Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Wellington, FL – January 10, 2017 – Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) hosted an opening press conference on Tuesday, January 10, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, to kick off the start of the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) circuits.The 12-week WEF will host thousands of the world’s best horses and riders competing in the hunter, jumper, and equitation disciplines starting Wednesday, January 11, and running through April 2. The AGDF features the stars of dressage from Thursday, January 12, through March 25.
Tuesday’s press conference panel included Equestrian Sport Productions’ CEO Mark Bellissimo, AGDF Director of Sport Thomas Baur, U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team Silver Medalist Kent Farrington, U.S. Olympic Dressage Team Bronze Medalist Kasey-Perry Glass, three-time USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals winner Liza Boyd, and Allyn Mann, Director of Adequan®.
Bellissimo began by welcoming everyone to the 2017 WEF and AGDF circuits and spoke first of major improvements in infrastructure that have been made at PBIEC thanks to participant recommendations.
“At the end of last circuit we had a meeting of riders, trainers, and owners to discuss opportunities to improve the Winter Equestrian Festival,” Bellissimo stated. “One of the biggest areas of interest was the footing. We did renovation of the rings, with full removal of footing in the International Ring and its schooling area plus an overhaul of the footing in all of the rings. We also increased the drainage footprint around the arenas. We had an unusually large amount of rain last year, so we wanted to make sure that we kept ahead of that. There were major barn area enhancements, from drainage to aesthetics.”
Bellissimo continued, “We made a major investment in bridle paths this year. We elevated the paths and put in material that allows them to drain better and operate in a more efficient way. We added ring eight as an open riding area. We reduced two stabling tents to decrease congestion and relocated those areas so that we could add another ring that’s being called the South Ring. We also created a bridle path that goes along the canal past Mallet Hill, and leads to a 12-acre grass polo field that anyone can hack on. Those are the major changes that we have put forth.”
Bellissimo looks forward to another great season as the tremendous amount of support from equestrian athletes worldwide continues to grow at WEF. The latest acquisition of the International Polo Club (IPC) will help even further to achieve goals of connecting the equestrian world and bringing different disciplines together more than ever before as plans continue with that new venture.
Looking at the 2017 season at WEF, the $75,000 Wellington Regional Medical Center Battle of the Sexes is the first “Saturday Night Lights” event on January 14, which always provides a high-level of entertainment and fun action for the community to cheer on.
The Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments®, is another great community event that will reach a mark of over $10 million donated to over 200 Palm Beach County charities in its eighth year. The event will be held on Saturday, February 4, with teams of pro-am riders putting on an exciting and philanthropic night of competition to benefit 35 local charities.
This year’s WEF will host four weeks of CSI 5* competition, with a new CSI 2* division running concurrently during each week, which will allow riders of different levels to contest international competition. The highlight $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* will be on Saturday, March 25, during week 11 this year due to the upcoming FEI World Cup Finals at the start of April.
A major event on the radar for many show jumpers this season, the FEI World Cup Finals are an important goal for international show jumper Kent Farrington in 2017 and played a big part in Farrington’s plans for the WEF circuit. Currently the number three ranked rider in the world, and a team silver medalist competing for USA at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, Farrington has his sights set on the World Cup. He will use the WEF circuit to prepare top mounts Creedance and Gazelle for the championship event. Farrington plans to ride his Olympic mount Voyeur in the 5* competitions at WEF, and will work with new young talents throughout the WEF season.
“What’s really great about Wellington is that there is an opportunity to do a little bit of everything,” Farrington noted. “I have a mixed group of horses here from very young horses from age five that are just learning to go to a show, to my most experienced grand prix horses that are 15 years old and competing at that high level. For me, this is a combination of spring training for my younger ones and it is still an opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best for five-star level, big money competition. I think that is why WEF is unique. That is why we make it our home, and that is why you see a big part of the world spending the winter here. You can do a little bit of everything with the horses and come out way ahead of the game.”
Along with top show jumping competition, WEF features divisions for every level of hunter horse, including week six’s $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular and week 12’s $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. This year’s circuit also includes the addition of two new $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby competitions.
Three-time USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals winner Liza Boyd looks forward to a great 2017 season with her horses and riders. Boyd stated, “There are so many opportunities here for the hunters. The hunter format is growing; the pipeline for hunters is growing. The addition of the young hunter classes for the five, six, and seven year olds is really appreciated. It is a great opportunity for owners and really good for the industry. The National Hunter Derbies are really good for the young horses. There is nice prize money, and it is also a great opportunity for juniors and amateurs to compete and to learn. The addition of the South Ring is wonderful. There are just so many opportunities, starting from the cross rails, which my daughter will be competing in this year.”
Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Begins on Thursday
The Adequan® Global Dressage Festival kicked off the 2017 season on Tuesday as AGDF Director of Sport Thomas Baur discussed exciting new additions to its circuit this year.
“We are introducing a lot of new and exciting things at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival this year,” Baur detailed. “For the first time in a World Cup Qualifier in North America, we will use the new FEI Freestyle system where the riders have to bring in their floor plan beforehand, and the freestyle is judged according to the floor plan. The system has been used in the Western European League for qualifiers and worked out really well. The judges and riders appreciated that very much, and it will give a more objective view on the subjective freestyle for the judges.”
Baur continued, “We also introduced a new spectator judging app, which has been very popular in Europe during the season, especially at the CHIO in Aachen. It is an interactive tool where the spectators can judge mark-by-mark and then compare their scores to the judges. We have introduced some new divisions for the show this year as well, including a CDI for children, and a CDIO Under 25 Nations’ Cup. It is also the first time that those classes have been hosted in the Western Hemisphere. As usual, we have our four CDI-Ws, a CDI5*, one CDI4*, and the CDIO, which is part of the FEI Nations Cup Series.”
U.S. Dressage Olympic Team Bronze Medalist Kasey Perry-Glass was also on the panel for Tuesday’s press conference and expressed her enthusiasm for the AGDF’s start on Thursday. Her Olympic mount, Dublet, will be among her rides in Wellington this winter.
“I think it is nice that as an Olympic team we are coming back to compete on our home soil. I’m really excited about that,” the rider acknowledged. “My first priority for Dublet this year is keeping him happy and healthy. Having so many competitions at AGDF makes it possible to do that because we can plan out our show schedule. Coming off the Olympics has just been a whirlwind, and I’m just excited to get back in there to compete and be with my friends. We have great sponsors, and good organizers and show management.”
Allyn Mann of Adequan® has been one of AGDF’s biggest supporters from the start and looks forward to another fantastic season at both WEF and AGDF. Remarking on the kick-off to another year, Mann stated, “We are really blessed to have the opportunity to be involved in such a wonderful sport. Mark has done a wonderful job of elevating the level of dressage in this country by coming up with this concept to actually have high-level competition in the span of a short period of time. When people like Kasey or Allison Brock or Laura Graves can compete at such a high level of competition without having to travel across the pond, it can really make a difference. I think we saw the evidence of that this past year at the Olympics. In a way I feel that we have had a little piece of the pie to help bring that to fruition.
“We are excited to continue to showcase some beautiful horses and beautiful riders in 2017,” Mann continued. “The nice thing is that we also get a chance to play here at WEF as one of the 12-week sponsors. We do enjoy the jumpers and the hunters as well. We are even involved in the Wellington Eventing Showcase. Our philosophy is really to try to touch as many disciplines as possible and to support the owners that make all of this possible. It is our little way of giving back to the community and helping to put on some really good events for spectators to enjoy. When it’s all said and done, we are humbled by the opportunity and blessed by the manypeople we get to meet on our journey.”
The team at Equestrian Sport Productions looks forward to welcoming the best in equestrian sport to both the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival and 2017 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival. For more information and a full schedule of events, please visit www.PBIEC.com and www.GlobalDressageFestival.com.
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