David Distler, 54, of Norwalk, CT, has organized national and international equestrian competitions since 1985 and has served as an official at events throughout the world, including Olympic and Pan American Games. He has been an FEI jumper judge since 1989, attaining an “O” rating in 2004. He also is co-chairman of the USEF Jumper Committee. Distler’s many management credits include the upcoming 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, where he will serve as assistant director of competition and co-manager for show jumping, the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden (NY), the Devon Horse Show, Lake Placid Horse Shows, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships and the Winter Equestrian Festival, Wellington, FL.
Distler, who will be officiating at the upcoming Olympic Games in China, has been judging throughout the world since 1975. Highlights of his career include the Pan-American Games; Royal International Horse Show, London, England; Royal Dublin Horse Show, Ireland; Spruce Meadows, Calgary, Canada; World Cup Finals, Las Vegas, Nevada; as well as major shows in Wellington, Quito, Ecuador and Milan, Italy.
David, what is your experience at the Washington International Horse Show?
In 1971 and in 1972, I was on the jump crew. Then, in 1973 I started doing the in-gate. I did that until 1988, when I left to manage the National Horse Show. I came back in 1998 as a judge.
What was the show like when you started?
It was at the Armory (D.C. National Guard Armory) and it was right next to the jail. We had escaped prisoners every once in a while.
How did your time change through the years?
Well, the most physical work that I did was on the jump crew, and the longest hours were doing the in-gate, until this year! Judging was a delight because I used to be able to come down, work a few hours during the day, and then go around Washington and take in the sights. That’s something I never normally get to do at horse shows.
What are some things that you like about the show?
It’s in downtown Washington, D.C., and I like that. It’s accessible to many, many things in the city. Washington is a neat city. It’s a beautiful arena too.
You managed the National Horse Show; what is it like running a horse show in a big city?
I managed the National Horse Show when it was at the Meadowlands Arena (E. Rutherford, N.J.) for eight years, and I helped bring it back to Madison Square Garden. If anybody thinks that was easy—running a horse show in the middle of Manhattan on the sixth floor of the building… You have to have complete cooperation with the police and fire departments. At a lot of horse shows, if you go in and set up and you’re an hour late, it doesn’t matter. Typically at a horse show like Washington, or when the National Horse Show was at the Garden, everything has to be timed down to the second. You can’t be a second late and you can’t be a second early.
What are some things that you’re looking forward to in your new management role?
Right now, because of the time frame, really all I want to do is make sure it works. I want to do as few big changes as possible. Little changes are one thing, but big changes are something you have to plan way in advance for. I’ve never managed at this show before, so I don’t know what’s difficult and what’s not difficult. I’m not going to know that until the show starts. It’s only three months away and we have a lot to do in a short period. I’m looking forward to working with Robert Ridland. He’s one of my best friends.
I’m also looking forward to that time because my wife is about to have a baby. She’s due the following week. So that is taking some major planning too! I’m hoping she can hang on!