2018 Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Concludes Standout Season

After six weeks of thrilling hunter, jumper and equitation competition at the Flintfields Horse Park, the annual Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) culminated yet another successful season. The action took place from July 4-Aug. 12 and attracted athletes and spectators from around the globe in search of world-class equestrian competition boasting top-notch amenities for both horses and riders.

“It’s been a beautiful show,” said Beezie Madden. “The footing has been fantastic and the stabling is beautiful. The scheduling has worked out beautifully – we’re done in the afternoons and able to enjoy the town, which also is fun to be around with great restaurants. We’ve really enjoyed it here.”

Beezie Madden and Coach won the most coveted prize of the summer at GLEF in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City CSI3*. Photo by Diane Hadsall Photography

GLEF has received rave reviews for its ideal location in the charming, family-friendly resort area of Traverse City, Michigan, since its inception four years ago. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, it is home to breathtaking beaches, a number of championship golf clubs, over 40 vineyards and wineries, microbreweries and fine dining restaurants featuring farm-to-table cuisine. It is also conveniently located near the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America” by ABC’s Good Morning America.

“We just love it,” said Heather Irvine, head trainer at Hillside Farm. “It’s a great place, and it’s a destination horse show too so people can come and be on the lake, skydive, go parasailing, golf and have a family vacation at the same time.

“The footing is lovely this year,” continued Irvine in regards to the show. “Every ring has been re-done. The new fencing around the showgrounds looks nice and there are great course designers, judges and a top management team.”

Offering divisions for all levels of horses and riders as well as increased prize money throughout this year’s circuit, Weeks III-VI also included FEI-rated competitions featuring CSI2* and CSI3* grand prix events. For the first time ever, GLEF hosted two consecutive CSI3* competitions during Weeks V and VI. The season concluded on Sunday, Aug. 12, with the highly anticipated $100,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City CSI3*, which was won by two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and current Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final champion Madden and Coach.

Another fan-favorite at GLEF is the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Copper Fox LLC, which was held in the Grand Prix Ring during Week IV and won by Peter Pletcher and Quintessential.

Peter Pletcher and Quintessential. Photo by Diana Hadsall Photography

In addition, weekly USHJA National Hunter Derby competitions were offered through Week V, while hunters took center stage at GLEF during Week II as World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week was highlighted in the Grand Prix Ring.

The very popular Equitation Tuesday competitions, held each Tuesday during Weeks II-IV, also returned to the GLEF schedule in 2018, providing GLEF equitation exhibitors ample opportunities to collect double the amount of valuable qualifying points per week in one location.

Already a beloved horse show that is highly regarded throughout the United States and beyond, the team at GLEF continues to make it their mission to grow with each season and be better than the last by listening to exhibitors and spectators on what can be done to enhance the GLEF experience.

Prior to this year’s festival, a number of upgrades were made to the facility, under the direction of GLEF show management team, Morrissey Management Group, to markedly improve the show’s accommodations, particularly the footing and fencing enclosures in all of the show rings and schooling arenas, courtesy of GGT Footing and 4G Surfaces.

“Footing has become a primary thing for us when we’re picking which horse shows to go to,” said Tom Wright, head trainer of Uphill Farm. “Now that Traverse City has this premier footing, I think we’re going to see a lot more horses and barns coming here. It’s a great thing.”

“The fences look great around the rings – I think it looks very clean,” praised Caitlyn Shiels, head trainer at True North Stables. “The footing is definitely a huge turnaround from last year. This is probably my fourth year here and I’m very satisfied with the footing this year. The horses like it and it’s only going to get better. We’re very happy.”

The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival would like to thank the extraordinary sponsors, exhibitors and spectators who have helped make 2018 its best year yet and looks forward to returning to Traverse City, Michigan, next year July 3-Aug. 11, 2019!