It has been said that the only constant thing in life is change. Yet here in the western communities, the arrival of January marks the return of the equestrian season. It is comfortable and familiar, even with changes that have been taking place in the industry.
This upcoming week marks the opening of the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington. The four-month-long show series, which is both the longest-running and largest equestrian circuit worldwide, runs through April, and we encourage area residents and visitors to the area to partake of all that WEF has to offer. The same goes for the amazing high-goal polo that takes place at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which kicked off its 2017 season last weekend.
One of the major changes that has taken place in the industry recently is that IPC was purchased at the end of the 2016 season by a partnership headed by horse show promoter Mark Bellissimo. Bellissimo’s partnerships also own and operate the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the Winter Equestrian Festival, the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and the Wanderers Club. This has brought all of Wellington’s major equestrian venues under common ownership. It has also brought much-needed capital improvements and a unity of purpose to the industry, with polo, jumping and dressage now operating under a similar vision with better coordination and collaboration among the venues.
Despite Wellington being the winter equestrian capital of the world, many people who live in the western communities know nothing about the three primary equestrian activities which will permeate the next few months. So, we are offering a primer.
First, we encourage you to visit the Winter Equestrian Festival. This is an event where “hunter” and “jumper” horse shows of all levels take place on specially designed courses. They are different, though; hunter shows are judged subjectively on the degree to which they meet an ideal standard of manners, style and way of going. Jumper shows take place over an obstacle course, which can include verticals, spreads, and double and triple combinations, usually with many turns and changes of direction. Horse and rider pairs are judged primarily on speed and accuracy. Don’t know when to visit? Check out the weekly Saturday Night Lights event, which features show jumping competition, a kids fair, a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting and a Venetian carousel. For more information, visit www.pbiec.com.
If courses of horses aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps polo — the sport of kings — would be to your liking. The objective is for a team of riders on horseback to drive a small white ball into an opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet. The International Polo Club is host to the highest levels of this fast-paced competition every Sunday afternoon through April 23. Ticket options and schedules are available at www.internationalpoloclub.com.
Finally, there’s the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, which also gets underway next week. That takes place at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Stadium property at the corner of South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road. Dressage is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an “art” sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery. It has often been compared to dancing with horses. The Friday Night Stars Grand Prix Freestyle program is a unique opportunity to check out the shows, which feature the popular musical freestyle class, where competitors ride choreographed to music. To learn more, and view the schedule of events, visit www.gdf.coth.com.