Wellington’s Horse Shows Could be Among Biggest Ever As Coronavirus Decimates Much of World’s Competitions
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 4, 2020–The winter-long Global Dressage Festival and its companion Winter Equestrian Festival could be among the biggest ever as coronavirus has decimated the schedule of horse shows around the world.
Many top riders are already in Wellington or are expected soon that Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions that organizes both shows, said Monday that the jumping Nations Cup could see as many as 12 teams.
Thomas Baur, the Global Sport Director, did not want to speculate on the possible number of dressage teams but among possible nations could be Japan with Olympic team prospects as well as Germany, Canada and the U.S.
Tim Dutta, whose Dutta Corp. is the largest air transporter of show horses in the United States, said as many 700 horses were expected to fly in from overseas, mostly from Europe.
The jumping series kicks off this week and the Global circuit of 12 weeks, including seven CDIs–three World Cup events, a CDI5*, two CDI4*s and the Nations Cup–launches next week.
Both circuits at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center are key preparation for the Olympics, as they were in 2020 before coronavirus forced postponement of the Games for a year.
Steffen Peters said from his San Diego, California base that he is bringing three horses to Global, including his top mount Suppenkasper, on a cross-country flight that was full of West Coast horses.
He plans to drive across country to fulfill a “bucket list” wish. He plans to compete in three CDIs, unlike the 13 starts of last season, in a bid to be selected for his fifth American Olympic team.
Both the dressage and jumping shows will have no spectators, but the economic impact of that is minimal, Michael Stone said, because there are no admission fees to attend the shows in normal times. Most European shows depend on spectator entry charges.
The only major sponsor to pull out, he said, was a cruise line that has not been able to operate for most of the past year after Covid-19 brought a halt to many activities, including most horse shows, in mid-March last year.
Competitions resumed at the Global grounds in May and continued from then on throughout the Palm Beach Center.
Strict enforcement of limiting the number of people to two per rider and horse combination plus trainer and groom, temperature checks of all arrivals, social distancing and mask wearing has been largely successful so far, Michael Stone reported.
“The biggest challenge is to keep everybody safe,” he said. “Hopefully, ‘Covid fatigue’ doesn’t set in. We should be OK as long as everybody does their part. We’re confident everyone will do whatever they can to follow the rules.”
The horse shows were vital to the livelihood of many hundreds of people, including grooms and others directly involved in showing as well as the wide range of support staff, most of whom were paid only for working at the shows–so no shows no income.
The VIP tents will be open during both circuits but with occupancy about halved to insure social distancing.