Top dressage riders to compete in $25,000 Invitational Dressage Championship, Oct. 26-27



Mary Hilton for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International 


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Photo Caption: Ashley Holzer and Gambol, winners of the 2005 WIHS Invitational Grand Prix. Photo Credit: Diana De Rosa. This photo may only be used in relation to this PMG press release.


WashingtonInternational Horse Show Announces Riders for $25,000 Invitational Dressage Championship, October 26-27, at the Verizon Center


Washington, D.C. – October 20, 2006 – The Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) is pleased to announce the four riders that have accepted the invitation to compete in the $25,000 WIHS Invitational Dressage Championship, which will be held on two evenings, October 26-27, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The “returning champion” Ashley Holzer of New York, New York, aboard Pop Art will defend her title against Courtney King of New Milford, Connecticut, riding Idocus; Suzanne Dansby-Phelps of Atlanta, Georgia, with Cooper; and George Williams of Delaware, Ohio, on Marnix.


To determine the champion, the four contestants will ride the Invitational Grand Prix on Thursday evening, October 26, and then the Invitational Grand Prix Musical Freestyle on Friday evening, October 27, under FEI (international) rules. Each test will constitute 50% of the overall combined score. Officiating will be Judge Gary Rockwell (“I”) of Wellington, Florida. The riders will each be awarded a percentage of the $25,000 prize money, with the winner receiving $10,000; second place, $7,500; third place, $5,000; and fourth place $2,500. The show organizers have graciously waived entry fees and there are no stabling costs for the horses.


“The WIHS Dressage Invitational promises to be one of the top dressage competitions in the U.S.,” said WIHS Executive Director Susie Webb. “Top riders, top horses all competing for top prizes!”


Invitations to the $25,000 WIHS Invitational Dressage Championship were extended to the riders by the show organizers, based on the recommendations of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). Gil Merrick, USEF Managing Director, Dressage Sport Programs, headed up the selection process. “Our High Performance Dressage Committee’s recommendations were based primarily on the recently updated USEF Long Lists and riders’ current rankings,” Merrick explained. “We developed a selection criterion and convened selectors.” The USEF Long Lists are ranked listings of riders who compete in USEF High Performance qualifiers.


Previously the site of the prestigious U.S. League Finals, the WIHS has a history of hosting topnotch dressage events. In 2002, dressage returned to Washington with a spectacular evening exhibition performed by George Williams aboard Rocher, and Jackie Paxton with Sangmelina. The dressage exhibition was so well received by the audience that in 2005, WIHS introduced the inaugural WIHS Dressage Invitational with three horse-and-rider combinations vying for a $10,000 purse. The competitors were Holzer riding Gambol, Heather Blitz aboard Arabella, and Cathy Morelli with BeSe. Holzer won both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle, with Judge Linda Zang officiating. The audience reception was extraordinary, prompting the show to increase the prize money this year to $25,000 and host four riders.


“This year there’s a lot of interest on the part of the riders in participating in the Washington Invitational,” reported Merrick. “We’re looking forward to it growing over the years. Some riders have expressed an interest in developing a true indoor fall dressage circuit to give us an opportunity to get ready for international competitions such as the World Cup Final. The Washington Invitational would be a great launch pad for this.”


Bio-Snaps of the 2006 WIHS Dressage Invitational Championship Competitors


  • Ashley Holzer, 43, a native of Toronto, will ride her newest Grand Prix star, Pop Art, a nine-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Holzer and her father, Ian Nicoll. Holzer most recently represented Canada at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, aboard Gambol. She has also competed for her country at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic (Team Silver); the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain; the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba (Team Gold and Individual Silver); the 1989 World Cup Finals in Sweden; and the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games (Team Bronze).


  • Courtney King, 28, and Idocus, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by Christine McCarthy, come to Washington right off one of the most prestigious wins in U.S. dressage – the pair won the Grand Prix at the historic Dressage at Devon in Pennsylvania in October. King was named to the USET Olympic Long List in 2000 and the USEF High Performance Developing Riders List in 2004. King and Idocus competed at the 2001 Zwolle International Stallion Show in Germany, earning third. King was on the USEF Short List for the 2006 FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Dressage in Verden, Germany. 


  • Suzanne Dansby-Phelps and Cooper, her 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, most recently achieved international recognition when they successfully competed in the 2006 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Championship/World Equestrian Games Selection Trials at Gladstone and were ultimately named as an alternate pair to the U.S. Dressage Team for the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. Dansby-Phelps was long-listed for the 2003 Pan American Games, and has been on the USEF High Performance Long List for three years.


  • George Williams, 51, and Marnix, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Charles and Joann Smith, recently earned success with a third place finish in the Grand Prix Freestyle at Dressage at Devon. Williams and Marnix were among the top 12 riders in the nation who competed in June at Gladstone in the 2006 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Championship/World Equestrian Games Selection Trials. Williams achieved international success with the mare Rocher, representing the U.S. at the 2003 World Cup in Goteborg, Sweden, and other European competitions, earning a World Ranking of 16.

Photo Caption: Ashley Holzer and Gambol, winners of the 2005 WIHS Invitational Grand Prix. Photo Credit: Diana De Rosa. This photo may only be used in relation to this PMG press release.



Washington International Horse Show Fast Facts


What: Now in its 48th year, the Washington International Horse Show is one of the world’s leading equestrian events.  It features top horses and riders from the U.S. and abroad competing for more than $400,000 in prize money and championship titles. Approximately 600 horses will be on hand for the six-day event. Riders from Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Brazil and Ireland are expected to participate at the show in the Olympic sport of show jumping.


When: October 24 – 29, 2006  


Where: Verizon Center at 601 F Street NW (7th and F Streets NW), Washington, D.C., home of the Washington International Horse Show since 2000, as well as professional and college sports teams including the NBA Wizards, the NHL Capitals, the WNBA Mystics and the Georgetown Hoyas, concerts, family shows and sporting events. ***Take Metrorail or Metrobus to Gallery Place-Chinatown for an easy trip to the show.



— $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix (Sat., Oct. 28-evening)

— $25,000 Puissance (Fri., Oct. 27-evening)

— Invitational Dressage Championship Grand Prix (Thurs., Oct. 26-evening) and Musical Freestyle (Fri., Oct. 27-evening)

— Washington International Equitation Classic Finals (Sat., Oct. 28-evening)

— $15,000 AHJF Nations Cup Hunter Challenge (Sat., Oct. 28-day)




General Information:

The Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), one of the nation’s leading championship horse shows since 1958, hosts some of the finest horses and riders from the U.S. and abroad, including Olympic and World Cup medalists. Unique among horse shows, the WIHS takes place in the middle of a city, and not just any city – the nation’s capital!  For six days, the WIHS transforms local city streets around the Verizon Center into stabling and exercise areas for hundreds of horses. Show jumping, hunter, equitation and dressage competition is the mainstay of the show, with entertaining exhibitions of racing terriers, a celebrity sports challenge and barrel racing rounding out a very full program. Riders of all ages – from children as young as seven riding ponies to experienced riders well into their 50’s on powerful jumpers and dressage horses – compete throughout the year and throughout the country to qualify to ride at Washington


New this year is side saddle, with riders evoking the elegance and style of past eras, the AHJF Nations Cup Hunter Challenge, an innovative hunter competition pairing WIHS equitation (junior) riders with international show jumping riders, and a polo exhibition.


Barn/Group Night, Thurs, Oct. 26, is a favorite with local young riders who attend in groups and vie for prizes based on best group spirit, best essay, largest group, etc. All participants get a free tee-shirt and have the unique opportunity to walk the show jumping course with grand prix riders (and get autographs) following the $20,000 Gamblers Choice class. On Saturday afternoon, younger children will enjoy pony rides, face painting and horse-based learning activities at the Pony Pavilion located just outside the Verizon Center.  


More than 60 vendors offering equestrian gear, apparel, jewelry and other unique items are conveniently located on the concourse around the competition arena.  Spectators also may bid on more than 60 unique and one-of-a-kind items in the Silent Auction.

WIHS Local Weekend offers local amateur riders, who otherwise may not qualify, a chance to ride at the Washington International. Local children and adult amateur hunter riders based within 100 miles of Washington, D.C. may compete in a qualifying event Oct. 20-22 at Prince George‘s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., with the top finishers eligible to ride in the WIHS Local Hunter Finals at the Verizon Center on Sunday, October 29th.   


The WIHS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization benefiting local and national charities. Current and past donation recipients include the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, NBC4’s Camp 4 Kids, ASPCA, Childrens’ Inn at the National Institutes of Health, Community Services for Autistic Adults & Children, National Center for Therapeutic Riding, Newspapers in Education, Starlight Starbright Foundation-Midatlantic, and many more.  Horse Show Office: 16063 Comprint Circle, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, (301) 987-9400, Fax: (301) 987-9461, website:, Executive Director: Susie Webb,


Management: Austin Kiplinger, Honorary Chairman of the Board; Jorge J. Carnicero, Chairman; Dr. Sheila C. Johnson, President; Susie Webb, Executive Director; Hugh Kincannon, Show Manager


Public Relations: Diana De Rosa, Press Link: (631) 773-6155, Cell: (516) 848-4867,, website:


Media: Phelps Media Group/Mason Phelps, Jr. (561) 753-3389,  Press releases and photos are available at  For accreditation, visit and complete a media accreditation form.


2006 Washington International Horse Show

Tickets and Schedule ***Program subject to change***

Tickets go on sale September 5, 2006


Hours: Two performances daily except Sunday: Day (Tues-Sun): 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Evening: (Tues-Sat): 7:00-10:30 p.m (ending times approx.) 

Tickets – or call 202-397-SEAT


Performance                 Day                  Evening            Evening VIP**

Tuesday                       $15                  $20                  $40

Wednesday                  $15                  $20                  $40

Thursday                      $15                  $30*                $45*

Friday                          $15                  $35                  $60

Saturday                       $20                  $35                  $60

Sunday             $15                  —                    —


Anytime Package: $85 (a $235 value); good for all 11 performances.

Pony Pavilion: Tickets for the Pony Pavilion available only at the Pony Pavilion on Sat., Oct. 28, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Entry by donation. Donations of $5 or $10 are readily accepted at the Pony Pavilion with net proceeds going to the Meadowbrook Foundation.


*Barn Night/Groups (10 or more) receive $5 off each ticket on Thursday night only.

**VIP seats include premium arena-level seating and a complimentary WIHS program book ($10 value).


Students, Seniors, and Military save $5 off tickets for Sat., Oct. 28 daytime performance, with proper ID. (Excludes VIP tickets.)

Metro Special: Save $5 off tickets for any performance with presentation of bus or rail Metro card.  (Excludes VIP tickets.)

***Discount offers cannot be combined.      


Tentative Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 24: Daytime performance: Regular and Green Conformation Hunters; First/Second Year Green Hunters; Regular Working Hunters; Amateur/Owner Hunters (Riders 35 & Under and Over 35); Evening performance: WIHS Children’s Hunter and Adult Hunter Championships


Wednesday, Oct. 25: Daytime performance: Regular Working and Regular Conformation Hunters; Second Year Green and Green Conformation Hunters; A/O Hunter (35 & Under and Over 35); Amateur/Owner Jumpers; Evening performance: WIHS Children’s Jumper Championships and Adult Jumper Championships


Thursday, Oct. 26 (BARN/GROUP NIGHT): Daytime performance: Small Junior Hunters (15 & Under); Large Junior Hunters (15 & Under); Small Junior Hunters (16-17), Large Junior Hunters (16-17); Side Saddle; $25,000 President’s Cup Qualifier; Amateur/Owner Jumpers, Junior Jumpers; Evening performance: WIHS Invitational Dressage Championship Grand Prix; $20,000 Gambler’s Choice, Side Saddle, Barrel Racing, Terrier Races


Friday, Oct. 27: Daytime performance: Small Junior Hunters (15 & Under); Large Junior Hunters (15 & Under); Small Junior Hunters (16-17), Large Junior Hunters (16-17); WIHS Equitation; Amateur/Owner Jumpers; Junior. Jumpers TFR (time first round); $25,000 Open Jumpers; Evening performance: Polo, WIHS Invitational Dressage Championship Freestyle; $20,000 Accumulator Class, $25,000 Puissance, Barrel Racing, Terrier Races


Saturday, Oct. 28: Daytime performance: Small, Medium and Large Pony Hunters;  $20,000 Hit & Hurry Class; Media Sports Celebrity Challenge; $15,000 AHJF Nations Cup Hunter Challenge; Junior Jumpers; Pony Pavilion; Evening performance: WIHS Equitation Classic (Jumper Phase & Final work-off); $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix, Terrier Races


Sunday, Oct. 29: Small, Medium and Large Pony Hunters; WIHS Pony Equitation Classic; Local Hunter Finals (Horses); Local Hunter Finals (Ponies)




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WIHS is an official USEF Heritage Competition, and holds the highest rating,  CSI5*-W, awarded by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, as well as a US Equestrian 6* Jumpers and  Premier Hunters. It is recognized by the US Hunter Jumper Association, Maryland Horse Show Association, and Virginia Horse Show Association. WIHS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization.