Every year the village of Wellington in West Palm Beach, Florida hosts one of the most anticipated horse events across the globe. The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival is the longest yearly equestrian event worldwide, held this year from January 8th to March 30th. I attended the festival for the first time 15 years ago. I would go on to attend at least once a year for 8 consecutive years after that. Breaking a 7-year hiatus, I traveled to again from February 28th through March 1st to the Wellington Winter Equestrian Festival. This was the 8th weekend of 2014’s event and I was reminded of what I had been missing. I was amazed at how much the place has changed and how much more crowded it had become (for the better from my perspective at least, though probably a nightmare to many.) There were more horses and riders than you can imagine in one place.
On Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup presented by G&C Farms, a competition of equine show jumping. The competition lasted late into the evening and included 45 riders from 12 countries. Canada prevailed in the $75,00 competition, followed by Great Britain in second, and the United States in third. There was some outstanding competition from the other countries participating; including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, and Venezuela.
On Saturday morning I had the opportunity to tour the farms of Victoria McCullough and Marcia Radosevich, two prominent names in Wellington and the world of horses. Victoria is a familiar face on Capital Hill where she advocates against horse slaughter and the distribution of horsemeat for human consumption. We will feature Victoria soon in a special blog series called “Crusaders for Equine.” She has rescued hundreds of horses, 20 of which reside on her Wellington Farm. She is looking to purchasing a large farm in Maryland.
Marcia, a Wellington resident and Wellington board member has lent her voice to the debate of the commercializing the city’s Equestrian Preserve. She, like many others who have invested significantly into their horse properties, sees the good in the continued development of Wellington as a hub for equestrianism but not at the cost of the land values. Marcia is an advocate for green concepts as is evident in exploring her property. The roof of her barn is covered in solar panels, which have taken the building completely off of the grid. She also uses recycled rainwater collected from her paddocks employing a unique sun shelter design that not only collects rain water but allows the shadows to move with the sun protecting the grass and soil.
That afternoon I attended the horse show and hung out at the Amberway Equine booth were I met riders, trainer, owners, some potential clients and signed copies of my book “Healthy Stables by Design.” It was a beautiful day, especially considering I left DC with 6 inches of snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens and single digits.
Sunday marked the day of the premiere polo match at the International Polo Club of Palm Beach. The weather was absolutely perfect and brought out a great crowd. I was a guest of Mason Phelps, founder and president of Phelps Media Group and sat at his table of 12 on the rail.
Important to note is the tragic loss earlier that week in the untimely death of Carlos Gracida. He died in a freak polo accident while playing polo in Wellington. Flags remained at half-staff in honor of Gracida who trained royalty or his lifetime. A memorial service was held at International Polo Club the day before. He will be missed but never forgotten.
The polo match that afternoon put Team Orchard Hill and Team Valiente head to head in the finals of the C.V. Whitney Cup. The match was closely contested in the beginning but saw Valiente pull away to a 12-8 victory.
Following the match I rushed to the airport to fly back to DC only to find all flights north had been cancelled due to bad weather in the Northeast. I was “forced” to stay in Wellington another two days and suffer through the 70 to 80 degree temperatures and gorgeous sun while everyone in DC was digging out of yet another snowstorm. Woe is me.