Not only is dressage alive and well in the Wellington area, it is thriving. Throughout 2012, the sport of dressage brought more than 2,600 horse/rider entries, along with their support staff, to Palm Beach County and the Wellington area, not to mention the thousands of spectators, and national and international vendors to the area. Our 2013 show season looks even better.
The 2012 World Dressage Masters Palm Beach competition, presented by Wellington Classic Dressage, was estimated to have attracted over 12,000 spectators, and these spectators all spent money in our area business, hotels and restaurants. A new event for us this year is our Global Dressage Forum North America — the first-ever educational forum of its kind, to be hosted at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center following the World Dressage Masters.
Wellington’s global prominence in dressage events was evidenced when three out of our four members of the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team qualified at events held in our area. And we can’t forget the international riders who qualified for their respective country’s Olympic teams here as well.
I am proud to say that I have been involved in dressage for more than 18 years and have overseen and managed dressage shows in the Wellington area for more than 15 years on behalf of three different organizations: Gold Coast Dressage Association Inc., Wellington Classic Dressage Inc. and International Horse Sport Palm Beach LLC.
Collectively, I oversee and manage more than 24 weeks of national and international dressage competitions year-round at Jim Brandon and the nearby IHS Horse Park.
In the early days, Gold Coast Dressage, Vinceremos, the Palm Beach Horseman’s Association and Stadium Jumping hosted dressage shows in Wellington, at what is now the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
Then, around 2006, the 150-acre show grounds were reduced to about 85 acres by the sale of property for private use. The reduction in acreage and other factors resulted in lack of stabling, show ring availability and other features, which prompted Gold Coast Dressage to move its shows to the newly constructed Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. There were also other established dressage shows at that time as well, at the White Fences and Palm Beach Equestrian Estates.
Since 2006, the successful GCDA and WCD dressage shows continued to grow in size and caliber of competition to our present season of year-round shows and events that continue to support our community. Additionally, we have also hosted special classes of competition for the Para Equestrian Olympic Selection Trials in 2012.
The Gold Coast Dressage Association, a not-for-profit organization and local riding club domiciled in the Village of Wellington, is the local group member organization of the United States Dressage Federation and has been providing schooling shows, nationally sanctioned shows and international high-level competition shows year round in the Wellington area for the past 31 years. Our members include junior/young riders, adult amateurs and FEI-level riders.
Wellington Classic Dressage’s partnership with Palm Beach County to host dressage shows is going into its seventh season, and the enterprise is strong. WCD hosts more than 10 weeks of national and international dressage shows, including the Palm Beach leg of the World Dressage Masters CDI5*. There are only four WDM competitions worldwide, with ours being the only one ever held on U.S. soil. During its 2011-12 season, WCD awarded more than $200,000 in total prize money and prizes at 10 national and three international competitions.
International Horse Sport was formed in 2009 to oversee and manage its series of national and international dressage competitions in nearby Equestrian Estates. The International Horse Sport Series includes the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, which has ranked among the most prestigious and long-standing international dressage shows in the U.S. The derby will celebrate its 30-year anniversary in 2013 and was one of the first shows in the U.S. to offer top prize money and bring top European judges.
Through all our endeavors, we are committed to continue to provide an exceptional show experience to our amateur and professional dressage riders and spectators through our variety of offerings. We attract top national and international competitors to the area, and we are continually striving to make our shows more attractive to a wide variety of show-goers.
We believe that not only is dressage alive and well in the Wellington area; it is thriving, and we invite you to join us this season to be part of our shows!
Editor’s note: Ms. O’Sullivan is show manager and managing partner of Wellington Classic Dressage and International Horse Sport Palm Beach, and president of the Gold Coast Dressage Association.