Drivers and pedestrians might notice a curious phenomenon around the Verizon Center in Chinatown this week: what looks like horse stables set up along the sidewalks. That's because there are 500 horses competing this week at the Washington International Horse Show at the arena.
Riders and their horses will compete in many events, but a lot of the action goes on behind the scenes. Teams of trainers, veterinarians and other support staff are all on hand to make sure all of the athletes stay in tip-top shape.
Early this morning, horse came back to their stalls after practice in the ring to get their breakfast and be groomed.
Hannah Powers, 15, is competing as a hunter jumper. "It has its roots in fox hunting and it is subjectively judged based on how pleasant your round appears," says Powers.
Nearby, veterinarian Dr. Carole Holland moves through the stalls after checking in with several of her patients.
"I checked some horses to see if they needed acupuncture or chiropractic treatments this morning before they show," says Holland.
It may sound strange, but the acupuncture process isn't so different for horses as it is for people, she adds. "We check the body to see where there's a possible area of tightness or soreness and use regular acupuncture needles to relieve that tension," says Holland.
In a trailer parked on a nearby street, farrier Sandy Johnson does her part to make sure the horses are ready; she will put on between 30 and 40 horseshoes every day this week, and up to 200 shoes on Saturday, she says.
Meanwhile, Bridget Kennedy is working on some of the more aesthetic aspects of the competition as she braids the mane of a stallion named Jasper. Kennedy and her team work overnight to coif the horses, braiding, combing and even adding extensions to some of their tails.
The Washington International Horse Show runs at the Verizon Center through Sunday.