2017 Winter Equestrian Festival Hosts Opening Press Conference in Wellington

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®.

Tuesday’s press conference panel (left to right): U.S. Olympic Show Jumping  Team Silver Medalist Kent Farrington, three-time USHJA International Hunter  Derby Finals winner Liza Boyd, Equestrian Sport Productions’ CEO Mark  Bellissimo, U.S. Olympic Dressage Team Bronze Medalist Kasey-Perry Glass, Allyn Mann, Director of Adequan®, and AGDF Director of Sport Thomas Baur.
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.”