Cass Ole, alias the Black Stallion, has two white feet. "We have to keep them touched up," said his handler, Patty Randle, pointing to some telltale hairs above a front hoof. White feet or no, he appears to be enjoying, or at least tolerating, his role at the Washington International Horse Show, where young and not so young fans wait to see him in lines "that wrap around the building," according to Randle.
A photo opportunity with Cass Ole is just one distraction for the dedicated show goer. Downstairs, in the area between the Bullets' and Capitals' dressing rooms, a tanbark warmup ring is filled with riders, all business. But upstairs along the concourse at Capital Centre, there is even more horsey business; dealing in dollars.
Anyone with an unlimited MasterCard credit line--and an unlimited number of horse-crazed friends or relatives--could polish off his Christmas shopping through the year 2041. If you don't like turtlenecks with an Arabian horse motif, or diamond pendants shaped like snaffle bits, you are out of your element.
"A lot of people come by and look, more than once," said Charlotte Edison, gesturing at her display of merchandise. "They'll look all week and then come back right before the show is over to buy something that has caught their eye."
The majority of browsers, however, are not the tuxedoed, society crowd, but suburbanites in blue jeans, taking home smaller items like stationery or T-shirts instead of $600 ceramic lamps.
"It's nice that the kids who come can buy something and take home a remembrance. They're really the ones who enjoy it," said Barney Ward, who collected 1,070 points in last night's Gambler's Choice Stakes. Ward's own remembrances of this show will include a couple of unscheduled wakeup calls.
"The motel where all the riders are staying had a smoke alarm go off at 4:30 the other morning," he said. "Then today it was 5:30. It hasn't been much rest, but it's been fun."
The second wake up was a burglar alarm set off at a store adjacent to the motel, a ringing that continued most of the day. "I don't know what time we're waking up tomorrow," Ward added.
Ward looked around at the Capital Centre crowd, roughly equivalent to that at a Capitals-Calgary game, and wondered why the show here isn't more of a social event, as is one in New York's Madison Square Garden. "Maybe if more of the really social people came, others would want to come out to see them," he said.
But Eve Thompson, the show's executive director, said attendance is up 20 percent over last year's. She doesn't want a white-tie event atmosphere. "We want to show people entertainment and a sporting event," she said. "We want them to have fun watching the terrier races."
Indeed, the Jack Russell terriers' end-to-end tear drew even more applause than a dressage exhibition by the Tempel Lippizan stallions, and have apparently inspired every dog owner in Maryland to bring their German Shepherds and poodles along to watch.
Thompson said she wants the show to appeal to a broader cross section, rather than just the horsey set. That's why Cass Ole, wearing a red and white cooler, is standing in a corner lobby posing for pictures, when he's not enjoying cola from a cup, his favorite treat. "He's really very settled down in a situation like this," said his handler. "He loves crowds. He's a big ham."