If it’s January, it means that the equestrian season has returned to Wellington, bringing with it the world’s best show jumping, polo and dressage competition. While most people know that Wellington is famous around the world as the winter capital of equestrian sports, far too many residents and visitors alike have never set foot in the village’s world-class sporting venues to see what it is all about. Still others know virtually nothing about what is offered between now and April right in their own back yard.
Feeling uneducated? Don’t be alarmed. Each of the equestrian venues go out of their way to make newcomers feel welcome.
First, there’s polo, a team sport played on horseback. The objective is to drive a small white ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet across a field the size of six football fields. The International Polo Club Palm Beach (3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington) is host to this fast-paced competition every Sunday afternoon through April 19 (other days, too, but the big crowds show up on Sundays). And while polo gives off the feel of wealth and privilege, a visit is surprisingly affordable. While luxurious seating packages are available, including the ever-popular Sunday brunch, you can enjoy good seats for less than a visit to a baseball game. Ticket options and complete schedules are available at www.internationalpoloclub.com.
If individuals hitting balls with mallets isn’t your thing, check out the Winter Equestrian Festival, where show jumping and hunter riding are the norm at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (3400 Equestrian Club Drive, Wellington). Jumper classes take place over a course of obstacles, which include verticals, spreads and combinations, usually with turns and changes of direction. The intent is to jump cleanly over the set course in the fastest time. Hunters are judged on the degree to which they meet an ideal standard of manners, style and way of going. Horse show for many different levels run five days a week, from Wednesday through Sunday. The weekend highlight at WEF is the popular Saturday Night Lights event, which features show jumping competition along with plenty of other entertainment for kids and adults alike. A sidebar to the Saturday Night Lights is that each weekend event allows an area school to show off their talents and fundraise. Various clubs and groups can be found at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, making the Saturday festivities a unique community affair for all ages. For more information, visit www.pbiec.com.
Finally, there’s the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, which takes place at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Stadium (13500 South Shore Blvd., Wellington). Dressage, sometimes likened to “dancing with horses,” is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition. To get a taste of this unique sport, check out the Friday Night Stars program, which features the popular musical freestyle class, where competitors ride choreographed to music. To learn more, and view the schedule of events, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
So there you have it: a trio of equestrian festivals and celebrations for everyone to enjoy. Feel free to take them one by one, but if you’ve decided to take them all in at once, make plans to enjoy the majesty of dressage on Friday, the thrill of show jumping on Saturday, and, of course, the power of polo on Sunday. Hope to see you there!