Letter: WEP Responds To ‘Boston’ Magazine Article

Wellington Equestrian Partners’ vision for Wellington has focused on creating an environment that blends horse sport with fun, family entertainment; a magical place centered around the love of horses. Whether interested in a carousel or pony ride, lessons at the riding academy, competition or as just a spectator, our goal is to provide a casual, welcoming environment for all regardless of socio-economic status. It is a unique place where diversity is celebrated and our vision is one of inclusion not exclusion. Our strategy is driven by the community, including the 12 Wellington schools that have honored us with great performances and the hundreds of community-based charities whose members regularly attend our events.

Comments in the article “Trouble in Paradise: Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs goes to War!” in the April issue of Boston magazine attributed to representatives of the Jacobs family were shocking. Mason Phelps’ comment — “This is a fairly upscale community, and we don’t need to bring the low- and middle-income hooligans into town and have them all of a sudden say, ‘Wow, good pickins’ out here.’” — is an inappropriate racist and classist comment that is not welcome in our community. I am hopeful that this is not enlightening us as to the Jacobs’ true agenda or representative of the Jacobs’ family opinions. As a United States Equestrian Foundation board member and the president of the National Horse Show, Mason should know better, and he should resign, as he has dishonored both organizations. In my opinion, Phelps’ tactics are often suspect and divisive, operating in the shadows and within blogs using pseudonyms to antagonize, insult, discredit and injure reputations for spite and money. Mason Phelps is not welcome at our private facility because he unsuccessfully and inappropriately tried to discredit the Great Charity Challenge, an organization that was co-founded by my daughter and is a passion for our family, our organization, our partners and the community at large. The GCC event has done wonderful things for this community, and his actions were shameful and misguided. Michael Whitlow, board member of the Jacobs’ Wellington Equestrian Preservation Alliance, offered this disturbing commentary: “With the circus atmosphere that’s being promoted, I think we’ve lost a certain amount of high-class dignity. I would like to see Wellington be the elite of the elites. The absolutely crème de la crème, the top of the top, as opposed to something for everybody.” Jacobs supporter Marcia Radosevich commented, “It’s a carnival; it’s not a horse show. I think it cheapens the sport.”

In response to these comments, I offer the following: If you do not like our event, our atmosphere or the caliber of people attending, then please do not come. It is your right. We welcome your feedback, but we are not bound by the sanctimonious opinions of elitists on what is entertainment, sport or good company. We are not perfect, but at least we try to make a difference in this community. Thousands of equestrians from all over the world and many thousands of weekly spectators from all walks of life have embraced our event.

Please understand, I grew up in the middle class, as did many of our partners, and we are products of the American dream. These classist comments, which appear to be promoted by the Jacobs’ representatives, is wrong for the event, the sport and this community. I am proud of our organization, our facility, our event, our contributions to job creation and our positive impact on the local economy. I am proud of the fact that thousands of Wellington school children and their families feel comfortable and welcome at our facility. I am proud of the fact that thousands of seniors, many who have limited budgets, attend our events and are happy to be a part of it. I am proud and honored to be associated with our employees who make this event happen; maintenance, security, secretaries, event staff and supervisors. I hope they, too, take pride in what they accomplish in support of our vision, because without them we have nothing.

Finally, I am proud of our partnerships’ commitment to our mission and vision. Rest assured our mission will continue, because no amount of money, personal attacks, spin campaigns, misguided council members or self-entitled billionaires will deter us from our vision to make Wellington the premier equestrian destination in the world — open to all who love horses or just want to be around them.

Mark Bellissimo, Managing Partner, Wellington Equestrian Partners


  1. There are several wealthy Welingtonians who have contributed to the Village of Wellington: Neil Hirsch-gave a huge amount to the new Boys and Girls Club of Wellington soon to be open on Wellington Trace, Victoria McCullough has made major donations to Wellington (and outside of Wellington), Mark Bellissimmo has his events at the Equestrian Festival that benefit many charities, but nowhere can one identify a major donation by the richest Wellingtonians, the Jacobs. Little bits and pieces but nothing compared to what these others have done.

    Too many Wellingtonians are beginning to feel that the Jacobs just want to protect their little homestead off of Pierson Road and could care less about the rest of the Village.

    How about a major donation for a Cultural Center for Wellington? ALL of Wellington could enjoy that, not just equestrians.

  2. “With the circus atmosphere that’s being promoted, I think we’ve lost a certain amount of high-class dignity. I would like to see Wellington be the elite of the elites. The absolutely crème de la crème, the top of the top, as opposed to something for everybody.”

    These words of Michael Whitlow are cause to have him removed from the Village of Wellington Equestrian Preserve Committee. It shows a pre-disposition to oppose anything that will make the horse shows more attractive to families and the general public.

    Whitlow seeks a conversion of equestrian sport from a thriving industry to a private club. That alone is not troubling. What should concern every resident and business in Wellington is that the ruling council majority of Bob Margolis, John Greene and Mat Willhite appointed Whitlow to carry out their elitist agenda.

    Not only does this ruling junta care not for jobs and tax revenue and family entertainment, they are willing to spend millions in tax dollars to implement their agenda through litigation.

  3. Mark has created the most successful horse show in the world, all financed with private money. As part of the process, he has ventured to try many different approaches to increase public appeal for Grand Prix jumping and the hunter/jumper industry. He is now turning those some talents to the dressage world.

    To put this in perspective, I wrote an article in 1975 titled “The Future of Grand Prix Jumping”, detailing the efforts of Gene Mische with the American Invitational and Jerry Baker the American Gold Cup. Their goal was to make Grand Prix jumping attractive to the public in an effort to attractive corporate sponsorship.

    Baker’s first Grand Prix in Cleveland featured a record setting purse for American Grand Prix competition – $3,000! Their efforts were designed so the exhibitors weren’t the only one’s footing the bill. That was 38 years ago!

    While the American Invitational is still running, the American Gold Cup and others have fallen by the wayside due to lack of economic support. Without economic support, the sport faces a slow and painful demise.

    Then Mark Bellissimo showed up. Mark’s disadvantage was that he didn’t come from the horse show world. But that disadvantage also meant he didn’t have the historic constraints that came with the industry. He had the courage to try different things – many different things. He approach was “outside the box”.

    I questioned the fire eaters and bounce houses when they first started. But you know what happened – people from outside the horse industry came to watch, to be entertained. And for the first time, the industry is getting outside support – the industry is growing.

    So for all those naysayers, it’s hard to argue with success. I started as a skeptic to Mark’s approaches. But a funny thing happened over time – his approaches worked. Saturday Night Lights is now one of the best attended regular functions in Wellington. And it’s filled with families. The Nations Cup event is a sellout. The FTI $500,000 Finale is a sellout.

    The bottom line conclusion is simple – his approach is working. The facility is now arguably the best facility in the world. The riders are the best of the best with the general public in the stands cheering them on.

    What Gene Mische, Jerry Baker and many others have sought for decades, Mark is bringing to Wellington. The entire hunter/jumper & dressage industry should be thankful for Mark’s efforts. It is the industry that flourishes from his efforts.

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