Global Dressage Festival Inaugural Show Was “Test” Event for North America’s Richest Circuit

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World Cup Freestyle victor James Koford on Pharaoh, sponsor Gaye Scarpa of Magnolia Farm and Janet Foy of the USA, president of the ground jury. © 2012 Ken Braddick/


WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 6–The Global Dressage Festival inaugural show became a “test” event as the first of five CDIs making up the richest circuit in North America with $275,000 in prize money.

The features that mattered most to riders and trainers–footing in the competition and warmup arenas, quality of the ground jury and $50,000 in prize money–received rave reviews.

Although entries in the $50,000 World Cup event were small with just 15 in the Grand Prix and only four opting to go on to the Freestyle, most choosing the Olympic Grand Prix Special, the placed combinations made what may be more money in a weekend show than ever before.

The USA’s James Koford competed two horses, picking up more than $9,000 for his Freestyle victory, second place in the Special and third and fourth placings in the Grand Prix. Canadian Olmpian Ashley Holzer whose barn is close enough to hack her horses to the show won $5,600 for her victories in the Grand Prix and the Special.

For Jim Koford, a hugely popular rider, the earnings were by far the largest ever for a weekend’s riding. “I’m pumped,” he texted “New boots!”

Amongst all the highly favorable reviews, he perhaps summed up best the impact of the new facility that is on about 60 acres and is part of the sprawling Palm Beach International Equestrian Center whose centeriece event is the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) of 12 weeks. The Global Dressage Festival’s five CDIs are all staged the same time as WEF.

“I am so pumped about this venue,” he said. “It makes me a little crazy that the other riders had better start embracing this place because it really is such a special place. It worries me that at WEF they have doubled their entries this year over last year and they will want to be at this facility.

“So everyone had better jump on board. This is the best deal in town. It has everything and prize money. It’s a spectacular venue. It’s as close to Europe as we’ve got. I just couldn’t be happier. I don’t want to stick my neck out, but this is where it needs to be.”

Other riders, officials, judges and spectators shared the sentiment in varying degrees.

Ashley Holzer rode her 2008 Olympic mount, Pop Art who, she believes, is enjoying renewed youthful vigor, and said of the new grounds: “The footing and the venue is great. I think it’s wonderful what Mark Bellissimo (CEO of the organizing committee) has done here. For dressage to grow, we need a facility like this. They have done a great job in a short amount of time.”

Leif Torblad, a Danish 5* judge, said “it looks like it is becoming very nice show grounds. The stabling was OK. The show was managed very well. The grounds are fantastic. It will become a very nice place.”

What could have been a black eye for the organizers instead backfired on opponents of the show grounds who tipped off government inspectors that not all the paperwork was in order.

The inspectors made a Kafkaesque decision to force horses to leave the new permanent barn with 10 ft. by 12 ft. stalls, rubber mats throughout, designed to allow the air to flow, with running water and generator power.
From these new stalls. © 2012 Ken Braddck/
They were moved to a tempoary tent with 9 ft. by 9ft. stalls, water pumped from a truck and the same generator power, as approved by the government.
Riders were puzzled by the lack of common sense and concern for the horses, and angry at those who brought in the local government because, according to emails obtained by, not all required inspections had been made. this tent.

Even without such harassment, many parts of the grounds were not ready though everyone seemed forgiving for its first outing.

Michael Stone, preisdent of Equestrian Sport Productions that manages the Palm Beach center and its shows, said” “We expect everything will be ready except the covered arena for next week’s event.” The giant covered arena was not included in plans for the shows this winter circuit.

The next competition is another World Cup qualifer scheduled for Feb. 16-19.

While it does not affect horses and riders directly, a vital component is the media. Reporters shared a tent with the show management–but that was a major improvement for reporters who more often than not get no faclities at U.S. horse shows. Even more unusual, reporters and photographers were provided food and drink so they could work without wasting time standing in line or go without.

And critical to helping promote dressage, the organizers employed professional public relations people to help set up interviews and provide access.

Typical of remarks was that of Laurie Moore who moved from her base in Michigan to Wellington in anticipation of the new facility and competed in national classes: “It’s fabulous! The facility has the ambiance of a very significant event with all of the international flags flying over the arena. I felt so important!”

Dorie Addy-Crow of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, rode three horses in national classes and said: “I think the footing and the barns are awesome. The horses all did great and the ring has such a large atmosphere. We’ll be back.”

Gaye Scarpa, who with her husband, Joseph, ows nearby Magnolia Farm that is one of the founding sponsors of the Global Dressage Festival, said at the end of the show: “Just being a part of this beautiful venue and able to contribute in a small way to its success is exciting. Joe and I are thrilled with the participation,the positive reviews and look forward to the coming weeks as the shows develop.

“How lucky are we to live in Wellington and have friends that are such amazing visionaries.”