Los Angeles Masters Grand Slam

Big show in the big city is a big hit!

Big horse shows in big cities are not a new concept. But it still seemed weird and wonderful to see boots and britches-clad Olympic equestrians strolling through the airy, window-walled and marble-floored lobby of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

And horses queuing for wash racks in a stabling area erected in the lower-level parking structure under the intersection of the 10 and 110 freeways. The route from the stables to the warm-up and show rings had zillion dollar show jumpers being led up what looked like a spiral freeway on-ramp. It was, in fact, a ramp within the Center, but the sight of the competition's nearly 200 horses, including 51 flown in from Europe, making their way up it, against the city skyline backdrop, was an eye-catcher.

That was all part of the scene at the inaugural Longines Los Angeles Masters Grand Slam Sept. 25-28. On stage, it was top-flight show jumping in front of regular seating stands of 2,000 and a 500-seat VIP side occupied by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bill Gates, Angelica Huston and other celebs. The setting was intimate and the presentation slick and well suited to the near-Hollywood locale.

In short, it was a ton of fun! Organizers EEM, Inc., and show manager Dale Harvey and his team at West Palm Events, more than delivered on their promise of elite competition and elite lifestyle offerings.

Once through the lobby and into the exhibition hall, attendees entered Prestige Village. In the center of the giant hall sat the warm-up ring, surrounded by booths offering everything from the familiar horse and rider gear to highest-end art and furniture. We were happy to see that local businesses including Valencia Sport Saddlery and the Horse & Rider Boutique seemed especially busy throughout the four-day show.

The Village also included an open lounge area with live music and stilt-walkers roaming around, all while some of the worlds top riders – Meredith Michaels Beerbaum, McLain Ward, Richard Spooner, Kent Farrington, Georgina Bloomberg, French WEG silver medalist Patrice Delaveau, etc., etc., etc. – got their horses ready with fans either watching closely or milling about.

The competition, of course, was the main attraction. The Masters held three levels of show jumping: the national, the Two-Star and the Five-Star. Eighteen-year-old Belgian Jos Verlooy won the marquee event, the $475,000 Longines Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon, in a field of 42 that included six clear rounds. Swiss star Steve Guerdat raced to second and Georgina Bloomberg finished third, the highest placing American.

Fresh from her win of the previous week's Grand Prix win, at another inaugural show in another big city, the Central Park Horse Show, the native New Yorker led a parade of praise for the Los Angeles Masters Grand Slam. The excellent organization, presentation and high level of sport made it an event that Georgina said would help the sport throughout the States and especially on the West Coast.

The Los Angeles Masters Grand Slam is the latest edition to a show jumping series that includes regular stops in Paris and Hong Kong. Happily, EEM, Inc., has committed to bringing the show back to Los Angeles for at least the next five years.