The 2022 Florida horse show season is underway! January 5 competition started at the Winter Equestrian Festival and on January 12 the Adequan Global Dressage Festival will start with a CDI W and CDI 4*. The opening press conference this year was via Zoom. Hosted by Jennifer Wood for Equestrian Sport Productions .The panelists were:
- Equestrian Sport Productions President Michael Stone
- Global Equestrian Group CEO Andreas Helgstrand (Andreas and Anders were joining in from Denmark.)
- Global Equestrian Group Commercial Director Anders Bjørnstrup
- Adequan Global Dressage Festival Director of Sport Thomas Baur
- 2021 U.S. Show Jumping FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final team member Lillie Keenan
- Top hunter, jumper, equitation rider and trainer Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm.
Michael Stone gave us the information about the improvements that have been made at the Winter Equestrian Festival : new footing in international rings as well as two other rings that are used mostly for amateur riders and young riders. The moisture level systems in these rings have been adjusted so there is less need for dragging the arenas. Also the railings in all rings are now higher, and safer. The acquisition of new property has provided new space for tent stabling and parking. There is a shuttle system to transport people to and from the parking.
He also told us that over the entire facility a lot of work underground has been done to improve drainage of heavy Florida rains. He stated clearly that the main concentration is on the horses and the rider experience, not so much cosmetic.
Andreas Helgstrand told us about the participation of the Global Equestrian Group. “We wanted to have events in both dressage and jumping. If we don’t create events, we won’t create sport or sales of horses or equipment. We really believe in events. That is why I fought for this [acquisition of WEF and PBIEC]. I was very happy and lucky that we could buy it. We are there to create something even more unique than what it is already. We want to take care of it and have Wellington stay as the best place on Earth for horse people. What I like is that this is run by passionate people and people with knowledge. Hopefully very soon we can also take over the dressage and go full power on that side as well.“
Anders spoke of the future direction for WEF. He said they had done a survey of riders and spectators. It was agreed that a change of footing was needed . “There was a huge list of things that came from the survey and so we prioritized a 5 year plan to develop the whole facility.”
Thomas Baur spoke about the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and the inclusion of more 4* classes. “These have been added so we can spread prize money out more evenly. Also riders can gain more points in 4* events. There will be five 4* shows.”
Lillie Keenan spoke about how WEF helped her to progress. “Wellington has been a place I’ve been coming to with my family since I was 7. I’m now 25. We have a place here so that helps to have home to come to. I have the opportunity to develop my business teaching and still be competing in a 5* myself. I started taking dressage lessons in Wellington. That really sparked me. You want to be competing with the best and they are here. You can do everything and we are really excited about the season.”
Patricia Griffith also found WEF a source of many advantages. . “We can allow for training as well as showing. The schedule allows you to pick what is important to you . You can move up and down the levels of classes both hunter and equitation. This is a place you can bring all your clients. The youngsters can see the Olympic riders. There is so much to learn just watching the various rings. It’s great because to show up at the final you have to be able to do the other hunter classes. We want to be able to do it anywhere and when we get to the final its not the first time we are seeing those questions. “
There are also WEF competitions at the Equestrian Village (The grass field site at the Global Dressage Festival showgrounds.) . Michael Stone also told us: “There will be 3 hunter events. as well as CSI’s and the Rolex final ( in week 12 )there as well. It is the best grass field in the world.
With regard to Covid precautions or restrictions Michael Stone said : “The State of FL has never had any mask mandates but catering staff will be wearing masks . Spectators are welcome again. For those who do not feel comfortable then we have a full streaming schedule. Also doing more vignettes and behind the scenes on our website highlighting grooms and those who do the really hard work behind the scenes.
Andreas was asked about dressage at WEF? We have a talked about already. We have talked about trying it.
Michael Stone added: “We are working on it. At the moment we have so many horses. Our objective is to grow both and put them in the best venue possible. It’s quite complicated”
So perhaps, in the future, Dressage and Jumping will take place at WEF.