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The Winter Equestrian Festival jumps to Wellington

Stephen Brown

 

    From January to April, Wellington truly is the epicenter of the horse world. Polo ponies run high at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, rider and horse dance the delicate ballet of dressage at the Jim Brandon Center, thoroughbreds put in their final workouts before the Kentucky Derby at Palm Meadows, and Grand Prix show jumpers and hunter discipline take to the ring at one of the largest and most comprehensive horse shows in America at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s (PBIEC) Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Running from January 11 to April 1, the PBIEC opens for 12 weeks of all things equestrian, attracting more than 3,000 horses and 2,800 riders from 49 states and 30 countries, making it the largest and longest running equestrian competition in the world.

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's Winter Equestrian Festival - Nick Skelton on Big Star - Photo Cred: Sportfot

   The Winter Equestrian Festival is where the U.S. Equestrian Team is forged, and this being an Olympic year, competition is sure to be tight with a selection of trials and qualifiers not only for the Olympic games, but the FEI World Cup Finals as well.

   The goal of the PBIEC is to turn Wellington into the premier equestrian destination in the world, which they are well on their way of accomplishing. The facilities, which sit on 500-acres with a 100-acre equestrian show complex, include 15 show rings, stables, a vendor area, PBIEC's International Arena in Wellington - Photo by: Dunn's Aerial Photographyclub house, event area and the White Horse Tavern, and are second to none in the Untied States, hosting more than 250,000 horse-minded visitors over the course of the festival. Riders competing in Grand Prix show jumping and the hunter discipline battle it out for more than $6 million in prize money in prestigious events including the FEI Nations Cup, the Finale Grand Prix, FEI World Cup Grand Prix qualifiers and the WCHR/USHJA Hunter Spectacular.

   Each week at the WEF is considered its own horse show, with competitions happening from Wednesday to Sunday throughout the complex, culminating with at least one major competition either under the lights on Saturday night and/or on Sunday afternoon in the International Arena. Competition is steep with a Grand Prix event scheduled each week, and two continual series, the WEF Challenge Cup and the Suncast 1.50M Championship Classic, running through the entirety of the festival.

Winter Equestrian Festival at PBIEC in Wellington - Scott Stewart on Inclusive - Phot By: Sportfot

   On week one, the WEF Challenge Cup and Suncast 1.50M Championship Classic kick-off, and continue through week 12. Week two, competition continues with the Wellington Realty Grand Prix with a $50,000 prize purse. In week three the popular Nespresso “Battle of the Sexes” exhibition takes the ring with $55,000 up for grabs. Week four culminates with the $80,000 Adequan Grand Prix. Week five will host the first of two World Cup qualifiers (the finals will be in Holland in April), with $125,000 in prize money on the line. Week six is packed with the WCHR/USHJA Hunter Spectacular and the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge taking place. Week seven hosts the $100,000 Fidelity Investment Grand Prix. Week eight hosts the only FEI (the International Equestrian Federation governing body) competition in the United States with the FEI Nations Cup, where teams from all over the world descend on PBIEC’s International Arena for a chance to hoist the prestigious cup, and $75,000. The second World Cup qualifier takes place in week nine with a $200,000 purse. Week 10 hosts the $80,000 Pennfield Feeds Grand Prix. The Olympic Trials take center ring in week 11. And the WEF culminates on week 12 with the FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix, worth $500,000 in prize money, and wraps the festival-long WEF Challenge Cup and Suncast 1.50M Championship Cup competitions.

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington - Photo by: Dunn's Aerial Photography

  Though the PBIEC and the WEF host some of the top riders in the sport with world-class competition, the WEF is not just for seasoned professional riders. The festival hosts competition for children, juniors, adults and amateurs, including riders from as young as 6 to as old as 70, with more than 55 divisions to suit a rider’s ability. This unique setup allows the future riders of the sport to cut their teeth side-by-side with the some of the best on the planet, not only encouraging growth within the sport, but has created an environment where mentorship and family participation is incubated.

 

For more on scheduling and WEF information, please visit PBIEC’s website here.

 

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

3401 Equestrian Club Estates Rd.

Wellington, FL 33414

561-793-5867

 

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