Irish riders, including Connor Swail, shown winning the 2013 $85,000 Grand Prix with Game Ready, dominated the Pennsylvania National Horse Show last year. Will the Americans prevail this year?
Currently competing, and winning, in Europe, the United States Show Jumping team is letting the world know it is ready for the World Cup Finals and beyond. These same horses will travel back to the USA for the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, held at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA October 9–18. Last year’s show jumping competition was dominated by the riders from Ireland. Come cheer on the USA riders as they seek to reclaim top honors at one of America’s most competitive events.
With more than $485,000 in prize money, 1,400 horses and 20,000 spectators over the ten days of competition, the challenge of winning a blue ribbon for both the Hunters and Jumpers is intense. But competition is interspersed with special attractions that add variety and fun. Outside the main arena there is much to see and enjoy at your leisure. New this year, limited engagement vendors will be on the main concourse during Junior Weekend (October 9–12), coupled with Trunk Shows on the North Balcony and an expanded number of vendors. The shopping is not to be missed.
The show begins Thursday, October 9 with "Junior Weekend," including three national championships for accomplished riders age 18 and under. Bring the children to “Discovery Day”, Saturday, October 11 from 1-4 pm, and go behind the scenes of one of the country’s largest and most prestigious equestrian events with a knowledgeable tour guide. Then treat the kids to face painting and activities just for them—all included in the price of admission. The Pennsylvania Equine Council will also have horses to meet and pet representing a variety of breeds. Behind the scenes tours are offered again on Family Day, Friday, October 17 from 4-7 pm, and the evening lineup of events includes a Meet & Greet with the dynamic Canadian Cowgirls, Jack Russell terrier races and a Celebrity Challenge 5-Drum Barrel Race – a crowd favorite matching Grand Prix riders racing head-to-head against the Cowgirls.
Adult week (October 13-18) begins with two days of professional Hunter competition during the day. The ever popular Hunt Night on Monday the 13th celebrates the sport of foxhunting as riders from the mid-Atlantic’s numerous hunts gather for an evening of individual and team competition. The Parade of Foxhounds brings the foxhunting atmosphere to the Farm Show Complex.
New in 2014 is the Equine Comeback Challenge, presented by Penn Vet New Bolton Center in partnership with A Home For Every Horse. Ten trainers, paired with mature but untrained horses rescued from abuse situations or the slaughter pipeline, were given three months to earn the trust of and train their charges. They will demonstrate their readiness for a new career in a trail class starting at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, October 14, after which the horses will be available for adoption. Admission for the Comeback Challenge that evening only is free—donations to the PNHS Foundation, which provides grants to rescues and other equine non-profits, are welcome. Before then, follow the trainers’ progress at panational.org.
Show Hunters compete during the day for the remainder of the show and the country’s top professional riders compete each evening session Wednesday through Saturday, October 15-18, in exciting jumper classes. Wednesday’s class is the new $10,000 Dash for the Cash speed class. On Thursday the Pennsylvania Big Jump presented by Wilmington Trust offers $40,000 in prize money, and on Friday the $33,000 Keystone Speed Classic helps to determine the Open Jumper Speed Champion. The show’s signature event, the $85,000 Grand Prix de Penn National, is the featured attraction Saturday night.
Featured Wednesday through Saturday, October 15-18, are the crowd-pleasing, energetic and entertaining Canadian Cowgirls, a precision mounted drill team. The 12-member troupe from Ontario is renowned for intricate maneuvers, stunning costumes and uplifting spirits. The team and their horses, all of which double as therapy horses, travel throughout North America. They have marched in the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade, won the Best Equestrian Entry at the Indianapolis 500 Parade and performed for HRH Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwell.
The competition on Military Night, October 15, begins at 7:30 pm with free admission for active and retired military and first responders thanks to sponsors Yards Brewing Company and W&L Sales. In addition to the exciting Dash for the Cash speed jumper class, the evening features a special salute to the military by the Canadian Cowgirls and a rollicking agility demonstration by the Jet Set Flyball Dogs.
Beyond the world class competition, the Pennsylvania National brings to Harrisburg the best in equine entertainment and shopping. Every day, more than 60 vendors provide hours of shopping fun. Browse stand after stand of art, antiques, fine gifts, clothing and leather goods, jewelry, saddlery and tack, and horse show merchandise. Shops are open 11 am to 8 pm daily.
The Pennsylvania National Horse Show begins at 8 am on Thursday, October 9, Monday October 13, Tuesday. October 14, and Thursday through Saturday, October 16-18; 7:30 am on Friday, October 10 and Wednesday, October 15; 5 am on Saturday, October 11; and 7 am on Sunday, October 12, and competition continues through the evening. Tickets are $12, $7 for students and seniors age 65+ October 9-13th; $15 for adults and $10 for students and ages 65+ October 15-17; children under six are admitted free every day. Admission is free on Tuesday, October 14. On Saturday, October 18, general admission is $20 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and reserved seating is available; prices range from $25 to $50. Proceeds from the event benefit community equine and youth programs. Since its inception in 1945, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show has donated over $1.5 million to charitable entities. For more details or tickets, visit www.PANational.org.