After probably being one of the few people to attend both Old Salem and Kentucky this year, I thought it would be beneficial to provide a comparison of these two shows that run at the same time each spring.
Many of the main differences in the show grounds arise from the scale of the venue. The Kentucky Spring Show is held at the impressively sized Kentucky Horse Park in the horse capital of the world, while the Old Salem Spring Show is held at Old Salem Farm, a barn and training facility helmed by top trainer Frank Madden. OSF’s compact size allows for more of an intimate setting, as you are constantly running in to friends, and many of the riders are locally based. Old Salem also made it easy to window shop with its vendors lined up along the main walkways between the rings. Its intimacy and beautiful grass Grand Prix field give it a sense of grandeur and all the elegance of an exclusive country club, which the plush indoor lounge area contributes to as well.
Kentucky’s grounds are much closer to the feel of a show like WEF with its sprawling acres and permanent stabling, but with the added advantages of a slower pace and ample room to take your horse on a hack through beautiful cross country fields. Being a larger venue, Kentucky also earned the bonus of having more dining options from several restaurants on the grounds. Additionally, Kentucky has the added appeal of being close to a bigger city in Lexington and horse country in general, with a plethora of fun, touristy things to do at relatively little cost.
As a spectator, both shows were enjoyable. Parking was easy, probably slightly more so at Kentucky, and the weather was comparable for both places for spring. The footing seemed excellent at both. Kentucky had great shaded seating areas for all rings, but more walking was involved to get from one to another. At OSF, the grounds are beautifully landscaped, but the shaded seating and good views of its two sand rings were more difficult to come by. However, the Happy Hour bar open to all overlooking the Grand Prix field was a very nice touch. Both shows did have some issues with classes running late into the day – much later than at WEF.
One bonus to OSF was its proximity to the next show on many riders’ schedules: Devon. Devon is only 3 hours away, whereas it takes closer to 10 hours from Kentucky. However, the fact that most of the riders I spoke with at both shows were heading to Devon next speaks to the high level of competition that each venue attracts in the spring.
I put together an infographic below of some of the figures from Week 2 of each show, such as prize money and number of entries, to compare the two as well.