New Global Dressage Festival Grounds Approved for 1st CDI This Weekend

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Global Dressage Festival grounds just hours before the US Equestrian Federation approved the facility for the first competition--a World Cup event this weekend. The red trucks on the right of the picture brought the famous Budweiser Clydesdales to Wellington for an exhibition at the main show grounds Saturday night and possibly the GDF grounds on Sunday. © 2012 Ken Braddick/


WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 1–The new multimillion dollar Global Dressage Festival grounds on Wednesday were approved by the U.S. Equestrian Federation to host the first competition–a CDI World Cup event and a national show scheduled to begin Thursday.

The approval came after an on-site inspection by Eva Salomon, managing director of the USEF Dressage Department, and Debbie McDonald, a member of the USEF Dressage Committee.

“It is amazing,” said Debbie, one of America’s top dressage competitors as the trainer and rider of Brentina, after inspecting the new barns, bridle trails to the warmup and competition arenas and jogging on the surface.

“You have done a fabulous job,” said Debbie who has based herself in Wellington for the winter as the coach of Adrienne Lyle and Wizard. “I’m excited.”

Inspecting the Global Dressage Festival grounds--Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions; Eva Salomon, Managing Director USEF Dressage Department; Lloyd Landkamer, GDF Show Manager; Brett Raflowitz of Equestrian Services International, and Debbie McDonald, member of USEF Dressage Committee. One of the new judges' boxes is in the background. © 2012 Ken Braddick/

The first rider in the new arenas was Brittni Raflowitz, whose father installed the iconic pink footing, the same color as all the arenas in the sprawling Palm Beach International Equestrian Center of which the GDF grounds are a part.

Brittni Raflowitz riding into the new GDF main competition arena with her father, Brett, whose company built the rings. © 2012 Ken Braddick/

Total prize money is $275,000 for the GDF winter calendar of five CDIs–two World Cup qualifers, one CDI3*, a CDI5* and a CDIO.

The CDI5* is the only top ranked dressage event in North America in 2012 and has a purse of $125,000.

The opening competition is the $50,000 CDI-W, with 17 combinations from Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Korea, Puerto Rico and the United States scheduled to start in the Grand Prix on Friday.

The lineup of judges includes Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, president of the ground jury for the London Olympics; Leif Törnblad of Denmark and Gary Rockwell of the United States, both on the Olympic panel. The same three judges will be on the panel for the 2012 World Cup Final. The other two judges on the five-member panel are Gustaf Svaling of Sweden and Janet Foy of the United States.

Wellington Equestrian Partners that own the Palm Beach equestrian complex has spent more than $7 million in creating the Global Dressage Festival grounds on almost 60 acres (24 Ha) of what used to be the premier polo fields of Wellington before it grew to a city of about 55,000 people and the world’s leading winter equestrian destination with the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters as its centerpiece.

The Global Dressage Festival and the new show grounds were created to provide a home for dressage in the United States that is equal to the world’s best show grounds for the Olympic discipline. The GDF grounds include a central stadium arena in a man-made bowl that is being equipped with lights for nighttime freestyle events, a warmup arena and three competition/warmup arenas.

Two barns each containing 96 stables have been constructed for this season and another two barns will be built for next year that will bring stabling to about 400 permanent stalls.

The stalls are 12 ft. by 10 ft., (3.6m x 3m) all equipped with rubber mats. Instead of a lengthwise central aisle for each barn, there are eight aisles sideways to ease congestion. The stalls have sliding doors and a feed door.

A stall in the newly constructed barns at the Global Dressage Festival grounds. © 2012 Ken Braddick/

Competitors began moving in their horses within two hours of the approval being announced.

A major feature is one of the world’s largest covered arenas, measuring 360 ft. by 210 ft. (110m x 64m) that is sponsored by the heirs of Robert Van Kampen, a world renowned American financier who also amassed one of the greatest private collections of historic Christian articles.

A permanent VIP club is on the construction agenda for 2013.

Schedule for Feb. 3-5: GDF CDI-W Schedule