WEF Starts, Global Dressage Festival Arena Footing Installed As Grounds Near Completion

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Sea of coral-colored sand in outdoor arenas at Global Dressage Festival grounds with covered arena and permanent stalls in background. © 2012 Ken Braddck/dressage-news.com

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 11–The Winter Equestrian Festival, the world’s largest and longest-running horse show at 12 weeks, opened for jumpers and hunters at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Wednesday while competition arena footing was being installed and construction work moving ahead for the first dressage show at the center’s newly created Global Dressage Festival complex in early February

WEF is the centerpiece of Florida’s winter circuit that is showing signs of a fourth straight year of record entries of more than 2,500 horses during peak weeks, as many as 11 teams in the only jumper Nations Cup in the United States and selection trials for the U.S. Olympic jumping squad that hopes to win its third straight Olympic gold medal in London this summer.

Dressage competition at four South Florida show grounds includes 11 CDIs over three months, including five World Cup qualifiers and two CDI5* events with total prize money of well over $400,000 (€315,000). The first CDI, a World Cup qualifier, is scheduled at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center Jan. 19-22.

Wellington is already home base for many top Americans, as well as riders and trainers from throughout the Americas, Europe and Australia.

There is also a growing contingent of California and international riders, among them Swedish Olympian Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén here for her second winter, Jan Ebeling and Adrienne Lyle, to compete on the circuit that offers more CDIs in a small geographic region–all of the shows are within 30 minutes of one another–than anywhere else in the world as well as sub-tropical weather.

The World Dressage Masters is in its fourth year and the €100,000 (US$127,000) CDI5* is bringing British riders Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro and Carl Hester on Fiona Bigwood’s Wie Atlantico; Germany’s Anja Plönzke and Le Mont d’Or, returning from last year; U.S. combinations and defending title holder Steffen Peters of San Diego, Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida, Todd Flettrich of Wellington, Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho, and Pierre St. Jacques of Anthony, Florida. Canadian Olympians Ashley Holzer and Jacqueline Brooks, both based in Florida for the winter, are also expected to show.

The new Global Dressage Festival of five CDIs also includes a $125,000 CDI5* at the end March which is scheduled for the International Arena under lights at the main PBIEC show grounds the same weekend as the $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale CSI5* Grand Prix.