Foreign Riders Outnumber North Americans in Wellington Grand Prix For 1st Time in Non Championship Big Tour in USA

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Top ranked comnination of Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Don Auriello. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Top ranked comnination of Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Don Auriello. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 22, 2016–Foreign riders for the first time will outnumber North Americans at an Adequan Global Dressage Festival Grand Prix and likely for a non-championship Big Tour event staged in the United States or Canada.

Of the 52 combinations entered for the World Cup Grand Prix this week, 24 are from North America–16 horses and riders from the United States and eight from Canada.

The other 28 are from 15 different countries on five continents–Africa. Asia, Europe, Oceania and, South America.

The growth of the Global circuit launched in 2012 by Equestrian Sport Productions that also organizes the Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center was reviewed by dressage-news.com going back several years before the launch of the dressage circuit in 2012.

The inaugural Global dressage festival recorded a total of 95 Grand Prix horses and riders–79 from Canada and the United States–in four Big Tour CDIs and total prize money of about $250,000.

With a centerpiece international arena, a covered competition space large enough for three full size dressage rings, multiple other outdoor arenas, some permanent stabliing and VIP and bleacher seating for about 3,000 spectators the venue has revolutionized the Olympic discipline in the United States.

Organizers introduced the first non-championship Nations Cup that formed the structure for the Pan American Games, big money CDI5* and 4* Grand Prix, World Cup qualifiers and the first CDI Amateur event in the world.

It has grown to seven CDIs with prize money of more than $700,000 this year, making it the world’s premier winter circuit and a major  venue on the annual calendar.

The growth of foreign participation in the Florida circuit is extraordinary in that many owners and riders commit to fly horses across the Atlantic in contrast with Western and Central Europe where most competitions are within a day’s drive.

So far in 2016, four Grand Prix events were scheduled in three CDIs in January and February.

The first Grand Prix of the season saw a total of 37 combinations, 20 from North America. The second Grand Prix jumped to 50 starting combinations with 30 from Canada and the U.S.

In February, the numbers skyrocketed to 38 in a CDI3* and 30 in a CDI5* staged the same week, with 19 and 20 North Americans, respectively.

This week’s World Cup event attracted 52 entries for the fourth event of the Global season.

Combinations from Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Palestine are seeking to qualify individual starts at the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Riders and horses from Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Sweden and the United States are competing for places on their teams that have already qualified directly.

North American riders are also competing for the two places assigned to the continent at theWorld Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden at the end of March.

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén, the six-time Swedish Olympian, will ride Don Auriello, her championship mount, to earn enough points to wrap up qualifying for the World Cup Final in her homeland.

She is already ranked No. 8 in the Western European League and can pick up enough points in Wellington to assure an invitation with only one qualifier remaining on the WEL calendar.

Early indications are that the Nations cup that created the blueprint for the Pan Ams last summer with a mix of both Big and Small Tour teams from the previous all Small Tour championships, could see a record 10 teams.

If close to 10 teams do sign up to field a minimum of three horses and riders and a maximumm of four with full Grand Prix squads permitted for the first time, Canada and the United States may be restricted to one team instead of two as in previous team competitions.