Originally from Salt Lake City, Alex Granato has represented the U.S. in Nations Cup competition and won more than 40 Grand Prix events. His riding career began with western riding lessons at the age of five, returning to the saddle at age nine for lessons in English riding. He began competing locally and became the youngest rider to win the Utah Hunter Jumper Association Medal Finals. At age 17, he moved to nearby Colorado to train with an eye on the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. From 2006-13, Granato dominated the Midwest circuit and in 2012 was named to the USEF Long List for the U.S. Olympic Team. He started his own barn and training operation in 2013, naming it Mad Season LLC. He based it out of Wellington, where he first competed in 2012. He has had success recently in Wellington, where he helped the men’s team capture the Battle of the Sexes for the first time in 2018. Also in 2018, he rode to victory in the $50,000 Equiline Grand Prix aboard Carlchen W and took the top spot in the $35,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 8. He ended the year winning the $35,000 Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital 1.50m Qualifier CSI 4*.
Whether it’s Wellington, the Olympics or the World Equestrian Games, show jumper McLain Ward is well-prepared for the challenge. Ward started riding after being encouraged to take up the sport by his parents, who were professionals in the industry. In 1990, at age 14, he became the youngest rider to win the USEF’s Show Jumping Derby. At the 2004 Olympics, Ward won the gold medal as part of the United States team — a feat he accomplished again at in 2008. He was back at the Olympics in 2016 as part of the silver-winning U.S. team. In 2017, Ward won the Longines FEI World Cup Championship aboard his 2016 Olympic mount HH Azur. That was also the year he was ranked #1 in the Longines FEI world rankings for the first time. He is currently ranked at #4 and is the highest-ranked American. In 2018, Ward and his mount Clinta were instrumental in the U.S. winning the team gold medal at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C. Ward powered the U.S. home after a head-to-head jump-off, the first in team jumping history at WEG, against Sweden. A talented rider, Ward is a dominant force to watch when he’s back in action this season at WEF.
Mexican show jumper Eugenio Garza Perez comes from a long line of equestrians. Horses have been in his family for generations. Garza has moved quickly up the ranks since he came to the United States to train eight years ago. Working with trainer Eddie Macken, one key to his success has been his mount Bariano, which he purchased in 2012. The pair jumped to the gold medal at the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships in 2013, before moving on to Grand Prix classes. At WEF last year, Garza and Bariano claimed the $35,000 Bainbridge FEI 1.45m Classic during Week 3. He also placed fourth in the $50,000 Hermès Under 25 Series Final. Later in the season, he rode to victory in the $135,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Columbus aboard Victer Finn Dh Z. Garza then headed across the pond where he and his Mexican teammates Federico Fernandez, Patricio Pasquel and Enrique Gonzalez shocked the Europeans by winning the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Ireland in Dublin last summer. In the fall, Garza and Victer Finn DH Z jumped to the lead in the $132,000 1.50m Horseware Ireland Welcome Stake at the Tryon Fall 4 CSI 5* competition.
A two-time Olympian for his native Colombia, Daniel Bluman holds dual citizenship with Israel, and he recently switched flags in an effort to qualify an Israeli show jumping team for the Olympics. He rode under the Israeli flag at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C. Bluman began riding at three years old. As a young rider, he competed in Colombia, Germany and the United States, training with some of the top equestrians in the world, including Nelson Pessoa. In 2007, he moved to Wellington, where he started his professional career. In 2016, Bluman represented Columbia at the Rio Olympics riding Apardi. It was his second time at the Olympics. He placed 20th individually at the London Olympics in 2012. Bluman had a strong showing at the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival. He captured the $205,000 NetJets CSI4* Grand Prix aboard his Olympic partner Sancha LS, and he also won the $384,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix riding Landriano Z. Bluman followed that up with wins last year at Spruce Meadows, Tryon and Toronto. Look for him back in the action this season at WEF.
A local favorite, the legendary Margie Engle is one of the most successful show jumping riders of all time, with hundreds of Grand Prix wins. She is a 10-time American Grandprix Association Rider of the Year. Between 1984 and 2005, Engle won six World Cup and 20 Nations Cup titles, as well as the team silver medal at the 1999 Pan American Games and team gold medal at the 2003 Pan American Games, where she also seized the individual bronze medal. Engle was part of the silver medal team at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. As Engle celebrated her 60th birthday in 2018, she proved once again that she remains a force to be reckoned when she was victorious with Gladewinds Farm’s Royce in the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* in the final Saturday Night Lights event of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival. Engle and Royce were able to speed around the jump-off course to take home their second individual five-star victory in a time of 39.35 seconds. She and her husband, equine veterinarian Dr. Steve Engle, live in Wellington. Aside from her riding career, Engle holds a degree in business education from Florida International University.
World-class equestrian sport has returned to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center for the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival, which opened on Jan. 9 and continues until March 31. With more than 70 divisions of hunter-jumper competition featuring everything from short-stirrup up to Olympic-level show jumping, WEF is the premier winter equestrian destination for many of the world’s best horses and riders.
Managed by Equestrian Sport Productions, WEF is the largest and longest-running equestrian festival in the world, with more than 8,000 horses competing throughout the winter circuit and welcoming competitors of all ages to the venue to enjoy the temperate South Florida winter weather.
The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center has long been recognized as one of the finest equestrian venues in the world. Each winter, riders from 42 countries and all 50 states travel to Wellington to compete at PBIEC. The venue covers 500 acres of pristine landscape, with 80 acres of competition rings alone.
“The WEF circuit is truly an incredible experience for riders, spectators, owners and sponsors. It’s the highlight of our year annually, and our organization continues to strive to provide the best possible competition atmosphere throughout the season,” said Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions. “We are continually impressed by the numbers of horses and competitors each season and are anticipating another very successful circuit in 2019.”
The four CSI 5* Grand Prix classes, the highest designation of international show jumping in the sport, will take place on Feb. 9 (WEF 5), Feb. 23 (WEF 7), March 9 (WEF 9) and March 30 (WEF 12) in the International Ring at PBIEC. These competitions feature the top horse and rider combinations in the world and include four FEI World Ranking classes during each week. The final CSI 5* competition of the circuit (WEF 12) hosts the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, the most prestigious international class of the 2019 season. This year, the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* will once again take place on the final Saturday of the season.
The $75,000 Battle of the Sexes, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center kicked off the Saturday Night Lights series on Saturday, Jan. 12, pitting males against females in a battle to see which gender will come out on top. Always a crowd favorite, spectators were encouraged to support their favorite team by wearing either blue or pink.
WEF welcomes Equinimity LLC as a second-year title sponsor of the popular WEF Challenge Cup classes, Thursday’s weekly highlight competition. The Equinimity WEF Challenge classes began Thursday, Jan. 10 and continue through Thursday, March 28, with distributed prize money ranging from $35,000 up to $132,000.
The CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic classes are once again set to take place throughout the circuit at both PBIEC, Equestrian Village and on the Derby Field, culminating with a final class under the lights on Saturday, March 23 with the $132,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Championship Classic Final, which takes place under the lights in the International Ring and offers a substantial prize for the overall series winner.
The season will also see a return of the prestigious Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series, showcasing the next generation of talent for five editions of competition. Hosted at both the main grounds of PBIEC and at Equestrian Village, the Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series is sure to impress, once again featuring many of the world’s top riders under the age of 25.
The Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments, a major philanthropic event hosted annually at PBIEC, is set for the evening of Saturday, Feb. 3. The GCC has raised more than $12.2 million for more than 250 Palm Beach County charities.
The GCC is a pro-am style relay race between teams of riders in costume. This year’s theme is “We Are The World,” and teams will have the opportunity to represent countries and nations, along with their traditional customs in costumes and decorations. The winning team will claim more than $150,000 for their paired charity, while all participating charities receive at least $15,000.
A continual crowd favorite, the $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO 4*, featuring team format competition between riders representing their home countries, will be part of Saturday Night Lights in 2019 and will be hosted on Saturday evening March 2 during WEF 8. In 2018, Great Britain claimed top honors with a relatively young team featuring Amanda Derbyshire, Emily Moffitt, Ben Maher and Emily Mason, who will look to defend their title once again this year. Spectators are encouraged to represent their favorite team and country, as prizes are given to the “most spirited spectator” throughout the evening. Grab your flags and bring the family!
The $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Hunter Spectacular during WEF 6 draws eyes to an evening of beautiful hunter display, as riders competing for one of the discipline’s yearly top honors take to the International Ring for an evening of traditional and classic hunter competition. WEF 6 also features a varying group of hunter divisions competing in the International Ring throughout the week, while FEI CSI 3* jumper classes will take place at Equestrian Village.
WEF concludes on Sunday, March 31, with the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the Derby Field to officially end the 12 weeks of the season. Top hunter riders will set out on the beautiful course in an attempt to capture the final major prize of the winter circuit. Spectators are encouraged to enjoy the final day of WEF from the berm on the Derby Field or on the adjacent grassy hill.
General admission is free to the public at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center during the WEF circuit, which hosts competitions from Wednesday mornings through Sunday afternoons. Numerous vendors and shops are open throughout the circuit, showcasing items and products ranging from horse wear and tack to art, jewelry, fine clothing and emerging technologies.
The Saturday Night Lights competitions serve as the highlight class of the week for top international show jumpers and the most popular for spectators. They take place on each Saturday of the season beginning at 7 p.m. Family-friendly entertainment is offered throughout the evening, including live music, face painting, carousel rides, children’s activities and more.
The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is located at 3400 Equestrian Club Drive in Wellington. For more information about PBIEC or WEF, visit www.pbiec.com or call (561) 793-5867.
The support and commitment to the Winter Equestrian Festival continues to increase each year, welcoming new and longstanding sponsors to Wellington for the highly anticipated winter circuit, greeting riders of different ages, demographics and origins alike for three consecutive months.
For WEF sponsors, presence at the competition offers the opportunity to further invest in the accelerated growth of equestrian sport in the United States, while simultaneously reaching the valuable equestrian market of competitors, enthusiasts, spectators and followers.
Over the years, new and innovative ways to incorporate sponsor messaging and branding have been woven into the overall development of sponsorship packages at the venue and throughout the season, which include arena presence with branded and distinctive jumps, branded signage, digital and social media marketing campaigns, and interactive activations, to name just a few.
The equestrian community is a tight-knit family, with many supporters and businesses continuing their involvement in the sport for many years, while fresh brands and businesses also are welcomed each season — an exciting development for the growth of the sport. Without committed and dedicated sponsors, the sport would not be able to succeed the way it has in recent years at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
“Sponsorship is a crucial component of our business model, and support is essential to the continued expansion and diversification of equestrian sport,” said Mark Bellissimo, managing partner and CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions. “We are honored to have the continued and established commitment from our loyal partners and are extremely motivated to continue introducing equestrian sport to new markets, as the opportunities within this domain are endless.”
With each new year, equestrian sport and the season at PBIEC continues to attract more riders, horses and enthusiasts, which is a positive sign for the trajectory of the equestrian market as a whole. Sponsors are a key reason behind PBIEC and WEF’s ongoing success.
The Winter Equestrian Festival would like to thank the following sponsors: Adequan, Alessandro Albanese, Animal Medical Center, Animo, Antares, Bainbridge Companies, the Business Development Board, Brazilian Court, Bruno Delgrange, Camping World, Captive One, Cargill, Champion Equine Insurance, Crown Family, Dever, Discover the Palm Beaches, Douglas Elliman, Dover Saddlery, Dutta Corp, Equine Tack & Nutritionals, Equinimity, Everglades Farm Equipment, FarmVet, Fidelity Investments, Gold Coast Feed, Griffis Residential, Gut Einhaus, Hampton Inn, Hermès, Hollow Creek Farm, Horseware Ireland, Hunt LTD, Karina Brez Jewelry, Keyes Art Gallery, Lugano Diamonds, Marshall & Sterling, Martha Jolicoeur, Maria Mendelsohn, Net Jets, Nutrena, Omega Alpha, Osphos, the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the Palm Beach International Academy, the Palm Beach Sports Commission, Pegasus Builders, Perfect Products, Platinum Performance, Rolex, Rose Hill Farm, Rosenbaum, Rushy Marsh Farm, Solic, Sotheby’s, Sportfot, Spy Coast Farm, Triple Crown Custom, UHealth Miami, Vita Flex, Voltaire and Wellington Equestrian Realty.
The Winter Equestrian Festival began Wednesday, Jan. 9 and continues through Sunday, March 31. WEF features 12 weeks of top international show jumping, hunter and equitation competition at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The event features 11 weeks of FEI competition, concluding with the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, March 30.
To learn more about sponsorships at the Winter Equestrian Festival, visit www.pbiec.com or contact Whitney Stahl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Winter Equestrian Festival is the world’s largest and longest-running horse show circuit — an elite combination of competition, community, social activity and more, with the start each season bringing the horse world to Wellington.
The 12-week schedule offers a variety of competitions for all ages and experience levels in the hunter, jumper and equitation divisions. Beginning in January and concluding in March, WEF welcomes riders and visitors from around the world, distributing nearly $10 million in prize money throughout the three months. Simply put, there is a reason it has been named the world’s premier winter equestrian event.
WEF is not just an exceptional competition hub for athletes and spectators, but also provides a luxurious hangout, perfect for activities and events outside the show ring. From shopping and casual dining, to exhilarating entertainment and educational opportunities, WEF offers a unique experience for all those who come to visit. General admission to PBIEC is free and open to the public all season.
Looking to purchase a new top for your night on the town? Searching for the perfect gift for a friend to give them a little slice of South Florida heaven? Maybe you are a few minutes away from competing and forgot your boot socks. Whatever you are searching for, you’ll find it within the WEF shopping boutiques. More than 100 vendors occupy the show grounds each week and offer a wide variety of products, styles and sizes. The shops are spread over several locations on site, including on Hunter Hill, over the PBIEC bridge, on Vendor Row and around the many competition rings.
Vendor Row hosts the majority of vendors in the center of the grounds, but also check out the boutiques located by the International Arena. Both areas have shopping that cater to all equestrian and non-equestrian needs and range from luxury products to inexpensive merchandise. For those looking to commemorate their visit to the horse show, the WEF Boutique offers clothing, posters and souvenirs with the iconic WEF logo.
In addition to its multitude of shopping opportunities, WEF also has an abundance of food and drink, for a quiet lunch or a larger private event. If you are searching for a quick bite during the day, visit one of the on-site vendors that offer everything from burgers and fries to salads and wraps. One fan favorite is Tito’s Tacos, a Mexican-style eatery with tacos, burritos, chips and salsa, and, of course, margaritas. Another is the popular Oasis Café, which offers an assortment of fresh and light meals that can be ordered on-site or ahead of time by phone. You can also sit down at the Tiki Hut to eat a delicious meal while overlooking competition in the International Arena. The Tiki Hut menu includes a variety of burgers and sandwiches, customized salads, grilled chicken and fish, and more.
If you are looking for a more upscale dining experience, be sure to try out the White Horse Fashion Cuisine restaurant. Located by the main entrance to the show grounds, White Horse provides the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing and refreshing dinner with a wide range of food and drink choices. PBIEC also caters to special and corporate events throughout the season. No matter what type of food or experience you are craving, there is something for everyone on-site at WEF.
Of course, the main attraction to WEF is the high level of show jumping competition. And there is no better night to witness this exhilarating entertainment than on Saturday night. The Saturday Night Lights attraction has become a favorite for both competitors and spectators.
Beyond watching the best riders in the world, there are many activities for the whole family to enjoy. Pony rides, petting zoos and stilt-walkers are just a few of the many things you’ll see when you walk through the front gates at WEF on Saturday night — and it is all free to the general public. Saturday Night Lights is not just for the kids, because adults can also have fun at one of the many bars located around the International Arena both during and after the Grand Prix. You can also dance the night away at the Gallery after the conclusion of the class, the heartbeat of the venue after competition concludes. If you can only attend WEF one day a week, Saturday is the best choice.
Outside the ring, the Winter Equestrian Festival continues to offer several learning experiences and activities for everyone. Come take a tour of the world-renowned facility followed by a catered lunch. Explore all 12 of the competition rings, the stabling area where horses prepare for competition, and a stroll through Vendor Row.
Perhaps you’d like to forgo the tour and sit in and expand your knowledge at one of the popular Lunch & Learn classes. Hosted on Thursdays weekly during WEF, the Lunch & Learn series provides educational platforms for horse enthusiasts to learn more about a variety of equine-related topics, including management and maintenance, horsemanship and care, as well as emerging technologies and treatment methods available in the equine veterinary industry. Speak with experts in their respective industries and enter to win fun, end-of-season prizes.
Whether staying for the entire 12 weeks of competition or just passing through for a few days, there is plenty to do at WEF. You can witness the world’s best riders compete daily, dine at a variety of restaurants, shop until you drop, entertain the kids or enjoy an adults-only night out, and learn more about various equine topics — all without leaving the showgrounds.
For more information about the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, visit www.pbiec.com.
The 10th annual Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments, will take center stage on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
With more than 360 applications received for the chance to participate in the 10th annual event, this year’s initial charity selection took place throughout Palm Beach County via a traveling lottery drum. At stake: a chance to share the purse of more than one million dollars. To date, the event has distributed $12.2 million to more than 230 Palm Beach County charities.
“We are very excited to see such a diverse group of nonprofit organizations join us for this 10th edition,” said Paige Bellissimo, co-founder of the event. “The encouragements and true camaraderie witnessed on social media, between nonprofits during the selection process, was heartwarming. We hope that this year’s GCC will unite all involved, from the sponsors and riders, to the nonprofits involved and the community at large.”
Blending philanthropy and equestrian sports, the GCC is an exciting show jumping event that brings hope to Palm Beach County charities every year. The event will support a wide array of nonprofits, such as Speak Up For Kids.
“For a local charity, making a direct local impact, as we do through Speak Up For Kids, being selected for the GCC is a huge vote of confidence and exciting opportunity for increased impact,” said Shaw Thomas, board president of Speak Up For Kids.
Additional charity drawings were held during the first weeks of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival and the final two wildcard teams will be drawn the night of the GCC.
“We hold a strong belief that change happens through the power of united communities,” said Anne Caroline Valtin, executive director of the GCC. “From the amazing sponsors who make the event possible, the equestrians who donate their time, skills and horses to compete, to the passionate and dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to better the community, attending the GCC will simply restore your faith in humanity.”
The 2019 GCC to be held on Saturday, Feb. 2 starting at 6 p.m. during the Saturday Night Lights series at PBIEC. With riders dressed up in costumes and horses adorned to match them, this year’s theme of “We are the World” will focus on promoting unity and celebrating the cultural differences in the community.
As part of the Ringside Chalk Art Festival, each Wellington school will be provided with a 4-foot by 6-foot giant chalkboard and have three hours to bring their creation to life, showcasing what the charitable causes represented that evening means to them. A panel of judges composed of Carolina King and Leslie Pfeiffer of the Wellington Art Society, award-winning Florida artist Laurie Snow Hein and Art Cellar owner Jen Hernandez will facilitate the judging process and present the awards. The GCC guarantees a minimum of a $1,000 donation to each school’s art department for participating.
Furthermore, the choirs of Palm Beach Central High School under the direction of Scott Houchins and Wellington High School under the direction of Bradford Chase will join forces in an unprecedented performance that is sure to leave the public inspired.
For the latest event information, visit www.greatcharitychallenge.com or www.facebook.com/greatcharitychallenge.
Great Charity Challenge Initial Charity List
Back to Basics
Boca West Children’s Foundation
Children’s Home Society
Community Caring Center of Palm Beach County
Cultural Council of Palm Beach County
Danny & Ron’s Rescue
Friends of Foster Children
Friends of Palm Beach
Genesis Assistance Dogs
Habitat Housing Solutions
Holy Ground Shelter for Homeless
Hope 4 Mobility
Kids Cancer Foundation
Our Sister’s Place
South Florida Science
Center & Aquarium
Speak Up For Kids
Spirit of Giving Network
Wellington Public Schools
Each Saturday evening during the Winter Equestrian Festival season, the stadium lights click on, the cars — packed with families — begin to trickle into the venue and riders begin to warm their horses up before their biggest class of the week. Welcome to Saturday Night Lights at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center–.
The weekly evening competition begins at 7 p.m. with the first horse and rider combination entering through under the iconic bridge, but gates open at 6 p.m. for the public and spectators, with a multitude of activities for the whole family to enjoy. General admission to Saturday Night Lights is free, and parking remains $20 per car load, providing a perfect, inexpensive evening for family and friends.
Some of the PBIEC staple activities on Saturday nights include free rides on the Venetian carousel, a petting zoo, face painting and live music throughout the night. Occasionally, there are ponies on the grounds, some offering pony rides and others offering adorable photo opportunities with the kids. There are also a variety of performers in attendance, ranging from jugglers to men on stilts to the beloved bubble man. Many vendors keep their shops open for browsing during the evening hours, located around the International Ring. While exploring, spectators glancing into the ring and warm-up areas will be able to catch a glimpse of the riders walking the course, where they evaluate the jumps and create their plan for the evening’s competition.
After all the activities, everyone in the family is sure to be able to find something to eat with the large variety of dining options available. There are many food trucks on site, serving everything from pizza to popcorn to tacos. For those looking for a formal dining experience, White Horse Fashion Cuisine is always open in season, and there are a number of VIP options available. VIP seating options include the Tiki Hut, the Gallery, Beachside, the International Club, the Wellington Club and Central Park.
Each Saturday evening class features an elite Grand Prix competition, in which riders compete against one another, with entries ranging up to 40 combinations, as jumps can fluctuate in height from 1.50 to 1.60 meters, and the width can be measured up to 2.20 meters. Elements such as open water, liverpools, oxers, combinations of two or more jumps in a row, as well as decorated and themed jumps are all different components, which test the trust, communication and athleticism of the horse and rider.
The competitors are among the best in the world, and it is common to see Olympians and elite champions jumping each week. The ultimate goal for participating combinations is to leave all the jumps standing and cross through the timers within the time allowed, or be assessed time penalties, which will prevent riders from moving forward to the jump-off. Combinations who finish within the time and do not knock down any rails during their trip around the course will return for a second round against the clock, known as the jump-off.
The jump-off will have fans holding their breath, as riders navigate risky turns and dash at speed around a shortened course to determine the winner. When there’s a tight race to the finish, the crowd goes so silent you could hear a pin drop. An eruption of applause and cheering takes over when riders finish through the timers without incurring any faults, while the victor usually treats the crowd to an emotional celebration after crossing through the timers.
The top three finishers take to the podium for the well-known champagne shower before taking a victory lap with their equine partners, with many riders tossing their ribbons to lucky fans in the stands or signing autographs near the in-gate.
At the conclusion of the class, the evening continues at the Gallery with an exciting after party, which all adult guests are invited to join and celebrate the evening and its top finishers.
For more information about Saturday Night Lights at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, visit www.pbiec.com.