Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén of Sweden is one of the greatest dressage riders of all time. The seven-time Olympian is a master of riding and training young horses into being some of the best in the world. In this, her eighth year coming to Florida for competition, she brings a handful of her top horses for only a couple of months to build confidence and compete in the warmer climate. She expressed gratitude for the opportunity. “I’ve found coming to Florida to be a super opportunity,” she said. “To be able to go back to the same ring for many weekends allows me to have the chance to explain to my horses that it’s OK. This is how international competition looks. The entire international atmosphere is here, but going time and time again, weekend after weekend, gives me a chance to try to ride with less power to give them confidence.” Vilhelmson-Silfvén has also competed at five World Equestrian Games and 10 European Dressage Championships. She has won three bronze medals in team competitions at European championships, and also competed at six editions of the Dressage World Cup finals. She has already qualified for her seventh World Cup Final, to be held this April in Paris.
Juan Matute Guimon Jr. is a dressage rider from Spain who has lived more than half his life in Wellington. With three-time Olympian Juan Matute Sr. as his father, coach and trainer, Matute Jr. continues to make an international name for himself. Sponsored by Yeguada de Ymas, the young rider continuously proves he can ride with the best in the world. He works six to seven horses a day, six days a week, and each gain the correct basic training for a strong career ahead. Training and competing in Wellington is the precursor to the Spanish National Championships held each May, where Matute Jr. works to qualify to represent his country at upcoming championships. His three main competition horses for 2018 are Quantico Ymas, Don Diego Ymas and Copernico Ymas. He arrived back in Wellington after a successful 2017 summer with key European wins on the Under 25 circuit. He is a perfectionist by nature in a sport where timing and discipline mean everything. He works to present a performance that looks as easy as possible. Organization plays a role in helping Matute Jr. handle those moments of pressure, and he sticks to his routine on competition days. A superstar of a rider and young man, Matute Jr. one to watch in 2018.
An international dressage star who has spent almost two decades in top-level competition, Shelly Francis is a gifted rider and trainer of top dressage horses. Nurturing confidence in her horses through a systematic process, whether at home at Roundabout Farm in Loxahatchee, or at an international competition, she feels especially encouraged when a top European rider compliments her on a horse’s training. Since the early 2000s, Francis has teamed with horse owner Patricia Stempel and consistently scores in the highest rankings throughout the national and international circuits. In 1996, Francis was selected as an alternate for the Atlanta Olympics. The next year, she and her mount, Pikant, won the U.S. Dressage Federation’s Grand Prix Champion Horse of the Year. In 1998, Francis competed at the World Equestrian Games in Rome and, in 2005, took her horse, Dominion, to the top six in the U.S. team rankings. For the last three years, she competed on the international CDI European Tour circuit with mounts Doktor and Danilo, finding success in the show ring and landing her at the top of the U.S. rankings. She will continue to compete this season, looking to be invited to compete at the World Cup in Paris.
One of the all-time great top coaches, trainers and riders, four-time Olympian Ashley Holzer recently changed her citizenship from Canadian to American after being based out of New York since 1994. Holzer began riding as a teen, first entering the Grand Prix ring in the 1980s. She was a member of Canada’s bronze medal dressage team at the 1988 Olympics and represented Canada at the World Equestrian Games in 1990, 2002 and 2006, and the World Cup Finals in 1989 and 2009. She won team gold and silver at the Pan American Games in 1991 and 2003, respectively. Holzer has been competing in Wellington for decades and is a true professional, sharing her talents while teaching and competing. This year, she rides Havanna 145, owned by Diane Fellows, in the international ring, while she brings along several others in the national Grand Prix classes for a strong CDI future. She coaches many riders, including P.J. Rizvi, Jill Irving and Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu. Holzer is always one to watch for grace and precision. She works not only to get herself qualified for upcoming championships; but also to help others qualify. Holzer is a person who inspires others through her work-ethic and discipline — and a true champion to watch in action.
Riding for Great Britain, Susan Pape works with John and Leslie Malone of Harmony Sporthorses. This will be her third year traveling to Florida from northern Germany, where her husband Ingo Pape and family own Hengststation Pape, a huge breeder of world-renowned German dressage and jumping horses. A superb dressage competitor, Susan Pape competes Hanoverian gelding Harmony’s Fiorano and top breeding and competition stallion Harmony’s Don Noblesse, along with a few up-and-coming horses. Whether competing in the U.S. or Europe, Pape is always a contender. She has found success in preparing her horses through the young horse divisions, often placing in the Louisdor Cup Finals for German Developing Grand Prix Horses. Pape’s sponsors have given their team, which includes Michael Klimke, Scott and Susanne Hassler, and up-and-coming rider Luuk Mourits, an opportunity to concentrate on top sport. They work together during the winter season, at a beautiful facility only a few minutes from the Wellington showgrounds. A top rider, Pape is grateful for the opportunity to train in the warm weather and to prepare for the upcoming championships to represent her country, while showing the bloodlines from her family farm.
Since its initiation in 2012, the Adequan Global Dressage Festival has matured into one of the largest dressage circuits in the world. Presenting top-level national and international level competition over the course of 10 weeks, this year’s AGDF is setting the stage for top horse and rider combinations, and laying the stepping stones leading up to the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.
The 2018 AGDF is taking place once again at the Stadium at Equestrian Village in Wellington. The festival opened Jan. 4 and continues through March 31. This winter circuit provides an indispensable opportunity for riders who are seeking scores for the World Equestrian Games, as the 2018 AGDF is hosting four WEG qualifying events throughout the circuit.
“This year, we will see riders from all over the world coming to Wellington to prepare for the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018,” said Thomas Baur, director of sport for the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. “We are presenting a new structure of classes at the Grand Prix level, as well as Small Tour levels, and are welcoming top judges that will also be featured at the WEG.”
The 2018 AGDF season features four CDI-Ws, a CDI 4* and CDI 5*, as well as a CDIO3* and two CPEDI competitions. Local spectators are welcome to come out and enjoy world-renowned competition, as the show is always open to the public with free general admission.
The weekly Friday Night Stars events take place every Friday during international CDI competition weeks and present the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle class, where combinations ride to choreographed musical routines. The nights also bring musical acts and various forms of outside entertainment, which are scattered throughout the evening festivities.
The season opened Thursday, Jan. 4 with the first Para-Equestrian Dressage CPEDI 3* competition. AGDF 2 also played host to a CPEDI 3* in mid-January. Para-Equestrian sports allow athletes with physical and visual disabilities to excel in equestrian events and competitions designed for the able-bodied, and do so by creating a structured and highly competitive environment.
Para-dressage is conducted under the same basic rules as able-bodied dressage, but with riders divided into different competition grades based on their physical abilities. There is no greater evidence of the incredible bond, trust and communication between horse and rider than in para-dressage. This Paralympic sport is a humbling reminder of the strength and determination of the human spirit.
The AGDF 2018’s first CDI-W competition of the season was held Thursday, Jan. 11, as well as a national horse show. AGDF 3 commenced Wednesday, Jan. 24 with the second CDI-W and national competitions.
International dressage competition reconvened Thursday, Feb. 8 with the season’s only CDI 5*, featuring the very best riders in the world producing some of the most thrilling test execution of the winter season. AGDF 6 began Friday, Feb. 16 with three days of national competition. AGDF 9 is also set to host a national competition from March 9-11. The third CDI-W took place during AGDF 7, beginning on Thursday, Feb. 22.
AGDF 8, beginning on March 1, welcomes the historic Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W and the fourth annual Palm Beach Derby, an exciting event that features riders competing at Small Tour level with unfamiliar horses to see who can ride to the best score. The Palm Beach Dressage Derby remains one of the longest-standing dressage competitions in South Florida and continues to be a seasonal highlight for resident competitors of the South Florida dressage community.
AGDF 10 will welcome the only CDI 4* of the season ahead of AGDF 12’s FEI Nations Cup CDIO 3*, as well as the final Friday Night Stars competition of the circuit. The FEI Nations Cup CDIO 3* is the only non-championship Nations Cup in the western hemisphere and serves as an impressive seasonal conclusion every year.
“We are very excited about this year’s edition of the 2018 Adequan Global Dressage Festival,” said Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions. “With the FEI World Equestrian Games coming to Tryon, N.C., in September of 2018, there are many talented riders from all over the world attending, who are focused on their qualifications for the biggest equestrian event in the world. This year is truly a chance for everyone in Wellington to see the world’s best, and we are looking forward to seeing these equestrian athletes perform.”
With the FEI World Equestrian Games looming on the horizon, the 2018 Adequan Global Dressage Festival is turning out to be the most exceptional one to date.
Equestrian Village is located at 13500 South Shore Blvd. in Wellington. To learn more about the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
2018 Adequan Global Dressage Festival Weekly Schedule
CPEDI 3* – January 4-7
CDI-W & National – January 11-14
CPEDI 3* & National – January 18-21
CDI-W & National – January 24-28
CDI 5* & National – February 8-11
National – February 16-17
CDI-W & National – February 22-25
Palm Beach Derby CDI-W & National
National – March 9-11
CDI 4* & National – March 15-18
National – March 24-25
CDIO 3* & National – March 27–31
The Stadium at the Palm Beach
International Equestrian Center
13500 South Shore Blvd.
Wellington, FL 33414
Dressage has long been a sport of passion for many of the riders who compete both nationally and internationally. For years, the sport of dressage was only noticed by those who participated or understood the technical difficulties executed by horse and rider combinations, but now sponsors from around the world are flocking to the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in hopes of gaining exposure and presence with the South Florida dressage community.
Less than a decade ago, the grounds of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival sat vacant, only a few grassy polo fields, while the hunter/jumper circuit of the Winter Equestrian Festival thrived just across South Shore Blvd. A group of dressage competitors, owners and trainers banded together to address the lack of the sport in Wellington, the horse capital of the world.
Soon the AGDF circuit was born, and not long after that, sponsorship of the sport started to steadily increase. As one of the wealthiest dressage circuits in the world, the AGDF has welcomed sponsors from all facets of industries over the years, and will welcome newcomers like NetJets and CaptiveOne Advisors this year, while maintaining its traditional support from sponsors like Adequan, Havensafe Farm and Stillpoint Farm.
“It has been incredible to see the expansion of support over the past few years, and we are welcoming more and more new faces to our sponsorship group here with each season,” AGDF Director of Sport Thomas Baur said. “The sponsorship is very critical in the success of the circuit each year and has made AGDF one of the most prestigious dressage tours in the world.”
The sponsorship of the circuit has provided a platform for many of the sport’s most talented riders, offering them access to a multi-week elite training ground at the festival, ultimately helping to improve their experience in international competition and championship atmospheres.
All four members representing Team USA in the sport of dressage at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which went on to earn the team bronze medal, all competed at least once at the AGDF over the course of the season. It provided a winter training base for the team to collectively train together and gain experience that would help them earn the first dressage medal for Team USA since 2004.
Welcoming hundreds of riders and even more spectators and fans over the course of the 12 weeks of competition, the festival has grown into something that many believed was never possible — all with the help of a group of passionate individuals and many dedicated sponsors and supporters.
The circuit continues to thrive each season, and as opportunities continue to arise for competitors, they simultaneously expand for major sponsors and corporations eager to increase or begin their involvement in the sport.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, or to learn more, is invited to visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Nicole Lakin was a working student for Max Amaya and his Stonehenge Stables when, one winter in Wellington, she realized something was missing — something that would make her job and the jobs of hundreds of other Wellington barn managers and staff members far simpler.
Up until that point, there was no exemplary organizational tool for barn managers, nothing to help them communicate with their team, no real centralized system where they could house horses’ records, notes, to-do lists and charts, and access them from anywhere.
So Lakin, who has been spending winters in Wellington since 2006, started creating Microsoft Excel and Word forms and documents to improve her own barn organization, and she posed a question to several other barn managers.
“I was always looking for ways to get around communication issues and to be more organized. Once I started playing around with it, I realized that there was really a need for something more,” said Lakin, a graduate of New York University and the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business.
“I was very lucky that I made some amazing friends who had been managers working with horses and managing complex organizations far longer than I had. I sat them all down one night at Tub Tim Thai in Wellington, and I went around the table and asked them what the most annoying thing was that they were constantly having trouble with,” Lakin explained. “Once we had a little bit of a venting session about all of the things that could be better, I said, ‘If I built something to make those things better, would you guys use it?’ They all looked at me, and said, ‘Yes, of course!’”
From that conversation over Thai food, the now industry-leading, cloud-based software BarnManager was born.
Lakin devoted much of the next year to carefully mapping out the features of the application — including calendars, record storage, list-making tools, a virtual “whiteboard” and more — and working with others on the design and build of the new program, before rolling it out to the equestrian community.
“I think launching it was definitely one of the more exciting experiences of my life,” Lakin said. “It was really rewarding to actually see people using it, responding, giving us feedback. I say it took a solid year for it to really start picking up, but once it did, it took off pretty quickly. It’s always exciting when you get an e-mail saying, ‘Someone, who happens to manage one of the best riders in the world, told me I had to try it. She said it’s amazing, and she can’t live without it.’ It took a lot of time to get there, but it has been extremely rewarding.”
Today, BarnManager is the official barn management software of U.S. Equestrian, the governing body of equestrian sport, and the program is utilized by barns throughout Wellington and around the country.
The specialized software is accessible from anywhere by phone, tablet or computer, and offers features including unlimited horse information, health and wellness recording; the ability to upload attachments directly to records and easily access files; searchable barn-wide conversations and messaging, as well as private conversations and messaging; two-way calendar syncing, scheduling and important date reminders; a virtual “white-board” that takes the conventional barn white-board and makes it more accessible; customizable tables and free-form lists; and, most recently added, business management tools, including full accounting services.
“We have a busy show barn and are often showing in two separate locations at once,” said Jo Seaver, who utilizes BarnManager in the management of Kenny and Linda Langmeier’s Kelianda Farm. “BarnManager has helped our staff stay organized and connected throughout the hectic show season. Having our vet, farrier and other records all in one easy access place has been a game changer.”
Lakin hopes to continue to change the way barns are managed in Wellington and nationwide for the ease of the job and to allow barn managers to get back to why they likely began the job in the first place: for the love of horses.
“Nobody gets into the horse industry to be an accountant,” Lakin said. “We don’t want people spending all of their time on QuickBooks or behind a desk trying figure everything out. I strongly believe that when it comes to horses, there’s nothing that can replace something like a human being able to put their hand on a horse’s leg. So, everything that we do is keeping that in mind. We’re trying to supplement and automate things on the business side; that way people can spend more time doing the things that technology can’t.”
To learn more about BarnManager, visit www.barnmanager.com.
U.S. Olympic dressage rider Adrienne Lyle always wanted to have a career centered around horses. Lyle was born and raised on the south end of Whidbey Island, Wash., about 30 miles north of Seattle. Her dad and brother are lawyers, while her mom is a pediatrician. Although not an equestrian family, they keep active. Her mom enjoys downhill skiing and the occasional trail ride. Her brother runs in Ironman triathlons.
Lyle took a fork in the road and opted to pursue her passion from an early age. Growing up on a cattle farm with horses has that affect.
“My parents were always very supportive, but this has always been my thing,” said the 33-year-old Lyle, who is in Wellington for the winter season. “I’m sure my parents were completely stressed. My path was always so clear to me. I was definitely one of those girls who was horse-crazy. I never had a Plan B. I’m really glad the horse thing is working out so far, because that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Although her family didn’t live and breathe horses, her younger cousin Maya Black shared her passion.
“Adrienne is still the same smart, hardworking, determined, kind and talented person she was back when we were growing up and riding together on Whidbey Island,” said Black, a rising star in three-day eventing. “Those qualities, paired with her incredible horsemanship, is what has brought her such immense success in her young career. I have no doubt this is just the beginning for her. She has always been a role model to me, and I am so proud of her.”
So far, so good for Lyle.
Lyle’s highlights include representing the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, along with numerous first-place finishes in major Grand Prix competitions.
Her short-term plan for the rest of the winter season is to qualify for the FEI World Cup (April 11-15 in Paris) with Salvino, an 11-year-old bay stallion. The combination finished first in two Grand Prix competitions early in the Wellington season.
After that, she wants to be part of the U.S. team that trains in Europe preparing for the prestigious World Equestrian Games in September at Mark Bellissimo’s Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina. But she is already preparing her horses for an even bigger competition.
“The next big goal is the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo,” said Lyle, who is based out of Sun Valley, Idaho. “I’m blessed to have three Grand Prix horses. Who goes depends on who peaks at the right time; who is happy and healthy at the moment.”
In addition to Salvino, Lyle is also working hard with Horizon, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare, and Harmony’s Duval, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding.
Lyle’s rise to becoming a force in dressage got off to an inauspicious start. She started riding western style and going on trail rides with friends on her parent’s farm. She joined the local chapter of the U.S. Pony Club when she was seven and soon began competing in three-day eventing, which was how she was first introduced to dressage. Eventing competition consists of dressage, cross-country and show jumping.
“I fell in love with dressage,” Lyle said. “I was so fascinated by it. I learned a lot by watching videos, and then spent hours trying to duplicate what I saw on the videos.”
Lyle went from learning the sport on her own to training and working with U.S. Olympian Debbie McDonald, with whom she has been with for more than a decade. While with McDonald, Lyle began working with horses owned by Betsy Juliano, including Horizon. Her daily routine includes waking up at 5:45 a.m. and getting to the barn by 7 a.m.
“I just love Adrienne,” Juliano said. “We have gotten to know one another better and better over the past six years. At first, I knew her solely as an excellent rider and the protege of Debbie McDonald. But, as we have worked together, I have also come to know her as a deeply compassionate person whose commitment to her profession is her top priority. This means she takes care of herself as an athlete, she oversees superb care of the horses, and she is able to strategize for each horse’s training and their future.”
Juliano appreciates Lyle’s demeanor and thoughtfulness.
“Adrienne is always quick to demonstrate her gratitude and thanks. Many years ago, before I knew her very well, I received a handwritten note from out of the blue,” Juliano recalled. “She was in Europe, but wrote to say how much she appreciated donations made to the USET Foundation by people like me because they enabled her to compete as a member of a team. I was so surprised to receive the note, and so appreciative.”
Lyle wants to keep developing horses, unlocking the puzzle that can get them to top level, where at international levels, fractions of a percent can make a big difference.
“Adrienne’s best attributes are her terrific feel, terrific timing, and, above all, the fact that she never, ever becomes angry or impatient with a horse,” Juliano said. “Adrienne celebrates a horse’s success and will make a wonderful big fuss over an accomplishment or new movement learned. This way, the horse always knows Adrienne is pleased, and the horse will get quite proud of himself or herself. But she never takes it personally when a horse struggles or is in the process of learning. Adrienne’s level of equanimity is extremely rare and truly sets her apart as one of the very best riders in the world.”
Dressage competition consists of two parts. The first is similar to ice skating’s compulsories, where each rider and horse must perform a designated series of moves. The second is the freestyle, where the moves are choreographed to music.
“Freestyle is my favorite part of dressage. It suits me and my personality,” Lyle said. “I’m a big music lover. I love everything from folk to rock to bluegrass. I may be one of the few dressage riders who love the Grateful Dead.”
Lyle said she is always learning, trying to get to the next level of this “perfectionist sport.” But it’s not always about the competition.
“At the end of the day, when you’ve swept the barn and it’s quiet, and the horses are munching their hay and it’s so peaceful, that to me is the most Zen place I can find in the world,” she said.
Learn more about Adrienne Lyle at www.adriennelyle.com.
Every Friday night during international competition weeks at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival welcomes an array of talent from the weekly show lineup to perform musical freestyles under the lights, in what has come to be known as “Friday Night Stars” featuring the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, the highlight class of the week for dressage competition. The event is held at Equestrian Village, located at 13500 South Shore Blvd., home of the AGDF.
A musical freestyle is a personally choreographed dressage test accompanied by music specifically composed for each competing duo, which begins as they make their way down centerline. Not only are the rides compelling, but they are also exciting to watch and exemplify the deep communication before horse and rider in the discipline of dressage. Spectators and judges will see performances ridden to a variety of melodies, from classical orchestra music to today’s hits by Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars.
Riders compete to earn points with a system of scoring that reflects the degree of difficulty per routine and test. This season at AGDF has already seen some impressive talent under the lights in front of growing and engaged crowds.
The first CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle took place on Jan. 12 and presented a victory to Swedish rider Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén aboard Lövsta Stuteri’s Paridon Magi. The duo rode to a Queen medley and achieved their highest score to date with an 81.15 percent. Highlights from the tests seen thus far in the season have included perfected one-handed pirouettes, which were executed in young Juan Matute Guimon’s performance, earning him the third-place spot for the evening aboard mount Quantico Ymas. Matute rode to a modern upbeat musical collaboration, while second-place finisher Shelly Francis wowed the crowd with a cappella tunes to accompany her ride on Patricia Stempel’s Danilo.
“We have been thrilled with the development of the Friday Night Stars competitions since the start of dressage at the venue many years ago,” said Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions. “These are many of the top competitors in the world in the sport of dressage, and it’s quite unique that we have access to them right here in Wellington. It speaks to the growth of the AGDF each year and the continued support we receive each season.”
Alongside the top international competition is always a variety of both equine and non-equine entertainment throughout the evening, which in the past has featured mustang demonstrations, horsemanship seminars, live music and more. Multiple food vendors are available to the general public, while hospitality tables in the VIP tent are available for purchase prior to the classes on Friday evening and include a full catered buffet and prime viewing of the class. The evening offers free general admission to the public with $10 on-site parking, as well as $20 valet parking. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with competition beginning at 7 p.m.
Visit www.globaldressagefestival.com for the full list of Friday Night Stars dates.