The 41st annual Washington International Horse Show will open today at US Airways Arena. The eight-day event will feature top riders from four countries in the evening open jumping classes.

This year, teams from Switzerland and Italy will join Canada and the United States in competition for the $28,000 Samsung Nations Cup, the $10,000 Crown Royal Gambler's Choice, the $50,000 Presidents Cup and the $15,000 Cosequin Puissance "Great Wall" jump.

Last year, the United States dominated the competition, with Florida's Margie Goldstein-Engle taking home the award as the U.S. equestrian team's leading rider. This year's U.S. team will be Goldstein-Engle; Alison Firestone of Upperville; Leslie Howard of Westport, Conn., and Peter Wylde of Dover Plains, N.Y.

The Canadian team will be Dayton Gorsline, Mark Samuel, Ainsley Vince and Amy Millar. Representing Italy will be Roberto Arioldi, Enrico Maria Frana, Lorenzo Toscano and Claudio Minardi. Switzerland is sending Paul Estermann, Daniel Etter, Paul Friemuller and Beat Rothlisberger. The horses for the teams will be announced before each competition.

Throughout the week, there will be a variety of national hunter class finals, as well as competitions involving nationally ranked equitationalists. Equitation riders have had to build up points over the past year to qualify for this event. Several local riders have qualified, including Lizzie Taylor of Middleburg in the horse division and Aimee Aron of Keswick, Va.; Celia Goetzl of Poolesville, and Honey Johnson of Middleburg in the pony division. In addition, there will be competitions in a variety of other disciplines, including sidesaddle and conformation.

Dressage enthusiasts will be treated to the U.S. League Volvo World Cup finals. The grand prix will be held Friday night and the musical freestyle Saturday night. This year's dressage competitors include: James Armstrong of Glyndon, Md., aboard Gustaff; Barbara Perkins and Wotan (Concord, Conn.); Sherrie Reeber and G Tudor (Toronto); Kathleen Rein and Fidelian (Laguna Hills, Calif.), and Lynda Alicki and Gino (Monroe, Ga.).

Today's daytime events include local hunters competing in the Prince Philip Cup finals. Also, there are the local hunter/jumper and field hunter finals.

Tonight's evening program will begin at 7, with Hunt Night. Local fox hunts will participate in special classes as part of the five-show Foxhunters Champion Series, which will conclude at the Horse Show.

THIS WEEK

41st Annual Washington International Horse Show

When: Today through Oct. 31. The day program will begin at 10 a.m. today and at 7:30 a.m. the remainder of the week. The evening program will begin at 7 each day.

Where: US Airways Arena.

Tickets: Available, priced at $6 to $42.