There’s a lot of horsing around downtown

Horses, owners, trainers and fans are taking over the area around the Verizon Center. (WTOP/Brennan Haselton)

WASHINGTON – A lot of people are stopping in their tracks downtown this week – because it’s not every day you see horse stables set-up in the middle of the street!

The 55th annual Washington International Horse Show is under way at the Verizon Center this week. Professional, amateur-owner and young riders will compete in a variety of jumping events in the six-day event, which ends Sunday.

“We have a lot of great competitions, and if you’ve never been here I think it’s worth a trip down to see what we’re doing,” says David Distler, the show’s manager. “And we get people from all the country that compete here – actually, all over the world.”

So where do you put hundreds of sets of four, long legs?

“We have 85 stalls downstairs,” Distler says, “and roughly 200 stalls outside in three different tents. We have to shut down three streets.”

And when they’re not relaxing in those stalls, the horses might be getting hosed down, having their legs brushed or even sneaking the occasional carrot from someone’s pocket.

For many of the two-legged creatures taking part in the show, a love for horses goes way, way back.

“I always wanted a horse, and my dad promised me one when I was 12,” says Peter Pletcher, from Magnolia, Texas, one of the professional riders competing this week. “53 (years old) now. Been going at it.”

His advice for horse-loving kids?

“First thing I tell ‘em is to go find a reputable trainer and start taking lessons,” Pletcher says.

Back outside, meanwhile, the horses prove to be a welcome distraction for many passersby.

“I think it’s great,” says D.C. resident Ted Biess with a laugh. “I was walking to a meeting … and was thinking about bringing my son down to see this.

“It’s a nice addition to my lunch hour,” adds Kim Ward, who lives in Alexandria. “it’s just a nice, relaxing part of your day to watch some beautiful animals.”

One quick warning, though: Keep an eye on where you’re walking, or you’ll wind up needing a hose for the bottom of your shoes.

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