The winter equestrian season is underway in the Village of Wellington, launching last weekend with the start of the 2018 high-goal polo season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. That will be quickly followed by the opening of the 39th annual Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
This is the time of year when equestrian athletes from across the world arrive in Wellington with their horses to take part in a wide array of horse sports — and there are ample opportunities for local residents to take part in the festivities, both as competitors and as spectators.
The 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington. It is the longest-running and largest equestrian circuit in the world. Each winter, riders from 33 countries and all 50 U.S. states travel to Wellington to compete. The venue covers 500 acres, with 80 acres of competition rings alone. Over the course of the 12-week circuit, more than 6,500 horses will take part in a festival that hosts more than 100 divisions for professionals, amateurs, juniors and children.
PBIEC general admission is free to the public during the WEF circuit, which hosts competitions from Wednesday mornings through Sunday afternoons. Numerous vendors and shops are open throughout the circuit, showcasing items and products ranging from horse wear and tack to art, jewelry, fine clothing and emerging technologies. The popular Saturday Night Lights competitions serve as the highlight class of the week for top international show jumpers and the most popular for spectators, and take place on each Saturday evening during the season. For more information about the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and the Winter Equestrian Festival, visit www.pbiec.com.
The Adequan Global Dressage Festival, meanwhile, takes place nearby at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Stadium, located at Equestrian Village at the corner of South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road. The AGDF begins this weekend and runs through the end of March. This will be the seventh consecutive year of the rapidly growing dressage festival and will set the stage for top horse and rider combinations, providing indispensable opportunities for riders seeking qualifying scores for the upcoming World Equestrian Games to be held in September in North Carolina.
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. 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 overall schedule of events, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Finally, there’s the winter polo season, featuring a sport that has been associated with Wellington for more than four decades now. The International Polo Club Palm Beach draws the attention of the polo world during the winter months, and the 2018 season is expected to be one of the largest yet, welcoming players and teams from around the country and the globe to Wellington for the most competitive succession of tournaments in the nation. The season opened Dec. 31, and concludes with the USPA 114th U.S. Open Polo Championship final April 22. Polo matches are open to the public, with a wide range of hospitality and guest seating, including elegant grandstand viewing, field tailgating, stadium seating, field-side champagne brunch and exclusive sponsor boxes. Ticket options and schedules are available at www.internationalpoloclub.com.
Our area is unique in that it is the winter home of these three amazing equestrian sports. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the action!