Del Mar Horse Show returns to fairgrounds for three-week run

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The Del Mar National Horse Show returns to the fairgrounds in Del Mar April 18 to May 7, making its 72nd appearance “where the turf hits the surf.”

The Del Mar National began in the mid-1940s as part of the annual San Diego County Fair, which occurs each June at the fairgrounds. By the late 1970s, it had grown so large that it became a separate event. Western and Hunter/Jumper competition comprised the then two-week show until the early 1990s, when the Dressage competition made its debut, adding a third week.

Each year the Del Mar National attracts more than 1,500 horses representing many breeds across three distinctly different disciplines. Spectators will see world-class performances in reining with its famous spins and sliding stops, elegant and athletic dressage moves that are choreographed to music, and daredevil show jumping.

Evening events feature trick riders, comedy acts, thrills and spills, and breed demonstrations, among many other exciting acts. Participants compete for trophies, ribbons and more than $300,000 in cash and prizes. The Del Mar National is one of the few remaining horse shows offering multiple traveling perpetual trophies, in addition to individual class trophies and prize money. The show attracts nationally and internationally acclaimed horses and riders year after year. The Del Mar National Horse Show is produced by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a state of California agency, which owns and operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The 72nd annual Del Mar National National Horse Show starts its three-week run on April 18 with Western competition, and includes the family-friendly “Night of the Horse,” presented by Mary’s Tack and Feed. This performance at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 is an equestrian variety show. Tickets for this event at the Del Mar Arena can be purchased for both reserved seating and ringside dinner boxes with gourmet catered food, at the delmarnational.com or at the O’Brien Gate Box Office located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays or at 858-792-4252.

From Tuesday, April 18 through Saturday afternoon on April 22, the Horse Show is free to spectators. Each day there are competitions featuring skilled riders of all ages winning trophies and tri-colored ribbons. Saturday evening events are the only paid admission events at the three-week horse show. Food and beverage concessions as well as equestrian specialty shops are available to the public during the entire horse show within the Del Mar Arena.

Saturday night’s “Night of the Horse” performers include the 15-year winner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association specialty act, John Payne, better known as the notorious One Arm Bandit. The Bandit effortlessly herds longhorn steer around the arena. His performance at the Del Mar National will be filmed for a documentary movie about his professional cowboy life.

The recently acclaimed star of Cavalia, Sylvia Zerbini, will return for the second time to Night of the Horse. Zerbini will orchestrate eight to 10 Arabian Stallions in a Liberté performance. Akin to horse whispering, she makes it look very easy as she directs her horses with subtle cues and gentle voice commands.

Top-ranked professional horsemen Aaron Ralston will demonstrate his reining skills. He has earned a number of accomplishments around the world, including at the World Equestrian Games in Germany. This will be his debut at Del Mar National Horse Show.

Mexico City native Tomás Garcilazo, with his family, will perform a unique traditional act, debuting at this event: “Día de los Muertos,” an act which shares with the audience their ancestral tradition of celebrating life in a colorful and joyful atmosphere using his roping skills with an Escaramuza team. Escaramuza, or “skirmish,” describes daredevil horseback ballet, ridden sidesaddle at top speed. Garcilazo’s proficiency as a skilled horseman and rope artist has earned him a place as one of the finest Charros presenting La Charrería today.

Spencer Rose began as a rodeo rider and combined her skills with circus experience from the Cavalia stage to create her spectacular Roman Riding and Trick Riding performance. She will present a mixture of fire, whips, lasso and trick riding in a demonstration of skill and horsemanship.

To cap it off, the Arizona Mini Mystique will show off their miniature horse driving skills exposing the small horses’ beauty and versatility; and some of the world’s largest horses, Belgians and Clydesdales, will demonstrate their powerful abilities in the arena.

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