While communities across the nation have struggled through hard times, Wellington always has been able to begin each year on a bright note, secure in the knowledge that new polo and equestrian seasons had begun. These vital industries have acted as a buffer, partially shielding Wellington from stormy economic seas.
Through it all, Wellington has been able to rely on the Winter Equestrian Festival and International Polo Club seasons to thrive in an otherwise sluggish economy. Unfortunately, the ongoing equestrian civil war that has divided the local horse community threatens to cast a dark shadow over the show season. This week, Wellington Village Council members debated whether the village should end its association with the show, given the pending litigation of which the village is a party.
The heart of the argument lies with the battle between the Jacobs family, owners of Deeridge Farm, and Wellington Equestrian Partners, owners of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and the controversial Equestrian Village site. However, their disagreements and lawsuits haven’t stopped the Jacobs family and its allies from participating in the Winter Equestrian Festival horse shows, because they realize shows are shows — and the show must go on.
There needs to be a dividing line between the political/legal wrangling and the horse shows that make Wellington so unique and special. Politics must stop at the in-gate, if you will. If not, the long-term consequences could be devastating. Sure, Wellington’s council might be battling the owners of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, but Wellington is not battling the Winter Equestrian Festival. To some, this might seem like a minor distinction, but it most certainly is not. In fact, it is the crucial distinction that will let the community weather this storm and emerge whole.
The show grounds and the show itself need to be separate and distinct from the people who own the facility and manage the property. Just like with the Olympics, the United States may not like the country hosting the event, but with one sad, destructive exception, we’ve managed to put aside our differences and participate.
In these challenging economic times, it is foolhardy to pretend that Wellington exists in a completely separate universe from its signature industry. Wellington remains a great community with first-rate parks, excellent schools and wonderful shopping. But it’s hard to argue the fact that a big part of the village’s identity is the world-class horse shows. Not only does this put Wellington on a different level from other similar communities in South Florida, but it gives the village international cachet as well. But these are only some of the extra benefits of the equestrian community. WEF is big business, and that business is a huge boon for Wellington.
Of course, the success of the equestrian and polo seasons is mostly up to the show-goers, and that includes the local community. We urge everyone to come out and help support both. It’s a great way for families to spend the day together. The 2013 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival runs through March 31 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (14440 Pierson Road, Wellington). For tickets, visit www.equestriansport.com or call (561) 793-5867. For more information about upcoming Sunday polo matches at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, call (561) 204-5687 or visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.