Letter: Why Attack Dressage?

Dear Fellow Citizens & The Wellington Council:

I write to you as a year-round resident of our lovely town, an owner of a local equine-based business and as a dressage rider who competes extensively both in Wellington and internationally. I won’t say that my experience is unusual or unique, but it does afford me a perspective on the impact of past, current and future development of the equine industry in Wellington.

I am surprised and confused by the events of the last six months regarding the development of the Global Dressage Festival and the Equestrian Village. I am concerned that I might be “missing something” in being able to understand the actions of the council. Henceforth I ask these questions in a public way, hoping to not only get answers but to understand the mindset of this powerful council.

Would you be so kind as to explain how it could be possible that the dressage and derby field complex is now in danger? Is it true that there is a significant possibility that parts of the complex may have to be torn down? I really want to understand how it is that this council is preparing to jeopardize the viability of what is known (in its infancy) as the “best dressage facility in the world!” I want to really know if you understand that by derailing this facility you will essentially be derailing (at least for a time) genuine international sport in the United States.

I do comprehend that this is not some tragedy, but the fallout will seem thus to residents in Wellington, and here is how: Riders, trainers, horse sales professionals, and all the adjunct family and people who go with the aforementioned will go elsewhere. If you are looking for bucolic pastureland, this is no tragedy, but if, like thousands of us, you work here, own property here, send your kids to schools here, relish the lifestyle, support the local charities, etc., your economic base will slowly but surely erode and your ability to enjoy the Wellington lifestyle will diminish.

I appreciate that there was genuine concern for the Equestrian Village in its entirety because of the hotel and retail, etc. I was grateful for all the public forum opportunities afforded us by the council so that as residents, we would understand both the positive and negative impact to our community. I also want the council to know that I love to see democracy at work, even if it is “messy and loud and exhausting.” But on that note, I want to know if you, the council, were aware of the omnipresent forces working to influence the public? I was called by lobbyists no fewer than 30 times prior to your election, and I always had only one question for the caller: “Where do you live?” The answer was never the same twice and was never Wellington! I was appalled by this… were you?

My mailbox was constantly full of propaganda against the development of anything on the old polo stadium grounds and then against candidates to the council who were running for your seats. Were your mailboxes full, too?

Certainly it didn’t escape your observation that “professionals” speaking up at the various public forums wouldn’t have been able to find the corner of South Shore and Pierson without GPS. Was this a concern for you? It sure was for me! I loved hearing from residents curious about the outcomes of the council decisions; their questions and concerns were interesting and viable and, I hope, led to good governing.

I want to know with certainty that you truly have the best interests of the village and its residents and their future at heart when you are voting. I have respect for anyone like yourselves who seek and gain public office. Please say that you are indeed listening to us — your constituents, your neighbors, your fellow residents. It matters to us every day of the year.

Without trying to be too dramatic here, we are at a point that will indeed decide the future of Wellington, and I for one want your advice on how to approach a council that seems to be speaking (voting) out of both sides of its mouth at once. If you are indeed “for dressage” then please explain why you are making the process of developing a legitimate facility and a concrete international calendar to go along with it so difficult. As one of your constituents, I need to know that you comprehend that relegating dressage and ultimately the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center to a “gentleman’s hobby facility” will render it so sub-par in the equestrian world that the “real players” will go elsewhere.

I eagerly await your thoughts, directives, advice and counsel.

Arlene Page


  1. Wellington has always been synonymous with prestigious horse shows. The amount of money that seasonal riders and their entourage sinks into the local economy is tremendous and would be sorely missed by the very businesses that voice opposition. In a nutshell, they cut off their own nose to spite their faces. I too would like to understand this demonizing of the Equestrian Village and the positive economic impact it would have on the community and surrounding cities.

  2. I totally agree with Arlene and couldn’t have expressed my opinion more elegantly and succinctly. I wrote several letters to the Wellington Council expressing my concern that the new members of the council have enacted new regulations that will impose additional expenses on owners of farms. The equestrian community is vital to the economy of Wellington. The only response I received was from Councilwoman Anne Gerwig, who was sympathetic to our needs.

    Sadly, opposition to Equestrian Village also comes from residens who live nearby and who want the horse facility but not the hotel and retail shops. Perhaps they know more about running a business than I do and know, for example, that the equestrian facility would be a viable economic project without the hotel and retail.

    It seems to me that this new Wellington council will be successful in destroying our economic base here in Wellington unless they are removed from office.

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