As President of the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), Victoria “Vicki” Lowell has seen the historic and cherished event grow in a range of ways. She has sat at the helm as WIHS climbed the ranks of FEI competition to a 4* show, was named a member of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League, continually increasing prize money and ranking points and this year celebrates its 60th anniversary. But, one of the most cherished ways for her to experience the show has been from the back of a horse inside the competition ring.
An avid amateur competitor herself, we caught up with Vicki and took a look back at her history as a rider competing at the world’s most distinguished and historic metropolitan horse show:
I leased Dutch Treat in 1998 during my first year back riding after a long break. I took some time out of the saddle when I graduated high school to do some growing up and, of course, save up to be able to ride again. At the time, I had never been to indoors and maybe only competed in one or two A-rated shows as a junior. I somehow managed to qualify to go to WIHS that year for the Adult Amateur Hunter Championship back when the show was at the Capital Centre.
I was called back third with an 86 in the first round (I don’t think I had ever had a scored round in my life!) and had a deep distance in the second round for a 76, but still managed to bring home a ribbon. I was excited just to qualify, but even more thrilled to actually place. Laura Pickett was my trainer and she loaned me her boots, shadbelly, vest and top hat. It was a day to remember!
The following year, I had the chance to ride my first jumper. His name was Exedor, and he was owned by Sheryl Sutherby, who retired him at the age of 26. He seemed to still have some “go”, so she offered for me to ride him, and we qualified to compete at the Capital Centre in the Local Jumpers during the WIHS Regional Show at the Potomac Horse Center. Exedor was an old pro to say the least, and we were thrilled to be champion and actually won a saddle!
I showed another jumper, Sara Lee, for the first time at the WIHS Regional Show in 2000. Sara Lee was an off the track Thoroughbred at 14 years of age who had raced until she was seven under the name Bubbling Maxi. She was a winner on the track and in the show ring. She could turn very fast and you could not practice on her at all. The WIHS Regional Show was my first horse show with her, and she made one turn so fast that I fell off before even knowing what happened! We placed fourth in another class and managed to qualify to go downtown to Verizon Center for the WIHS Regional Day. Sara Lee loved Verizon Center, and I managed to stay on so we actually won the class!
In 2001, I took the metro from my new job at Discovery Communications in Bethesda, MD, and competed Sara Lee in the WIHS Adult Jumper Championship. We were the lucky winners that year too!
While I have competed successfully off and on since 2001, my most recent appearance at WIHS in 2016 with my beloved mare Tippi Too resulted in an unceremonious and very humbling dismount at fence three in the Adult Jumper Championship. But, I get a chance for redemption during the 60th anniversary of WIHS. Twenty years after my first time at WIHS, I have qualified for the WIHS Adult Jumper Championship once again and will be competing Phineas owned by Sleep P Ranch.
We wish Vicki and Phineas good luck at WIHS!