Cold weather aside, I love the winter show season. Whether they are indoors or outdoors, so many exciting circuits happen over the cooler months, drawing in thousands of super talented horses and riders. This is the time of year that we are going to see the biggest and the best! From championship formats to pony hunter derby classes, we paired up with the team at Draper Therapies to round up our favorite classes going on this winter season to keep you in the know.
Slowly, but surely, HITS Ocala is becoming my favorite winter equestrian destination. A little more low-key than the hustle and bustle of WEF, but still insanely competitive, HITS Ocala has really evolved into something special over the years. There are several classes on the schedule for their Winter Circuit series that I can’t wait to watch.
The first four weeks feature both a $25,000 and $50,000 Grand Prix which will allow several riders to snag their spot on the podium. On week five, however, the prize money doubles as they offer a $50,000 and $100,000 Grand Prix over the weekend. That increased prize money is bound to draw some big name over from Wellington for the week, so I imagine this will be a hot weekend to follow.
View this post on Instagram
nothing I love more than victory laps! • info! rider: Aaron Vale horse: Finou 4 camera: Canon EOS Rebel T6 lens: Cannon 75-300mm date: HITS week X – March 26, 2017 location: HITS Post Time Farm • brands & such! get 25% off your @sand_cloud purchase by using my code GabriellaWhi25 get 10% off your @exquisiteequineapparel purchase by using my code GABSPICS • tags! #horses #equestrian #HITS #ocala #canon #300mm #jumping #horsesofinstagram #horseshow #horsephotography #arenas #hitsocala #canonfanphoto #tagsforlikes #jumpers #pony
For you derby lovers, never fear weeks four and ten will feature a $25,000 International Hunter Derby on Saturday night.
There is no doubt that the big class to focus on during the Ocala circuit is the $1 Million Grand Prix to close out the season on Sunday, March 24th. Last year the one and only Beezie Madden dominated this class with the ever-talented Breitling LS. Will they return to defend their title?
On the other side of the country is the equally exciting HITS Coachella circuit which kicks off in mid-January with the USHJA Gold Star Clinic. While it isn’t a class, we are still eager to follow along as young riders who very well may be the next Beezies or McLains of the world gather together under the tutelage of Olympic level riders for four days of instruction. I love following along with these clinics and the riders who emerge from these programs.
Following that each week offers a $30,000 Grand Prix and a $70,000 Grand Prix, which I personally think is a huge development for the West Coast equestrian industry. You can find some really exciting riders in these classes, ones who may not get all of the publicity as other riders who travel to WEF for winter but are just as talented. There are also two USHJA Pony Hunter Derby classes in weeks three and seven.
Week nine is jam-packed with classes to close out the circuit and keep you on the edge of your seat. First off is the R.W. Mutch Equitation Championship on Friday, followed by the Zone X NAJYRC Qualifiers on both Friday and Saturday. The week closes out on Sunday with the always exciting AIG $1 Million Grand Prix. Last year the show grounds were full to the brim with spectators who watched as Nayel Nassar blazed to the win in this exciting showdown.
Of course, WEF is always a pinnacle for equestrian sport during the winter season, and this year is no exception. Prize money for big classes at WEF range from $6,000 to the six-figures, which of course is one of the main reasons this venue is packed all season long.
As a huge fan of the U25 series, I am happy to see there are a handful of U25 Grands Prix classes throughout the season. Week four has a $72,000 Grand Prix as part of their Equinimity WEF Challenge over in the derby field, which is always a fun class to watch! We saw big names and some up-and-comers come out on top of this class throughout the circuit last year, so we can’t wait to see who will rise to the top in 2019. Also in the derby field in week four is the $209,000 M&S Grand Prix and a $72,000 1.50 Classic.
Dotted throughout the season schedule are a handful of USHJA International Hunter Derbies and several equitation classes such as the ASPCA Maclay or the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal.
Palm Beach Masters
The Palm Beach Masters series has yet to release their 2019 show dates, but if you reflect back on the 2018 schedule, then you know this series will kill it again this year. Riders such as McLain Ward, Beat Mandli and Adrienne Sternlicht took advantage of the fun environment and beautiful atmosphere at Deeridge Farms in 2018, so we expect to see quite the star-studded turnout this year.
The biggest class on the schedule last year was the $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup Wellington qualifier, which will return to Deeridge on the 3rd of February next year.
World Equestrian Center
For those of us who can’t escape to the beach this winter, we escape to the beautiful (and heated) indoor show complex of the World Equestrian Center in Ohio. This fun, family-friendly show is the perfect spot for rising riders to get their start and enjoy a winter away from home. Their Winter in the Midwest series is lined with classes I intend to follow along with such as their $25,000 Grands Prix and $2,500 National Hunter Derbies.
There are also a handful of medal classes where riders can snag those much-needed points such as the Ariat Adult Medal, the ASPCA Horsemanship Class and the Washington Pony Equitation class. Paired with the super fun activities WEC offers throughout the season, this show schedule is definitely a fun one to follow along with.
View this post on Instagram
Congrats to @ride_forward and our boy Portofino who clinched their first ribbon in the Green 3’, in their very first round in the division, this afternoon! We didn’t know what to expect when he moved up … but this was a fantastic start! Back at it again tomorrow! #teamBigSky #horse #equestrian #parlantimoment #worldequestriancenter #horsesofinstagram #horseshow #greenhunter #horseshowlife #trakehner #horseshowstyle #equestrianstyle