Many of us don’t aspire to or have the opportunity to compete at the high level but it is so amazing to watch some of the World’s top riders in action with such charisma and precision.
There are many competitions around the world that the World’s best riders and horses compete. The top events are the Olympics, and the World Equestrian Games which are held every four years, World Cups, Nation Cups, Global Champions Show Jumping, CSI5* eventing competitions, Royal Agriculture shows and many more.
Many horse shows are not just for the horse enthusiast but for everyone with large trade villages, bars, entertainment and so much more.
Snaffle Travel offers an updated event schedule on their website that you can check out. Website: https://snaffletravel.com.au/equestrian-event-dates-worldwide/
As a spectator, attending a horse show is truly exciting. You may have a rider you have followed from a young age. Isabell Werth, Carl Hester, Lucinda Green, Mary King, Mark Todd, Harvey Smith, David Broome and John Whitaker come to mind, and I am fortunate to have seen many compete and chatted with some of them in person.
If you are lucky enough, you may get to attend some of the biggest horse shows and equestrian events in the world and Snaffle Travel offers tours to some of these events.
Here are just some of my favourites where I promise you will see some of the World’s best action and are the biggest horse shows in the world. I have chosen a few that I have attended or believe are some of the best competitions to attend in no particular order.
Snaffle Travel started taking groups to equestrian events in 2015 and we try to combine this with some sightseeing and fun things to see and do with other equestrian-related activities.
Badminton Horse Trials (United Kingdom)
Badminton Horse Trials one of the elite and largest 5-star eventing competitions in the world attracting held since 1949 with an audience of over 200,000 each year. The event is held in the stunning grounds of Badminton House, the seat of the Duke of Beaufort in the beautiful South Gloucestershire countryside each April or May.
Eventing is a combination of Dressage, Cross Country and Jumping Eventing and is one of the toughest and most exciting equestrian events in the world. Horses and riders must complete a Dressage test demonstrating obedience, discipline, accuracy, and elegance. They need to be fit and athletic to complete a four-mile Cross Country ride jumping several solid man-made and natural obstacles within a set time. Finally, they must complete a course of show jumps designed to test their agility and accuracy at speed.
This event is part of the three Olympic disciplines.
The event attracts only the top competitors in their sport, and you will see many Olympians competing here with their best horses and cross-country day is the real drawcard.
The large trade village is a real highlight selling everything from silver jewellery to spa baths and your usual horsey goods. Badminton also is very English pomp and pageantry and its charming to see the jump judges on cross country day paint the picture wearing their bowler hats and tweed outfits.
There are only six five-star rated events in the world and along with Badminton are Burghley Horse trials, Kentucky Three-day Event USA, Stars of Pau in France, Luhmuhlen Horse Trials, Adelaide Australian international event, and the recently added Maryland 5* at Fairhill in the USA. References: Badminton Website & Wikipedia
Royal Windsor Horse Show (United Kingdom)
The Royal Windsor Horse Show is the UK’s largest outdoor premier horse show, taking place in the private grounds of Windsor Castle.
Each year the show hosts a plethora of international competitions including 5-star Show Jumping as well as 4-star Carriage Driving, Grand Prix Dressage and Endurance competitions. Windsor show is also host to the UK’s premier showing event as well as hosting national classes in Show jumping.
The show also has some exciting entertainment and displays which include special entertainment from international performers and the Queens own mounted troops. DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games and the Shetland Pony Grand National.
Riders from across the world come to compete at this prestigious competition and the Queen and members of the Royal family are normally in attendance each year.
The shopping village is another favourite with trade stands selling equestrian, country, and luxury products, as well as a wide range of food outlets.
References: Royal Windsor show. Website: https://rwhs.co.uk/
London International Horse Show (United Kingdom)
The London International Horse Show is another one of the UK’s most popular horse shows, held annually in December, showcasing a wide selection of events.
The most popular events are the FEI World Cup qualifiers in Dressage, Show jumping and Driving. The show also offers a wonderful mix of international equestrian displays, showing, the shetland grand national mounted games, special international entertainers and even dog agility and the Christmas Finale jumping competition.
The event attracts a crowd of over 90,000 spectators, held over 5 days just before Christmas providing a special kind of Christmas magic.
The London International Show also offers an ideal opportunity for last-minute Christmas present buying in the Show’s renowned Shopping Village.”
For years the event has been held at London Olympia in Kensington, but the event moves to Excel in the Royal Docks area of Newham, East London and this maybe its permanent residence.
The show attracts many top international equestrians from across Britain and Europe to compete at this international show with its magical Christmas atmosphere. It is one of my favourite horse shows. Reference: London International horse show website.
Dublin Royal Horse Show (Ireland)
The Dublin Horse Show is a Dublin institution. A celebration of Ireland’s rapport with the horse, from the best show horses to the best international show jumpers. It is one of Ireland’s largest events, a highlight of the summer. The event is held, each year in August welcoming over 100,000 spectators from all over the world.
The FEI Nations cup show jumping is one of the highlights of the show as well as the pony jumping where little kids jump fences at height and death-defying speed.
The show is full of farmers from the counties and the show would not be without the famous Irish Draughts that are the backbone of the Irish sport horse industry here. It’s quite something.
The show is one enormous party as only the Irish know how to do.
The Dublin Royal show is held in the suburb of Ballsbridge since 1864. Today with over 1500 horses, the grounds include a large jumping arena, a smaller jumping arena, two large show rings, several smaller collecting rings, and a shopping village. There is plenty of entertainment, where one can walk through an art gallery and take in an exhibition in the library before settling down for a spot of show jumping.
The Dublin show is definitely worth a visit and don’t forget to include some touring around Ireland with a visit to the Irish horse stud at Kildare and perhaps self-drive around Ireland.
Reference: Dublin horse show website. Website: https://www.dublinhorseshow.com/
World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen (Germany)
CHIO Aachen is one of the most prestigious and largest equestrian events in the world. As well as being run with German precision it is one of the best attended equestrian events in the world.
Located in the charming city of Aachen, Germany, not far from the borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. The quaint town has a lovely old town square and city hall, well known as a spa town, famous for gingerbread and where Charlemagne the Emperor of Western Europe died in 814 and was laid to rest in the Aachen historical Cathedral.
The World Equestrian Festival CHIO Aachen is considered as “Wimbledon of equestrian sport” and has been held since 1924.
The show attracts the highest calibre of riders and horses from all over the world who come here to compete. The FEI Nations cup competition is held in show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, and vaulting. The highlight of the festival is the annual Aachen Grand Prix, Dressage and Jumping competitions, which happens on the last day of the show. Elite horses and riders, including Olympians, from all over the world come to compete at this distinguished show.
The opening ceremony is always spectacular with a different country hosting each year. The farewell to the nation with the waving of the white hanky is a fascinating way to farewell the event for another year.
Held every June or July, an incredible 350,000 come to watch the best of the best compete across ten days. Snaffle Travel has been attending this event since 2017 and this is one of our most popular tours. We love it as all events are within easy walking distance and another highlight is the warmup area in full view of the general public. Reference: CHIO Aachen website. Website: https://www.chioaachen.de/en/
Calgary Stampede (Canada)
The Calgary Stampede is one of the most popular equestrian and tourist events in the world and is dubbed, “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. Since 1912, every July Calgary, Alberta turns into a Cowboy capital for 10 days with over a million visitors each year being one of the largest equestrian events in Canada.
The Main draw card of the Stampede is the rodeo, parade, chuckwagon racing, music concerts and an outdoor evening show.
As one of the largest rodeo events in the world, it includes barrel racing, bareback riding, roping, steer wrestling, and bronco riding.
There are numerous outdoor pavilions showcasing and educating with the agricultural pavilion. There are many other equestrian pursuits including Stampede show riders, cowboy up challenge, stampede heavy horse show and pull, team cattle pen championships with an enormous food area as well as carnival rides for all the family.
Colourful tepees highlight Elbow River Camp (formerly called Indian Village) in Enmax Park where Treaty 7 nations demonstrate skills like meat cutting, drying jerky and pemmican, beadwork, baking bannock and making clothing from animal hides. As well as First Nations song and dance competitions, teepee-raising contests and horsemanship displays.
Also on offer are free pancake breakfasts, Cowboys and Indians, spectacular grandstand shows with over 400 singers, dancers and musicians including fireworks. It’s not surprising the Stampede is called “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” especially when you add over 35 rides, the WestJet Skyride that runs over Stampede Park, live music, agricultural shows, chuckwagon racing and free kids’ activities. Website: www.calgarystampede.com
Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event (United States)
Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event is the American 5-star eventing equivalent to Badminton Horse Trials in the UK.
Kentucky became a 5* event in 1996 and draws many international riders from Europe and the UK to stake their claim on the large prize money.
The Kentucky Three-Day Event is held on the last weekend of April, the week before the Kentucky Derby and Badminton horse trials. It is one of the three events in the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. The event is held in the American horse capital at the famous Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. There are plenty of equestrian things to visit in the area including the Bluegrass horse farms and Kentucky park is a horse-person heaven with museums and equestrian displays.
The Kentucky Three-Day Event currently takes place over four days (Thursday through Sunday). Due to large number of entries, both Thursday and Friday are devoted to the dressage test. Cross-country is on Saturday, and show jumping is on Sunday. During the event, horses and riders are tested in cross country, dressage, and show jumping.
Every year, thousands of spectators come to witness some of the top horses and riders from around the world and the trade village is a must-visit.
AQHA World Championship Show (United States)
The All-American Quarter Horse Congress is the world’s largest single-breed horse show, with 25,000 entries in 2019. Held at the Ohio Expo Centre in Columbus, the show attracts 650,000 people and generates $409 million in the central Ohio economy.
Held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the AQHA World Championship Show spans 20 days every November. Nearly 5,000 Quarter horses compete at this prestigious show, with competitors coming from various countries.
As the largest single-breed world championship, there is a large variety of divisions in both English and western riding. Across the three weeks of competition, there is reining, western pleasure, hunter pleasure, jumping, in-hand, ranch, and much more. In addition to the show, there are also educational opportunities and a large trade show.
Thousands of spectators come to watch the world’s best Quarter horses compete. This elite show features numerous world champion titles for amateur and open exhibitors.
The Paris Horse Show (France)
Located in the heart of Paris, The Paris Horse Show features beautiful horses and riders across a variety of disciplines. Nearly 2,000 horses gather for 10 days of competition, equine ethology, health, performing arts, sales, and breeders.
The competition includes show jumping, dressage, eventing, harness, western, and vaulting. In addition, the show is home to the Longines Masters de Paris international horse jumping and the World Arabian Horse Championship. There are also other festive events such as the Salon du Cheval Parade and the Night of the Horse.
Held late November to early December annually, the show attracts around 150,000 spectators. Guests can watch demonstrations and even try out Western riding with a Quarter horse.
As part of the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, the Royal Horse Show features Olympians and top international riders. Held across 10 days, the Royal is held in Toronto, Ontario every November.
The world-renowned horse show features the highest level of show jumping. In addition, there is also hunters, equitation, carriage driving, draft horses, Thoroughbreds, Welsh Ponies/Cobs, Hackney, and Roadster classes. Every year, 300,000 spectators come to witness Canada’s largest variety of equine breeds and events.
There are around 1,000 horses that compete every year, with nearly $1 million in prizes. In addition to the horse show, there is also a large agriculture event featuring livestock, crops, and food. Website: https://en.salon-cheval.com/
Blair Castle International Horse Trials (Pitlochry, Scotland)
The Blair Castle International Horse Trials might not be up there with the big ones, but it runs eventing from grass roots up to 4-star and is held in the grounds of the stunning Blair Castle near Pitlochry in Scotland.
It attracts some of the top riders in the UK as well as the odd international. It also has showing classes with the heavies, highland ponies, show hunters and much more as well as show jumping, and whisky tasting, and I am sure you will hear the bagpipes being played and see some Scottish dancing. It’s a country show of Scottish style with a real country atmosphere.
New Zealand Horse of the Year (Hastings, New Zealand)
The New Zealand Horse of the Year is the largest 6-day equestrian spectacle. Held annually each March in the Hawkes Bay region, known as the fruit bowl capital of New Zealand and more recently a leading wine producer. The area comes alive with Equestrian enthusiasts who attend the HOY which it is affectionally known as.
HOY attracts some 1800 horses and 1400 riders and is the leading horse show on the New Zealand Equestrian calendar.
New Zealand is known for some of the world’s best eventing riders and Olympians, and you are bound to see many in action in the 4-star eventing held at the show.
Hoy offers events including the New Zealand horse of the year in show jumping, dressage and showing. As well as hunter classes, carriage driving, para-equestrian, mounted games, special breeds and even side saddle classes.
Offering a wonderful friendly country atmosphere with a large trade village with over 160 stands and a large food area with something for everyone.
Sydney Royal Horse Show (Sydney, Australia)
The Sydney Royal Show was first held in 1823, an annual show held every easter attracting a crowd of over 820,000 attendees. and the horse’s competitions with over 6000 nominations as annually. Held at Sydney Olympic Park which hosted the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
With over 1000 classes including more than twenty-four horse breed classes, riding classes, 4-star eventing, grandprix dressage, show jumping, camp draft, heavy and light harness, rodeo, polo, polocrosse, riding for the disabled, heavy horse obstacle classes, tent pegging, pony club, and police horse events are held.
Spruce Meadows (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Spruce Meadows is a leading venue in North America for international horse sports with more than 500 acres of property just outside of Calgary in the Foothills County of Alberta. Spruce Meadows hosts the best athletes from the world’s top show jumping nations and is a multi-sports complex that also hosts other premier sporting events, hosts conventions and entertainment.
The Southern family built the centre in 1975 and also has a breeding centre and breeds many horses.
There are six major outdoor and eight indoor tournaments at Spruce Meadows annually including 5-star show jumping and dressage. The venue is open to visitors all year round, hosting over 500,00 visitors annually. In the winter time, an international Christmas market is hosted and is home to the Calvalry FC of the Canadian Premier League, a soccer club, and also hosts trade events and conventions. Website: http://www.sprucemeadows.com/
Palms Springs Wellington Winter Festival (Florida, USA)
Palms Springs Wellington Winter Show Jumping Festival attracts all the top jumpers as the prize money is high and attracts international and national show jumping stars.
The Equestrian Centre is in Wellington, Florida. Situated on 500 acres and has competition arenas covering 80 acres with 18 arenas. The main arena is surrounded by a stadium with seating and hospitality pavilions too. There is stabling for more than 250 horses with horse trails, walking tracks, and shopping areas and if you like golf there is a course nearby. Even a few Australian riders are known to have competed here. Coinciding with the Palm Beach Polo season nearby at the National Polo centre.
These are just a sample of a few horse shows and there are so many more🐴🐎
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE CONTACT US AT: email@example.com or check out our Horse Tour offers on our website www.snaffletravel.com.au