July 30,2012 - Wellington, FL - There must be something in the air in Palm Beach County, or else something in the water, that grows champions, because when it comes to Olympic dressage, the road to London goes straight through the Village of Wellington.
The Florida town with a permanent population of 57,163, along with its neighboring burgs, can lay claim to full-time or part-time hometown honeys hankering for Olympic gold in London and competing here including Steffen Peters, Tina Konyot and Adrienne Lyle, who ride for the U.S., David Marcus, Jacqueline Brooks, Diane Creech and Ashley Holzer, who wear the Canadian maple leaf on their shadbellys, and Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven, who rides for Team Sweden.
And the list of former Olympians in dressage who call Palm Beach County home−at least part of the year−includes Michael Poulin, Carol Lavell, Michelle Gibson and Lisa Wilcox who rode for the U.S., Lars Petersen from Denmark and Bent Jensen, a former Dane but now a citizen of the U.S.
Wellington and Loxahatchee together with other nearby towns in Palm Beach County can rightfully tout themselves as the avowed winter capital of dressage in the United States for the past 31 years and the 2013 season promises something for the international competitors as well as local riders. The World Dressage Masters CDI 5* held Jan. 23-27, 2013 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center can only get bigger and better. In 2012, the show drew nearly 10,000 spectators and competitors.
Managing partner and show manager of Wellington Classical Dressage (WCD) Noreen O’Sullivan hosts the event as well as many others during the 24 weeks of national and international dressage shows throughout the year.
“The World Dressage Masters CDI5* Palm Beach show, presented by the Axel Johnson Group, is one of the highest at the international level,” O’Sullivan explained. “The five-star show, of which there are only four World Dressage Masters competitions worldwide, is the only one ever held on U.S. soil.”
The Wellington area also offers great prize money to dressage competitors. “During its 2011 – 2012 season, WCD awarded nearly $200,000 in total prize money at 10 national and three international competitions during the winter season,” O’ Sullivan said.
The area also boasts the prestigious Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDIW. The 2013 Derby, scheduled for Feb. 28-March 3, will be the 30th anniversary of the show at the nearby IHS Champions Park. It was one of the first U.S. shows to offer top prize money in dressage and bring some of the foremost European judges to the United States.
“I think that Wellington and the Palm Beaches really are such a great destination for World Class Dressage and all things equestrian,” O’Sullivan said. “We are so fortunate to have our well-established venues for dressage at Palm Beach County Jim Brandon Equestrian Center and the IHS Champions Park in nearby Equestrian Estates. Many top trainers tell me what a great advantage it is to be able to keep their horses in consistent work and competition year-round. It truly is a unique place to come to see the World Dressage Masters, stay for a season, or live here year-round!”