It was advertised as a “home show” of some sort at South Point, which was supposed to have, in addition to kitchen remodelers and hot-tub installers, lenders and loan modifiers to talk to people about how to renegotiate mortgages. It cost $5 to get in. It sucked. There were far fewer vendors than we’d imagined, and one of them was a chiropractor. However, we wandered next door (in the South Point exhibition hall), and there we found a free show in the arena: Arabian Horse World Cup.
This is something never to be taken for granted about our city: that wandering a distance of about 100 feet can be like falling down the rabbit hole. A wonderful thing, this.
So there it was: little round tables with red tablecloths and champagne flutes, men dressed in suits and women in argyle sweaters and below-the-knee skirts, all gathered around an arena of soft, tilled brown dirt. Potted plants jutted out from the center of the arena; a judges’ panel was on one side. We made our way into the stadium seating behind the tables, and within moments, a velvety brown Arabian stallion came prancing out—to the tune of “I always feel like/somebody’s watching me,” by Rockwell.
It’s like a dog show in that the trainers run alongside the horses holding the lead rope; it’s not like a dog show in that the horse is feisty, head bucking around in a defiant, free-spirited gesture, and the trainers want that. The judges walked into the ring and took notes as Entry No. 1189—they didn’t announce names—trotted about, while trainers’ crews at the sides of the arena shook a stick-whip with a garbage bag at the horse, making a sound that riled up the horse for better prancing, and also seemed to redirect it. These animals were stunningly beautiful, elegant in a wild, strong way and yet somehow fragile. Half of these horses seemed to have been from Dubai; the others from as near as Scottsdale.
As this was turning out to be one of the best home shows I’ve attended, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the surreal nature of Vegas took it up another notch: Patrick Swayze called. The host of the show walked into the center of the arena and began a conversation with Swayze and his wife via speakerphone over the sound system. Swayze, it turns out, is a devoted supporter of Arabian horses and horse shows, and had been watching this World Cup live from his home. So on the screen behind the arena appeared pictures of Dirty Dancing Swayze, and Ghost Swayze, while he graciously talked about the event to, well, us. Swayze, who is reportedly in the latter stages of pancreatic cancer, told the crowd the beauty of the horses put things in perspective for him.
As they did for us. Reason No. 5,897 to love Las Vegas: head out to gather recession-busting info, end up loving horses.