Thundering hooves, the electricity of the crowd, witnessing the connection between horse and rider; there’s nothing quite like experiencing horse shows in person.
The size of the drop into the water on the cross country course or the almost imperceptible aids given for piaffe are best appreciated by attending events. However, the rise in live streaming means it’s now possible to watch equestrian sport from the comfort of your couch.
Without the need to travel to events, the possibilities are endless and you can enjoy and learn more about a wide range of equine disciplines. You can experience the speed of tie-down roping one day and the elegance of a hunter round the next.
Here is the lowdown on the top North American equestrian events to watch or attend in 2022.
The Winter Equestrian Festival
When: January 5th – April 3rd 2022
The Event: Recognized as the largest, longest-running hunter-jumper event in the world, The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) offers 12 weeks of competition.
Riders from all around the world compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival, from juniors all the way up to professional athletes. There is over $10 million in prize money up for grabs which is the highest amount available to win over 12 weeks.
If you’d like to visit in person, spectators are welcome from Wednesday to Sunday each week. The main weekly attraction is Saturday Night Lights. With Grand Prix show jumping, food, and live entertainment, it’s sure to be a fun evening!
Visitors can also grab a bite to eat from one of the many food vendors, go for a little retail therapy, or even take a tour of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
Where: Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Wellington, Florida (US)
Tickets: General admission is free. $20 per car for parking.
How to Watch: Live streams available of featured classes on the WEF website.
US Open Polo Championship
When: March 29th – April 24th 2022
The Event: The best polo players and ponies from all around the globe compete against each other in the US Open Polo Championship.
You can expect thrilling, high-speed action as teams battle it out to win. The US Open Polo Championship is the final part of the Gauntlet of Polo. Teams that consecutively win the three tournaments (C.V. Whitney Cup, USPA Gold Cup, and US Polo Open Championship) will be victorious as the Gauntlet Champions.
If watching in-person, put down your champagne and take part in the traditional activity of divot stomping at halftime. Pressing down the turf that has been churned up by hooves not only helps play go smoothly but is a great chance to socialize too!
Where: International Polo Club Palm Beach, Wellington, Florida (US)
Tickets: Available from the International Polo Club Palm Beach website for Sunday matches. All other games are open to the public at no charge.
How to Watch: Live stream available on Global Polo.
Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event
When: April 28th – May 1st 2022
The Event: Dating back to 1978, the Kentucky Three-Day Event is the first and longest-running annual North American 5-star eventing competition.
Eventing involves three phases: dressage, cross country, and show jumping. Each phase demands different skills of both horse and rider.
Whether you attend for one day or stay for the whole event, you will definitely catch the top names in the sport of eventing.
Where: Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Kentucky (US)
Tickets: Available from the Kentucky Three-Day Event website here.
How to Watch: Live streams available on the USEF Network.
Ottawa Dressage Festival
When: 19th – 22nd May 2022
The Event: As Canada’s largest dressage show, the Ottawa Dressage Festival hosts over 200 top riders from across North, South, and Central America. The festival aims to promote the sport of dressage and is volunteer-organized.
The next generation of dressage riders is also supported with the Rising Stars program and Pony Cup to help develop their talent.
Over 500 visitors attend the festival, not only to enjoy the dressage action but to shop at the range of on-site vendors.
Where: Wesley Clover Parks, Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)
Tickets: More details about tickets can be found closer to the event on the National Capital Dressage website.
How to Watch: Follow the Ottawa Festival of Dressage Facebook page for live stream updates.
Spruce Meadows Tournaments
When: June 16th to 19th 2022 (National CSI5*)
June 30th to 3rd July 2022 (Pan American CSI 5*)
July 7th to 10th 2022 (North American CSI 5*)
September 1st to 4th 2022 (Continental CSI 5*)
September 7th to 11th 2022 (CSIO 5* Masters)
The Event: From June to September each year, Spruce Meadows hosts world-class outdoor show jumping. Over 500,000 visitors visit these tournaments each year.
The September Series concludes with the CSIO 5* Masters which is part of the Rolex Grand Slam. If a rider wins three consecutive Grand Prix events, they are awarded the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title. The Spruce Meadows CSIO Masters is one of the events, alongside CHIO Aachen, CHI Geneva, and the Dutch Masters. So far, only Great Britain’s Scott Brash has achieved this feat back in 2015.
Where: Spruce Meadows, Calgary, Alberta (Canada)
Tickets: Available from the Spruce Meadows website closer to the event.
U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions
When: August 22nd – 28th 2022
The Event: The U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions has 16 divisions, from the Pony Rider Dressage National Championship up to the Grand Prix National Championship. There are also classes for young horses so you can catch a glimpse of the next Valegro.
2022 will mark the first time that the U.S. Para Dressage National Championships will be held at this event. Bringing para dressage into the festival helps to strengthen the para dressage program and showcase these talented riders.
Where: HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Centre, Wayne, Illinois (US)
Tickets: Keep an eye on the US Equestrian website for more details.
How to Watch: Live streams available on the USEF Network.
Farnam AQHA World Championship Horse Show
When: 27th October – 19th November 2022.
The Event: Horses and riders compete all year to qualify for the Farnam AQHA World Championship Show. There are classes for English, Western, and halter disciplines but only competitors who have secured enough points from previous shows can compete.
Spanning across three weeks there are classes for everyone. The events include barrel racing, reining, tie-down roping, ranch sorting, western pleasure, working hunter, and many more.
Prizes are also awarded to competitors and horses that earn points across multiple categories and events, such as the AQHA All-Around Amateur Award.
The world’s best American Quarter Horses compete at the show and it’s an excellent opportunity for exhibitors, owners, and breeders to get together. Not only that but the trade show features over 100 vendors from across the US.
Where: OKC Fairgrounds, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (US)
Tickets: Available from the AQHA website closer to the event.
How to Watch: Live stream of the different arenas available here.
Will you be adding any of these events to your calendar this year?
Don’t forget, there are also lots of local shows you can support. Whether you’re a competitor, volunteer, or spectator it’s a fantastic way to get involved with your equestrian community.