TALES FROM THE TRAILS
During the season, it seems as if you can’t throw a stone without hitting a horse show. There are the big venues: the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, home of the Winter Equestrian Festival; the nearby PBIEC Stadium, home of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival; and the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. There are other local show grounds, but Nona Garson had a different idea: a traveling feast of a horse show!
Garson, a highly successful grand prix show jumper who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics as well as other top international competitions, runs her Ridge Farm in Wellington and New Jersey. She conceived the Turf Tour: shows, sponsored by Dover Saddlery, held at various fields in the Wellington area.
It’s a great place for riders and/or horses aspiring to move up to the bigger classes. This nice change of pace features a relaxed atmosphere. Typically, two rings offer two classes running concurrently at varying heights with open cards throughout the day. This means you can show up for your class and ride whenever you want — a nice change from shows that run all day long and leave you guessing when your class will start.
Each rider rides the course. If he or she goes clear, without any knockdowns or time faults, the rider jumps the shortened jump-off course. At the end of the day, the rider with the fastest clear time wins.
I attended the Feb. 4 show, held on the polo field behind the Wanderers Club. The weather was perfect for people wandering back and forth along the sidelines or sitting up near the clubhouse to enjoy the complimentary lunch. Horses cantered over fences. Everyone was smiling.
“The Wanderers Club was kind enough to invite us,” Garson said. “It’s a 12-week series which gives riders of all levels an alternative to the bigger shows. Visiting other venues is always fun and helps keep the horses fresh and interested — and going on grass is always a treat. George and I are really pleased to be able to present something like this for our friends and peers.”
George is her fiancée, George D’Ambrosio, a fellow horse lover.
“We like to keep the shows fun and casual. We’re a polo-shirt kind of crowd, rather than a grand prix-jacket kind of crowd. Doing this is a little like bringing us back to when WEF began,” Garson continued. “The International Arena was grass back then… Having an open card is so convenient. You don’t have to wait around all day. You can plan your time and do other things.”
It can even be more convenient. There’s a horse taxi service available. Meadowbrook Horse Transport provides transportation to and from the horse show and other locations throughout Wellington for both the Wednesday and Friday events. The transportation is a nominal fee of $50 per horse.
Only in Wellington.
Linda Sheridan of New Jersey was showing and considers herself a Ridge supporter.
“I love the Turf Tour,” Sheridan said. “Showing on grass is better for the horses than sand, and it’s a really relaxed atmosphere. There’s room to ride and warm up, and you’re away from the hustle and bustle of the big shows. I like seeing the different venues. It’s a nice alternative. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
Alex Granato of Wellington has shown on the Turf Tour for the past three seasons.
“It gives the horses and riders a nice break,” Granato said. “It keeps the horses fresh, and they don’t get bored. I like the laid-back schedule. I definitely recommend it for green horses and riders or made horses and riders. It’s great for everyone.”
Susan Grange from Canada brought down 21 horses for the season.
“I bring my babies to these shows,” she said. “This is a perfect place for them to school over lower fences. They’re really relaxing shows, great for young horses, big open spaces, a wonderful alternative, very easy going. Nona and George have done a wonderful job. These shows fill a lovely niche.”
Typically, the shows run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are Wednesday classes for Open Jumpers, Pre-Green and Young Jumpers, Children’s/Senior Jumpers, two USHJA International Hunter Derbies, along with Equitation shows every Tuesday through March 23 and a series of schooling shows for all experience levels, and some shows on Fridays and weekends. The finale will feature the Ridge at Wellington Grand Prix Finale on March 27.
The results of each show are posted online on Facebook, and you can also watch the classes on ShowNet for both Wednesday and Friday events, as well as video rounds in both rings. For more information, call (561) 791-1471 or visit www.theridgefarm.com.