Global Dressage Festival One Step Away from Year Round Shows

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Palm Bach International Equestrian Center's Global Dressage Festival grounds and gass jumper derby field. © 2013 Ken Brsddick/dressage-news.com
Palm Bach International Equestrian Center’s Global Dressage Festival grounds and gass jumper derby field. © 2013 Ken Brsddick/dressage-news.com

WELLINGTON, Florida, Oct. 3–The Global Dressage Festival is one step from being able to stay open year round after a key Village of Wellington committee voted Tuesday night to approve ending a restriction that has allowed the show grounds to be open for only six months a year.

The five-member Village of Wellington council is scheduled to meet Oct. 22 to decide on use of the show grounds after the Planning and Zoning Board voted to approve year round activities at the 59-acre (24 Ha) venue, part of Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The Equestrian Preserve Committee signed off on year round use a month ago.

The year-round actions by the government have no impact on the Global Dressage Festival winter circuit as a temporary use certificate to permit shows to be held from Nov. 1 to April 30 has already been approved.

The latest committee vote came just hours before Wellington was named as one of two prospective show grounds in the United States to be selected as a candidate to host the World Equestrian Games in 2018.

Equestrian Sport Productions, organizers of the Wellington horse shows, had withdrawn from an earlier round of bidding for the 2018 WEG–the showcase of seven horse sports including the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping that are held once every four years. ESP cited obstacles created by the local government as the reason for pulling its bid.

The latest government approvals process comes more than two years after a wealthy family funded election of a local government opposed to the dressage show.

If the plan approved by the committees passes muster with the full council it would end a political nightmare ihat severely restricted access to the show grounds and, at one point, led to horses being forced out of newly built permanent stalls for a temporary tent with no water or electricity.

The Global Dressage Festival was opened two years ago with six permanent competition arenas, 200 permanent stalls and a covered arena capable of easily accommodating three full size dressage rings and shares the venue with a world class grass derby jumping and hunter field.

The committees have now approved a third stable building of about 100 stalls to increase total permanent accommodation to almost 300 horses plus temporary tent stalls, a VIP pavilion and expanded spectator seating that the organizers said was designed to prepare for future growth.

A major road expansion to ease potential traffic problems was also part of the package and included creating a second access to the GDF grounds.

The price of approval was shelving plans for a condominium hotel and an equestrian-centric retail plaza on what used to be the prime Palm Beach Polo Club grounds in Wellington but had not been used for several years.

The GDF grounds are part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that also hosts the Winter Equestrian Festival, 12 weeks of jumper and hunter competition that has become the world’s foremost winter equestrian destination.

Beginning with the 2014 circuit, the dressage and jumper circuits have been dovetailed to begin and end at the same time. The dressage calendar includes three World Cup events, a CDI4*, a CDIO3* Nations Cup that will create a template for the 2015 Pan American Games and a CDI5* with total prize money of more than $450,000.

Highlights include scheduling the dressage Nations Cup about the same time as the jumping Nations Cup in mid-February and the dressage and jumping 5* events on successive nights as a grand finale for GDF and WEF.