The kick-off of the 2018 season of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) is near. In fact, this is one of the main reasons that avid equestrians from the US and beyond choose to call Florida their winter home.
WEF is a multi-discipline event with classes in Showjumping, Dressage and Hunters, their competition doesn’t just focus on the professionals at the highest level, this truly is an inclusive event that encourages participation from the grassroots rider to the Olympic athlete. With over 70 divisions, classes on offer include lead-line, amateur and over 50’s.
Now heading towards its 39th year, the competition is managed by Equestrian Sport Productions and organized by Wellington Equestrian Partners. The Winter Equestrian Festival boasts 12 weeks of unalloyed fun, competition and lifestyle events taking place from January to April each year.
The show has come on a long way since its inception. In their first year, only a few hundred horses and riders took part. From those humble beginnings; WEF is now the largest multidiscipline circuit in the world, with 5000 horses and 2800 riders from 50 states and 33 countries attending.
Held at the breathtaking Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), one of the best-known equestrian facilities in the world, PBIEC encompasses 500 acres of grounds, and riding arenas taking up a whopping 80 acres alone. PBIEC also boasts the largest covered arena in the world, along with a further 17 competition arenas.
Held at the breathtaking Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), one of the best-known equestrian facilities in the world, PBIEC encompasses 500 acres of grounds, and riding arenas taking up a whopping 80 acres alone. PBIEC also boasts the largest covered arena in the world, along with a further 17 competition arenas
ONES TO WATCH
Nations Cup Competition
One of only two FEI Nations Cup competitions in the USA, Winter Equestrian Festival has the honor of hosting teams from around the world, all competing for national pride in front of thousands of adoring fans.
Battle of The Sexes
In the first week of competition, an action-packed tournament will take place that pits teams of men vs. women in classes including match races, and speed classes. Started nine years ago, the women have won every single event thus far!
The Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments®
My personal favourite event, the GCC welcomes 34 teams, each taking part to help secure the $1,500,000 payout for local Palm Beach charities. Teams of 3 riders, one pro and two junior or amateurs work together to ride one long course of 21 jumps.
Broken down into three sets of 7 jumps at varying heights, the riders complete a relay style course. With the first non-pro going in and riding seven jumps at 1.10mtrs, followed immediately by the next non-pro riding at 1.20mtrs and finally the pro finishes off the round with 1.30mtrs. Each team is paired randomly to a charity, and even the charities are chosen at random to make sure that the event is as unbiased as possible.
Rolex Grand Prix
The second to last week of WEF will host the crowd favourite, and largest single-class prize money of the show, the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*. Not open to just anyone, the events in the weeks leading up to the event will decide who has what it takes to partake, and only those horse/rider combos at the top of their game will be in with a shot at winning the half a million dollar prize.