2021 Del Mar National Horse Show Has Been Canceled due to COVID-19

A Tradition of Excellence

Reprinted from 22nd DAA archives- also contributing: Joy Lyn Oleson, Lisa Iaria, Nani Luebke, Regina Antonioli

Bringing equestrian excellence to San Diego County since 1946, the Del Mar National stands among the handful of horse shows in this country to reach its golden years.

Over the years, Del Mar has earned its reputation for being among the highly competitive most exciting, finest, and richest horse shows in Southern California. With its world-class, multidisciplinary equestrian competition and signature Saturday evening performances, Del Mar ranks high among the most prestigious horse shows in the western region. A Del Mar win merits bragging rights as well as literal and figurative currency.

Many of today’s horse show superstars rode here as juniors, amateurs, and lead-line competitors. While watching young riders compete, you may actually be witnessing tomorrow’s champions. Many spectators continue to purchase ringside box seats year after year as an established family tradition. Riders often reminisce about showing at Del Mar, whether as a child or professional. These qualities help create the ambiance associated with this show and are what make it truly exceptional.

The superb coastal weather and the show’s proximity to the storied thoroughbred racetrack founded by a legendary group of friends — Bing CrosbyPat O’Brien, and Jimmy Durante — only heighten the allure.

The Del Mar National began as part of the annual San Diego County Fair. In 1946, 350 competitors rode for their chance to win a slice of the $20,000 pie and to earn points toward becoming ultimate show champions.

By 1979, the Del Mar National had become so popular, it eventually outgrew the county fair and became a separate event. The show and the venue have continually evolved over the years. The rings and locations, along with the breeds and variety of disciplines have changed over the years as Del Mar’s unique character took shape and grew into the icon it has become. Today, the show hosts three distinctly different weeks of competition; Western, Dressage, and Hunter/Jumper.

Horse Show at the Fair

Del Mar now offers more than $350,000 in prize money and attracts more than 3,000 horses during the three weeks of competition. The show takes place in the multi-million-dollar Del Mar Arena which received an extensive makeover in 2009, including the addition of a roof. Much of the ‘outdoor’ quality has been retained through the use of half- and three-quarter walls where none existed previously. Del Mar holds quite a few “firsts” in its history and in 1992, it was the first venue in the western states to host a World Cup Competition.

1999; Del Mar Arena

Historical Timeline

1946: As one of the many events at the annual San Diego County Fair, the Del Mar National Horse Show made its debut this year. Three-hundred-fifty competitors vied for $20,000 in prize money. Adrian Van Sinderen, President of the American Horse Show Association (AHSA– now USEF) flew in from New York to judge Hackney and harness show ponies

1948: The prize list for the third annual Del Mar National offered stabling fees for $10.00/horse/tack stalls (first bedding included) for the duration of the show. Sleeping stalls and horse feed cost nothing. The Del Mar Airport advertised in the prize list its convenient location, “just 2,500 feet to National Horse Show arena”. Ringside boxes were $125.00, tax included, providing six seats for eight performances.

1950Allen Ross managed the show from 1950 to 1959, and established the record for producing the largest horse show in the world recognized by the American Horse Shows Association in 1958. Ross returned to Del Mar in 1978 with the goal of setting a new record.

1954: Less than a decade after the first show, Del Mar earned national recognition as the world’s largest horse show for junior competitors.

1956: A small tornado ripped the metal roofs from several barns. Damage totaled $4,500, no horses were injured.