuit; always has been.”

While top competition is a hallmark of WIHS, perhaps even more synonymous
with the show are its ties to the local community. Sprinkled throughout the busy schedule are events that captivate fans of all ages. The ever-popular WIHS Barn Night will return for 2022, bringing together carloads of young equestrians from the local area. WIHS Kids’ Day will also be back, first
at National Harbor, Maryland, as the show week kicks off and again at PGEC the following weekend. Free to the public, Kids’ Day is known as a place where children and families can experience the magic of meeting a horse for the first time. 

A reflection of the people who have supported it all these years, WIHS honors the show’s traditional roots and incorporates elements of modern-day sport. 

Learn more at www.WIHS.org.

WIHS Hall of Fame Inductees:

  • 1998: William C. Steinkraus
  • 1999: Mrs. Jane Dillon
  • 2000: Kenneth & Sallie Wheeler
  • 2001: Austin H. Kiplinger
  • 2002: H. Fenwick Kollock
  • 2007: Sheila C. Johnson
  • 2008: Mignon C. Smith
  • 2009: Herman Greenberg
  • 2009: Betty Oare
  • 2015: Rodney Jenkins
  • 2016: Frank Chapot
  • 2017: Kathy Kusner
  • 2018: Joe Fargis
  • 2019: Robert Ridland
  • 2021: John Franzreb III

Jane Dillon

Second inductee into the WIHS Hall of Fame in 1999

Jane Marshall Dillon, a northern Virginia equestrian, riding teacher, and horse breeder who began riding at age three, was the second WIHS Hall of Fame inductee in 1999. She started her Junior Equitation School in 1950 at the historic Hayfield Farm — previously owned by George Washington — later relocating her business to Vienna, Virginia, and again to her Full Cry Farm in Clifton, Virginia, where she was based until her passing in 2000. One of her biggest successes came from her dun mare, April Dawn, who was a three-time Junior Hunter Champion of Virginia and trophy winner at top national horse shows. Dillon was committed to education and authored books such as “Young Riders” and “Form Over Fences.” She also was an avid fox hunter and member of the Fairfax Hunt.

Dillon was known for her impeccable quality of character and personable demeanor. Her program at the Junior Equitation School produced many riders who went on to become distinguished professionals including 2017 WIHS Hall of Fame inductee and Olympic show jumping medalist Kathy Kusner and 2018 WIHS Hall of Fame inductee and Olympic show jumping gold medalist Joe Fargis. 

“I always think the first teacher is one of your biggest influences in life; she was my first teacher and consequently my biggest influence,” Fargis reflected of his former instructor. “She taught me how to understand and be kind to horses and to always consider the horse first.”

The WIHS Local Day competition (now the WIHS Regional Horse Show) was initially spearheaded by Dillon. She also organized a Junior Exhibitor Party, sponsored by the Junior Equitation School.

“Going to WIHS was very, very exciting. It was a huge deal for all of us to travel there and show for the day,” remembered Fargis. “Mrs. Dillon arranged a wonderful lunch for the Junior Exhibitors Party, and it was amazing to be exposed to people who came to compete on a national level that you read about and admired.”

Her dedication to her students and the sport was unwavering. In 1997, Dillon was inducted into the Virginia Horse Show Association Hall of Fame. Her legacy lives on through an award created in her honor in 2010 by the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) and is given to a professional equestrian who has dedicated their life to teaching riders, instilling principles of integrity, empathy for the horse, and a strong work ethic.

“I just wish that every young rider had a start like mine. I was very, very lucky,” concluded Fargis.

Austin Kiplinger

Fourth inductee into the WIHS Hall of Fame in 2001

Austin Kiplinger was a true Washingtonian. He grew up in the D.C. area, but his passion for horses was sparked when his father sent him away one summer to drive cattle on horseback. After graduating from Cornell University and Harvard Graduate School, Kiplinger served as a carrier-based Naval Aviator flying combat missions in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He then worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Journal of Commerce, and as a radio and television news commentator for ABC and NBC. He returned home in 1956, commuting from his small Maryland farm to downtown D.C., working at the Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc., where he ultimately held the title of Chairman. 

He was introduced to the thrill of jumping when a neighbor invited him on a fox hunt. Although described as a walk in the park, Kiplinger quickly found himself galloping at full speed toward a fence. His experienced mount got him to the other side, and their survival marked his instant affinity for jumping and fox hunting. 

Kiplinger was known for leveraging his many interests to make lasting connections. In 1965, his friend Claude Olin, a former Master of the Foxhounds of the renowned Potomac Hunt, invited him to a lunch where Colonel Rene Studler, Vice President of WIHS, and Georgine Winslet, Executive Director of the show, asked him to become president. Kiplinger modestly explained he didn’t know enough about show jumping to take on that leadership position but agreed to join the board. He later went on to serve as president from 1967 to 1970 and remained an active member of the WIHS board for many years, recognized as a member emeritus until his passing in 2015. Throughout his tenure, he worked tirelessly to help the show remain a favorite annual event among Washingtonians.

“We used to get White House involvement,” Kiplinger once explained. “The First Lady has always been an honorary chairman, from the very beginning, without exception. One year our friend brought carriages down to the show. We drove them down Pennsylvania Avenue — a four-horse team. One year we went right up to the White House, and another we took Mrs. Nixon for a ride around her own park!”

Kiplinger helped sustain the show’s connection to the international and entertainment community during his tenure through social events and a diplomat class where ambassadors from around the world competed.

“There were ambassadors from Argentina, Spain, France, Germany, England, almost everywhere. They had either ridden as a sport or had been in the cavalry,” detailed Kiplinger. “We had Zsa Zsa Gabor as a celebrity guest.”

Thanks to Kiplinger’s legacy, WIHS remains a hugely popular spectator event with longstanding ties to the nation’s capital and its surrounding community.

Robert Ridland

Inducted into the WIHS Hall of Fame in 2019

Robert Ridland is best known today as the U.S. Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe, a position he took on in 2013. Under his direction, the team has had six podium finishes at major competitions, including the gold medal at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, and back-to-back silver medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan. Ridland’s career resume, though, is decorated from start to finish, and his experience was invaluable to the development of WIHS.

Ridland grew up in California and first competed at WIHS in 1967 at age 17. In 1969, he was named to the U.S. Equestrian Team and returned to WIHS to compete in the Nations Cup.

“WIHS was part of a very strong [international] indoor circuit that started at [the Pennsylvania National Horse Show] and ended [at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair],” Ridland once noted. “The four strong shows from an international point of view were the Nations Cups, which were [held at] Harrisburg, Washington, Toronto, and [the National Horse Show, previously held in New York].  Everything pretty much revolved around those shows.”

He was an enormously successful athlete, representing the U.S. on the biggest stages, including at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montréal, Canada. Ridland then leveraged his achievements and expertise to advance the sport. He worked as an analyst for show jumping on television and became a renowned course designer creating courses for the U.S. Olympic Selection Trials in 1992 and 1996 and the Central American Games in 1993. He was twice named US Equestrian’s (USEF) Course Designer of the Year.

In 2008, WIHS appointed Ridland as co-manager with David Distler. They were already a proven formidable team, having organized the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas since 2002. They worked to maintain the integrity of the event while presenting show jumping in a fresh and exciting way designed to attract a wider audience.

“With any event, you want to make sure you are up with the times. This is one we feel honored to be a part of,” Ridland expressed at the time. “Washington is one of the traditional hallmarks of the North American circuit. We have to keep the traditions of value and combine them with an entertaining presentation of the sport. What’s great about an indoor show is that people can get close to the action.” 


*This story was originally published in the September 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!

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