Kimberly Boyer: Supporter of Top Horse Sports

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Kimberly Boyer, a daughter of the late American financier Robert van Kampen, at the covered arena her family's foundation funded at the Global Dressage Festival. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Kimberly Boyer, a daughter of the late American financier Robert van Kampen, at the covered arena her family’s foundation funded at the Global Dressage Festival.With her is Thomas Baur, sports director for dressage at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 20, 2014–In 2011, as a meeting was breaking up of the Wellington Equestrian Partners, a group of wealthy individuals and families joined in a common goal to back development of the Winter Equestrian Festival, Kimberly Boyer spoke up and stopped everyone from heading for the exit.

“We’re going to lose dressage if we don’t do something,” she said in a plea aimed at reversing the decline of dressage competitions at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that was undergoing a multimillion dollar rebuilding to make it one of the world’s top equestrian destinations–for jumpers.

Her plea was met by a receptive audience. Although almost all the partners, such as Bruce Duchissois and Hunter Harrison, are focused on jumping and hunters, coats came off while they discussed the issue and conducted a straw poll. The partners were unanimously in favor of doing what it takes to have dressage get as much support as its Olympic kin. That was the signal chief executive Mark Bellissimo, was waiting for as he was looking for ways to give dressage a world class stage.

On the polo fields that were the original center of horse sports in this community that has grown to about 50,000 people 17 miles (27 km) from Palm Beach, the Global Dressage Festival complex was built of three competition arenas each with a warmup ring and all with Olympic quality footing, 200 permanent stables with more to come and, of course, the Van Kampen covered arena that easily holds three full size dressage arenas with room for spectator stands.

The foundation that Kim operates donated funding for the arena, not just for competitions but requiring that it’s available free of charge for at least 30 days a year to non-profit groups.

What she and no one else anticipated was that a family with a nearby equestrian compound would wage a campaign to block the dressage facility with the size of the covered arena a target. One of the members of the family has competed in jumping on the grass derby field that is part of GDF the family succeeded in killing a proposed condominium hotel and an equine-centric shopping mall.

Kim prefers to talk about the positive aspects of the covered arena–a no frills, efficient building that, she said, would appeal to her late father’s Dutch heritage. “This,” she said, “is in the best interest of the community, not only the riders but the horses and the kids.

“For those reasons this is a dream come true to make it available to the whole community.”

The Van Kampen covered arena as a centerpiece of the Global Dressage Festival grounds. © Ken Brsddick/dressage-news.com
The Van Kampen covered arena as a centerpiece of the Global Dressage Festival grounds. © Ken Brsddick/dressage-news.com

The equestrian pursuits of Kim, who has Hampton Green Farms in Michigan as well as in Wellington near GDF, are truly international.

In 2000, she was phasing out of academia, still publishing but faced with having to choose beteween horses and getting a position within academia. She has a doctorate in English, specializing in medieval studies and trained and specialized in rare books curatorship and research. She designed her schooling to work with her father’s collection of Christian memorabiia considered among the greatest in the world.

Kim opted for the equestrian life.

She bought her first P.R.E.–pure Spanish horse–in 2000. At the time she had warmbloods and was still relatively new in dressage.

She went to a big breed show in Spain and was really impressed with the 300,000 spectators and the character and abilities for collected movements of the horses.

“I saw so much potential,” she said. “I was looking at it from the point of view of why was no one in the USA doing it?

“I got hooked. I loved the horses and thought, ‘this is great Everyone should have one’.”

Kim owned Grandioso, the P.R.E. stallion that was competed for her by Courtney King-Dye before her life-altering accident.

“Courtney loved the horse,” Kim told dressage-news.com. “He was her No. 1 horse although he was green and was preparing to compete for a place on the team for the WEG in Kentucky. After Courtney’s accident I held on to the horse because I didn’t know how quickly her recovery would be. It became obvious around Kentucky she would not be able to compete the horse.”

The powers that be in the U.S. weren’t interested in alternative breed horses so she went to Spain “still having no idea what to do,” she recalled.

“I was approached by Jan Bemelmans (Spanish team coach). He saw a video of Courtny riding Grandioso and asked what happened to it. He came up wth idea of him coming to Florida with Dani. Jan believed the best Spanish horses should be competing for Spain.”

Dani was Jose Daniel Martin Dockx of Spain, who competed another of her horses at the Spanish championships.

“That was hard to say ‘no’ to,” she said of Jan’s pitch.

The partnership with Dani has paid off.

Daniel Martin Dockx and Grandioso at the 2012 Olympics in London. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Daniel Martin Dockx and Grandioso at the 2012 Olympics in London. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dani and Grandioso were on the Spanish team at the 2012 Olympics in London and the top finishing Spanish combination at the 2013 European Championships in Herning, Denmark. “Dani” is planning to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France with Grandioso, now 15 years old.

“I’m extremely happy with the way things have worked out. I love the people in Spain. I love being part of the team as we go into the championships. In a way, we were outsiders but seeing the improvements and seeing the world more open and receptive to these horses it has been a great journey.”

If the situation arises again where she has a a prospective international horse–“and that day may come very soon”–she believes she may be able to place it “in good hands in America.”

She has become the force behind the United States P.R.E. Association, the national organization of PRE horse and the Exclusive Manager of the PRE LG Studbook.

Kim and the group are active supporters of the Global Dressage Festival and their designated show this week will include a mix of competition, entertainment and promotion.

“It has been a fun ride for however long it lasts,” she said.