World Dressage Masters May Be Dropped From Palm Beach in Major Revamp of Florida Winter Circuit

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Anky van Grunsven on Salinero (center) after capturing the 2010 World Dressage Masters in Palm Beach, Florida, flanked by Isabell Werth on Satchmo and Steffen Peters on Ravel. Photo: Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
One of the highlight World Dressage Masters Palm Beach, Anky van Grunsven who competed Salinero (center) after capturing the 2010 event, flanked by Isabell Werth on Satchmo and Steffen Peters on Ravel. Photo: Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The World Dressage Masters, a highlight of the Palm Beach winter circuit for the past five years, appears unlikely to make it to the revamped Florida show calendar but would be replaced by the richer and season long Adequan Global Dressage Festival of six top international events, according to members on U.S. federation committees expected to approve the 2014 show schedule next week.

The decision not to continue WDM in Palm Beach was in the process of being finalized following what officials describe as a “rationalization” of Florida’s winter show lineup, probably the most intensive high performance schedule in the world. It came about after organizers of the Global Dressage Festival (GDF) bought the dates of Wellington Classic Dressage.

The 2014 GDF calendar will dovetail with the Winter Equestrian Festival of jumper and hunter competitions over 12 weeks from early January to the end of March. Both competitions are organized by Equestrian Sport Productions and staged in separate parts of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that were created specifically for the Olympic disciplines of dressage and jumping.

Details are expected to be approved by the U.S. federation next week after months of negotiations between the organizers, ESP and Wellington Classic, and various committees of the license-issuing federation.

Senior managers of ESP could not be reached for comment as they were said to be on vacation while Wellington Classic Dressage did not respond to questions.

However, John van der Laar, who manages the Dutch-based WDM organization, said negotiations were still going on for a new contract for Florida.

The GDF organizers have been planning for several months events that are more ambitious than WDM, even beyond a winter with substantial prize money and a lifestyle destination of sub tropical vacation weather in the midst of Europe’s snow and ice-plagued winters that already draws the world’s top jumpers.

What’s planned, though not yet approved, is a dressage and jumping and event in Central Park in the heart of New York City that would rank as a global equestrian extravagaza attracting spectators from throughout the Americas to see the sports elite riders in one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks.

The new Florida winter schedule tentatively lists World Cup events Jan. 8-12, Jan. 22-26 and Mar. 12-16, a top-ranked CDI5* Feb. 5-9, the third year of the pioneering Nations Cup Feb. 19-23 CDIO about the same time as the jumping Nations Cup that could create the first CHIO outside Europe, and the finale CDI5* Mar. 26-30, the same week as the final CSI5* jumping Grand Prix.

The iconic Palm Beach Dressage Derby World Cup event that Mary Anne McPhail took over, managed with Evelyn O’Sullivan and supported on her own Equestrian Estates in neighboring Loxahatchee will be the only other CDI and held the first week of March. It has become the traditional date of the 30-year-old show. Management of the event was passed to the Florida-based Danish Olympian Lars Petersen and Ed Borresen in recent years who brought in Wellington Classic Dressage as partners.

National competitions, including at least one show organized for the non-profit Gold Coast Dressage Association, will be sandwiched around the CDIs at both Wellington and Loxahatchee, thus ending shows at the taxpayer-owned Jim Brandon Center in West Palm Beach that had hosted several CDI and CDNs in recent years, including WDM from 2010 through last winter.

Since being first reported by dressage-news.com two months ago, USEF committees and show organizers have finalized details to the point where approval is expected next week.

At the same time, the Village of Wellington council that governs the horse show-centric community of almost 60,000 residents a half-hour’s drive inland from storied Palm Beach provisionally approved permits for dressage competitions from Nov. 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014.

The Palm Beach WDM would be the third of the original four WDM events–Wellington, Florida; Munich, Germany; Cannes, France and Hickstead, England–to drop out of the annual calendar. Munich remains.

Equestrian Sport Productions was actively involved in creation of WDM at a pilot event in Cannes, France in 2008.

Wellington became the inaugural event of the lineup of €100,000 (US$132,000) shows in 2009 when Munich, Cannes and Hickstead were added. Cannes did not repeat after 2009 and Hickstead dropped the event after 2011.

Falsterbo, Sweden was added three years ago and Mechelen, Belgium became the first indoor WDM in 2012 but dressage at the Christmas holiday show is being reviewed ahead of this year’s event.

Three World Cup competitions, a Nations Cup, a top ranked CDI5* and a second high level Grand Prix as either 4* or 5* will be staged in the winter of 2014 at the GDF show grounds that opened three years ago after being built at a cost of almost $10 million.

The first two years of WDM in Florida were held at the PBIEC show grounds and attracted the world’s top riders, including Anky van Grunsven, Isabell Werth, Edward Gal, Ulla Salzgeber and Steffen Peters. They filled the 4,000-seat stadium for the events that featured the Freestyle.

WDM’s Dutch management company was unable to provide top ranked European riders in 2011 and it was moved to the Jim Brandon Center in nearby West Palm Beach and organized by Wellington Classic Dressage.

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro were among the star combinations of the 2012 WDM, six months before the pair from Great Britain won team and individual gold at the London Olympics. That event was won by Steffen Peters of San Diego, California and Rave.l

Ravel was competed by Steffen Peters in four of the World Dressage Masters staged in Florida. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Ravel was competed by Steffen Peters in four of the World Dressage Masters staged in Florida. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Steffen and Canada’s Ashley Holzer have been the only riders to compete in all five WDM events–Steffen with his two-time Olympic mount, Ravel, and in 2013 with Legolas while Ashley rode her 2008 Olympic mount Pop Art in three events and Breaking Dawn whom she competed at last summer’s London Games in 2012 and 2013.