#RideForOurLives: Equestrians Aim To Protect School Kids

Wellington’s equestrian community is leading a movement to unite all equestrians across the country in the mission to keep children safe in schools and remember the victims of school violence.

Last month, 17 people were shot and killed, along with more than a dozen who were injured, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, less than an hour from Wellington.

Three-time Olympian Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, who is based in Wellington during the Winter Equestrian Festival, was deeply moved by the tragedy and is rallying the equestrian community to make a strong, unified statement to protect children in schools.

To showcase support for the initiative, Michaels-Beerbaum, her husband Markus and her daughter will ride into the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s International Ring, followed by a procession of the sport’s most decorated riders, including Lauren Hough, Danielle Torano and Jessica Springsteen, on Saturday, March 24, which is the same day as the #MarchForOurLives rally in Washington, D.C. Along with their respective children, the riders and horses will stand together in support of the mission to keep children safe in schools.

Joining the movement, The Chronicle of the Horse, the nation’s leading equestrian magazine, is inviting equestrians across the country to submit photos or videos of themselves and their horses holding a #RideForOurLives sign. A commemorative sign can be downloaded and printed from the www.coth.com web site. Submitted photos and videos will be shown as the athletes ride into PBIEC on March 24 at 6 p.m. Photo and video submissions will be accepted through Friday, March 23 via Facebook or Instagram using the #RideForOurLives hashtag, or via e-mail to results@coth.com.

Posters will be available for anyone who wants to join the ride and show their support. The ride at PBIEC on March 24 is open to the public to view and will begin at 6 p.m. Participants on horseback must arrive in the Rost Arena between 5:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.

People wishing to participate on horseback must wear an ASTM-approved helmet and a WEF or AGDF back number assigned to the horse and rider.

Horses must be stabled on the show grounds or must walk in. Trailering of horses cannot be accommodated. Individuals without a WEF or AGDF back number are welcome to march on foot. Registration is not required. For questions, visit the PBIEC Horse Show Office.

“This is not about right or left, this is about protecting our children and standing up for them. We encourage the equestrian community to take a stand to show that we need to do something about gun violence in schools in the United States. We ride together today as a testament that it’s time to take action,” Michaels-Beerbaum said. “We’re not standing for a specific rule change or a specific political party; this is a bipartisan effort to unite behind the fact that we don’t want our children killed in schools anymore.”

PBIEC is also hosting a memorial on Saturday, March 31 prior to the evening Grand Prix where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School choir will sing and 17 horses and riders will stand in the ring in memory of the lives lost.

Katherine Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners, which owns and operates PBIEC, is committed to supporting the effort to keep children safe in school.

“We are committed to protecting and growing the future of our sport, and keeping our children safe is critical,” Bellissimo said. “The vision of our partnership is to unite equestrians in all layers of life, and this plays into that goal in an even more meaningful level. We are all equestrians, but we are also a community of parents who love our children and want to protect them.”

For more information on the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, visit www.pbiec.com.