Global Dressage Festival 2013 Winter Schedule, Grounds Ready for Shows

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Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's Stadium complex that will host the Global Dressage Festival and Winter Equstrian Festival grass derby field events in the 2013 winter circuit. This photo was taken Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Dec. 5–The 2013 Global Dressage Festival of five CDI events with $275,000 in prize money and seven U.S. national events was confirmed Wednesday, along with a series of Winter Equestrian Festival jumper and hunter grass derby field competitions when no dressage is scheduled at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium complex.

The GDF schedule offers five of of 11 CDIs at three different show grounds in Palm Beach from mid-January to mid-April, including two CDI5* events, five North American League World Cup qualifiers and the only CDIO Nations Cup in the Western Hemisphere, specially tailord to mix small tour and big tour horses as a move to raise Pan American Games dressage to Grand Prix and retain its place as a qualifier for the Olympics.

With the show grounds approved by the local government for use from Nov. 1, 2012 to April 30, 2013, the Global Dressage Festival schedule is:

* Jan. 31-Feb. 3 – Wellington Dressage CDI-W/3* – $50,000
* Feb. 14-17 – Florida Dressage Classic CDI-W/3* – $50,000
* Mar. 14-17 – WEF Dressage Classic CDI3* – $15,000
* April 4-7 – West Palm Beach CDI5*/3* – $125,000
* April 11-14 – WEF Wellington Dressage Nations Cup CDIO3*/3* $35,000

The Van Kampen arena, one of the largest covered facilities dedicated to horse sports in the world, and some of the 200 permanent are already being used. A warmup national competition was held last weekend.

Denmark's Mikala Gundersen riding My Lady in a Global Dressage Festval warmup national show. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

A majority of the local government council that governs Wellington and was elected with support of a family that opposes the Stadium complex blocked construction of another 200 permanent stables, a permanent VIP pavilion and restricted use of the facility to half a year. The covered arena that was offered free of charge to charities and non-profits for 30 days a year cannot be used in summer, a period of the highest demand because of South Florida’s hot and humid tropical climate.

In addition to the dressage competitions, Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP), organizer of both WEF and GDF has scheduled events around the 2013 dressage circuit at the 63-acre (25.5 Ha) Stadium complex to include:

* A newly created hunter week on Mar. 6-10 in addition to the World Championship Hunter Rider Hunter Classic Spectacular that has been a major feature of WEF since 1997.
* The Hunter Derby as WEF’s finale event on Mar. 31, the last day of the 12-week circuit;
* Jumpers for the week of Feb. 20-24, jumper young horses Feb. 28-Mar. 2, and the $100,000 jumper CSI4* Mar. 24, and
* The second year of the innovative Spy Coast Farms’ Young Horse series for all disciplines Mar. 5.

The covered arena is large enough for three full size dressage arenas of 60 by 20 meters with room to spare.

The Van Kampen Arena, one of the world's largest covered facilities dedicated to horse sports, which the local government will allow to be used only half a year along with dressage rings and a grass jumper derby field at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's Stadium complex. This photo was taken Dec. 5, 2012. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The GDF facility and grass derby field have been built on the original Palm Beach Polo Club grounds that was the initial center of horse sports in Wellington until hunter/jumper competitions grew large enough to move to their own facility that is now the Palm Beach equestrian center.

The Sunday polo matches attracted thousands of spectators, but were abandoned a decade ago and a permanent grand stand was battered by successive hurricanes. High and medium goal polo tournaments meved to the International Polo Club also in Wellingtont.

Wellington Equestrian Partners, a group of wealthy horse owners, bought the original show show grounds and what is now the Stadium complex and invested several tens ofmillions of dollars in rebuilding the main PBIEC facility and creating the new Stadium grounds.

The partnership created Equestrian Sport Productions to organize the Winter Equestrian Festival and expand it to 12 weeks from six weeks. The Global Dressage Festival was inaugurated in 2012 to make the circuit the largest winter show season in the world with well over $6 million in prize money. Thousands of riders from across North America and 30 other nations compete on more than 2,000 horses per week.

The hunter/jumper shows accounted for at least $120 million of the $180 million of annual economic impact of equestrian sports on Palm Beach, according to a government study that was conducted before creation of the dressage facility.

The Wellington partnership owns the show grounds and has paid for all improvements and development from show revenues, receiving no tax breaks or use of any taxpayer funds.

The stance of the local council that mirrors that of the family that opposes the Stadium horse shows has led to a sharp reaction from Olympians and international riders from several nations denouncing their position as threatening the future of the Wellington shows.

The growth of the Wellington shows has led to substantial property ownership bu equestrians and high home and farm values in the community of 55,000 residents.