This morning I was at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
I went to the opening press conference of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF).
Sponsored by Rolex the Winter Equestrian Festival is the longest running (12 weeks from January to the end of March) horse show in the world.
I arrived in good time for the 11am start of the press conference. The top riders in Jumper, Hunter and Dressage were there, as well as the President of Equestrian Sport Productions, who produce these two horse show festivals and a representative from Adequan, who sponsor the Global Dressage Festival.
Each person was introduced and said a few words about their participation in these two big horse shows.
Chloe Reid is in the top 10 of the Under 25 ( years of age) show jumpers. Chloe is now taking her place among the top show jumpers of the USA. She said that showing at WEF was a great experience as it had given her the opportunity to be exposed to many different atmospheres; showing during the day or a night under the lights, on grass or artificial footing. She is a previous winner of the Under 25 series that is sponsored by Hermes. “This gives younger riders a great opportunity to gain a lot of exposure.” she told us.
Liza Boyd is the three time Champion of the International Hunter Derby Championships. She is excited about the hunter derby competitions at WEF this year and also the new format of “hunt and go” which will be a combination of regular hunter class and a speed class. She thinks this will be fun for the crowds. “I started competing here when I was a kid,” she said. “I think this facility has helped my sport grow a lot and it helps young horses as they gain experience and leave more confident.”
Michael Stone is the President of Equestrian Sport Productions . He said that this season there will be two weeks of jumping at the Global show grounds on the grass to give riders and horses a different venue and footing to compete on during the long season of showing. He also announced that there was a 15-20% increase in entries for the first dressage CDI (Concours Dressage International) at Global over last years entries. He feels that the WEF and AGDF and their exposure on social media, have raised the profile of equestrian sport and the athletes. “Ten years ago the number one show jumper in the world could walk around and no one knew who he was. Now if Kent walks around people know who he is and they are lining up to watch him compete.”
Kent Farrington is the world’s Number One show jumper. “Wellington is my home so I like to be here. It gives me a chance to produce horses for the future and not have to travel to a different venue every week. At the start of the show season I will be showing my younger horses and then for the bigger competitions toward the end I will be competing my veterans.” He also added that WEF has made a big contribution to the sport. “In the last 10 years there has been improvement in the level of competition and now many top competitors are using Wellington as a home base.”
Allyn Mann represented Adequan , the sponsors of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Adequan has renewed their sponsorship for a further three years which is very good news. “The AGDF has changed the profile of dressage throughout the USA.” he said. “The success of the US Dressage team at the Olympics in Rio is something that shows how the amazing competition at the AGDF has helped” This year the competitors at the AGDF will be competing for scores to qualify to represent their countries at the World Equestrian Games to be held in Tryon, North Carolina, in September.
Juan Matute Jr is the World’s number 3 FEI ( International Equestrian Federation) Youth Dressage Under 25 rider. “This is my 6th season competing at the AGDF and it is a privilege to be able to perform here.” He said it is a great opportunity to produce young horses and give them lots of mileage. He goes with his father, Spanish Olympian Juan Matute, to Europe to compete in the summers. “After the season here the horses are warmed up and ready to go to compete in Europe.” He has four horses he will be competing in the CDIs this season. “The two younger horses I will compete in the Young Riders division as this is my last year to be able to compete in Young Riders.” This does not mean he is “old” it just means he will be over 21. And what are his goals? ” I want to continue learning and enjoying riding.”
As I am a dressage rider myself, I have watched this young man over the past years he has been competing at the AGDF. It has been a pleasure. He is a gifted and elegant rider who has had the advantage of progressing under the watchful eye of his father Juan Matute. And another thing……he is tall, handsome, charming and would be at home on the cover of GQ or strolling on the Red Carpet with any of the stars. However I am thankful he has chosen to pursue a career riding in Dressage. Dressage can benefit from talented young riders like this who are the leaders and the stars of the future.
And so…it’s showtime in Wellington Florida. I will be posting about the dressage events and also….I am planning a video tour of the WEF show grounds!