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A Deep Love For Horses And The Equestrian Community Drives Hannah Selleck’s Ambition & Goals

A Deep Love For Horses And The Equestrian Community Drives Hannah Selleck’s Ambition & Goals

Story By Athena Sobhan | Photos By Daniel Zuliani

Hannah Selleck’s dedication to equestrian sports fuels her career as a professional show jumping athlete and inspires her work out of the saddle.

Selleck, 32, has come to Wellington every year since 2013 to train at the highest level and compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival. As the only daughter of actors Tom Selleck and Jillie Mack, she grew up understanding that passion is one of the most important drivers in pursuing any career. She has taken that advice seriously, establishing herself as a successful show jumper and influential business owner in the equestrian community.

Blond, gorgeous and boasting an athlete’s frame, Selleck’s earliest memory of riding is at the age of four on a Shetland pony named Sheba. Although she fell off twice during her first lesson, she got back on and quickly learned to manage the pony while staying in the saddle.

“I was determined to figure out how to work with this cute little pony,” Selleck recalled during a recent interview in Wellington. “That moment taught me that persistence and perseverance are necessary to ride.”

From then on, she was hooked. Lessons continued at the Foxfield Riding School in Westlake Village, California, where Selleck also boarded her first pony, Taffy Apple.

“My family and I bonded together over riding, and some of my fondest memories are learning to ride alongside my mom,” Selleck said. “Both of my parents are incredibly supportive of my passion for horses, and they’re always there to cheer me on. They never tried to pressure me to pursue something else. To their credit, they learned about equestrian sports at the same time I did — when I started competing at 10 years old.”

Before Selleck became a decorated equestrian athlete, she had her eyes set on the rodeo. Selleck was originally transfixed by barrel racing and eager to learn the ropes and become a barrel racer herself. As fate would have it, no horses were available for Selleck to train with, so she quickly pivoted and found a similar thrill in show jumping.

“For me, it has been about the speed and that adrenaline surge when I complete a jump off with my horse,” she said. “In the ring, I’ve always been known as a fast rider, and I think part of that stems from my early fascination with the rodeo.”

Over her career, Selleck has earned a number of top accolades in international show jumping competitions. One of her biggest achievements came in the summer of 2011, when she earned second place at the Spruce Meadows North American tournament, one of her top finishes to date at the five-star level.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve grown more cautious of unnecessary risks, especially as I’ve sustained injuries,” she said. “You quickly realize that you only have one body, take care of it and ride smart, as there is very little margin for error at the top of the sport.”

In 2018, Selleck broke both her fibula and tibula when her stirrup didn’t release properly in a fall. The injury sidelined her from competition for seven months, but Selleck was back successfully competing in early 2019.

During last year’s lockdowns, she took the extra downtime to focus on training physically for the upcoming season, but she also turned to mindfulness training as a way to enhance her performance during competitions.

“Recovering from a serious injury can be physically and mentally taxing,” Selleck said. “I’ve worked closely with a sports psychologist to practice visualization techniques that have helped me get back into the competition mindset.”

She also had additional support. “I was lucky to have my partner Barla, a horse I’ve competed on for seven years, to help my comeback in 2019,” Selleck said. “The trust that we built together over the years was a motivating factor to enter the competition ring again.”

While she prepares for competitions, Selleck is also diving into her education and working toward her MBA at Pepperdine University, aiming to open doors for her career outside the ring. Alongside her athletic career, Selleck founded Descanso Farm in 2010 as a boutique breeding operation, but recently transitioned to a boutique sales business.

“Most jumping horses are bred in Europe, and I recognized an opportunity to import those horses into the U.S. to compete,” she explained. “Working with so many equine partners over the years has given me the experience and knowledge I can apply toward a training and sales operation.”

Selleck also serves as an ambassador for Brooke USA, the nonprofit organization focused on promoting the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules.

“Show jumping is a tight-knit community, and I work closely with Brooke USA because they promote equine and humanitarian welfare, which are issues close to my heart,” she said. “I hope to also one day start my own nonprofit organization to continue giving back to the community and beyond.”

For Selleck, every decision she has made throughout her career stems back to her love of horses.

“My goal right now is to enjoy each moment with my horses as I work my way back to the top level of the sport,” Selleck concluded. “It’s a blessing anytime I get to compete. It’s important to be present in the moment that you’re in because we are so, so lucky to work with these animals every single day.”

Visit www.descansofarm.com to learn more about Hannah Selleck and Descanso Farm.

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Young Equestrians Take Challenges In Stride As They Progress In Their Careers

Young Equestrians Take Challenges In Stride As They Progress In Their Careers

By Georgie Hammond and Meagan DeLisle

Each year, thousands of equestrians of all ages flock to Wellington, escaping harsh winter weather elsewhere to enjoy near-perfect temperatures while competing in the winter equestrian capital of the world.

While this year’s events look slightly different due to the pandemic, young equestrians are doing everything they can to take the usual challenges of the sport and the additional tribulations of these unprecedented times all in stride.

“Young equestrians face many growing pains as they progress in their riding and move through the different phases of the sport,” said Geoff Teall, one of the country’s most prominent equestrian trainers and judges. “This year, especially, these athletes are having to adapt and change all of the time to overcome obstacles, both physically and mentally. There are many moving parts that go into the success of a young rider, whether they are just learning to ride, moving up to jump new heights, or adjusting to life changes that alter the way they compete in the sport, so it is vital that they maintain level headedness and have the support they need.”

Ava Scharbo

At 13 years old, Ava Scharbo is just starting to find her footing in the show ring. While she has four years of experience competing, Scharbo recently reached one of the biggest milestones in a young rider’s career as they continue to grow and develop their skills: transitioning from a pony to a horse.

“I was definitely a little nervous getting on a larger, stronger animal,” Scharbo explained. “The biggest challenge for me has been taking time to go back and revisit things I thought I already knew. My trainer, Geoff Teall, has taught me that in order to move forward, you have to sometimes go back to basics first.”

With the progression from pony to horse comes a jump in competition level as well, something Scharbo found intimidating at first. With help from Teall, however, she is learning to manage her nerves and persevere, even through the difficult times, by taking things one step at a time. Scharbo has also made efforts to maintain her confidence in her riding by practicing nearly every day, something that has recently been made easier thanks to her family’s move to Wellington to become full-time residents.

“If there’s a magic potion for nerves, I haven’t found it yet! This sport challenges me every day I get on my horses, whether I am in the show ring or not,” Scharbo said. “The one thing that keeps me going is knowing that there is always another ride and there is always another show. If I didn’t have a good lesson, or a good show, I need to break my ride down stride-by-stride and figure out why, so the next ride goes better than the last.”

Raine Whitman

Like Scharbo, 14-year-old Raine Whitman has confronted her fair share of trials as a young equestrian. In January 2021, Whitman started a fresh partnership with a new horse, a shift that takes copious amounts of patience and diligence in order to be successful. While this is not her first horse, Whitman’s junior riding career is at a pivotal point as she gears up to start competing in the “Big Eq,” one of the most competitive divisions in junior equestrian sport. Whitman experienced excellent results with her previous horse at some of the nation’s most prestigious competitions in 2020.

However, now more than ever, her resilience is being tested as she learns her new horse and makes strides toward the upper level of junior competition.

“The hardest part of any transition is trusting in the process and not allowing frustration to get the better of you if the results are different than your expectations. It’s important to keep working hard and stay focused,” she said. “Thankfully, the transition to my new horse, Clearano Z, happened early in the season, so it was the perfect time to get straight into the show ring and start building our relationship. He was already at my barn, Carriage Hill Farms, before I purchased him. That was a huge help for me in understanding the type of ride he needs because my trainers already knew him really well. He is a very willing partner and enjoys his job, which made the process of learning a new partner really fun.”

With a positive mindset and a strong support system in place, Whitman has turned the challenges before her into learning opportunities every step of the way. In true athlete fashion, she has used her moments of uncertainty to fuel her ambition and drive.

“I think hard work and dedication have helped me progress and move up through the divisions,” Whitman said. “I am focused in my training on learning the necessary skills to get to the next level. I am dedicated to learning as much as I can outside of my lessons as well, like riding without stirrups, and riding extra horses or ponies to gain experience while strengthening my leg and balance, which improves all aspects of my riding.”

Brittany Hildebrand

For 29-year-old Brittany Hildebrand, the transition from her junior career to now competing as an adult amateur all the while balancing a busy school schedule posed a new set of challenges that many young equestrians of a similar age find themselves facing. As a graduate student in the marketing program at Baylor University, Hildebrand not only has to juggle a demanding school schedule, but she is also very involved in the care and maintenance of her own show horses.

“It has definitely been a trial-and-error process,” Hildebrand said. “I’ve had to work really hard to find what schedule works best for me and my horses in this phase of my life. I’m very lucky to have a great support system in place with my trainers Conan and Becky O’Connor and my barn team, who help me every day, but I’m extremely hands-on and active in all aspects of my horses’ management.”

While each week looks different based on the needs of her horses and her rigorous school schedule, Hildebrand has settled into a bit of a rhythm while showing in Wellington this season.

“Mondays are our off-days for the horses, so I can be fully dedicated to school. My classes are in six-week, online sessions, and while most people might think online school is easier, the turnaround time for assignments is tight. Other days, I typically am at the barn from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then can give myself an hour break before diving into my schoolwork through the evening. When I’m showing, I have to get a bit more creative with my schedule. If I have a big assignment due, I may need to rely more on my support team to help me. Every week looks a little different, but we adjust to make sure the horses are getting the daily management they need and to allow myself the time necessary to be successful in school.”

With her recent move up in competition level to the High Amateur-Owners and an overall goal of establishing consistency in her riding this circuit, maintaining a flexible rhythm is essential in all areas of Hildebrand’s life at this stage.

No matter what stage of their riding they might be in, young equestrians of all ages must demonstrate an innate ability to roll with the punches and adjust to new obstacles on a daily basis.

From transitioning to new divisions, adapting to new horses and demonstrating the ability to balance all aspects of their busy lives, the hurdles may seem never ending. But it is the passion for the sport and their love for the horses that unites these riders, who are at very different places in their lives — and those two things make all of the trials and tribulations a worthwhile endeavor.

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Lexus International Gay Polo Tourney Returns For A Fabulous & Safe Weekend

Lexus International Gay Polo Tourney Returns For A Fabulous & Safe Weekend

The Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, went off without a hitch from Thursday, March 25 through Sunday, March 28, with the tournament itself presented on the International Polo Club Palm Beach’s U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1 on Saturday, March 27.

After the weekend’s four events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the players and fans were eager to take to the field this spring for a safely produced series of events.

This was the first time playing the Gay Polo League’s signature event on IPC’s Field 1 — one of the most famous polo fields in the world.

The event was COVID-conscience with mask compliance and social distancing. However, these precautions did not hinder the wonderful energy of the athletes or attendees, nor dampen the creative efforts of the tailgate decorations.

Four teams played in the exciting two-day tournament. Players came from Washington State, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, New York and Argentina. This year, the league welcomed six players making their GPL debut. And for the first time, two teams were composed entirely of LGBTQ+ polo players.

Every year, the league engages new players, both LGBTQ+ and allies. “The exceptional thing this year is the number of players competing in GPL for their first time,” said Chip McKenney, the league’s founder and president. “Our teams reflect the diversity of our communities, and we are grateful to each player who participates and supports GPL.”

This year also set a new record of three LGBTQ+ polo professionals competing. Other professionals and players are LGBTQ+ allies and strong supporters of diversity, human rights and inclusion.

Joey Casey, owner of the Palm City Polo Club, home club of GPL Polo, is the driving force behind providing polo ponies and professional polo players, who volunteer their time and skills to the league.

“GPL is always a fun event, unique in many ways,” he said. “I am a strong advocate for polo and recognize the value of bringing in new players to the sport. I’ve worked with GPL for 11 years, and each year gets better. It’s a blast.”

McKenney was thankful to host a successful event after a difficult 2020 season. “We are delighted with the event, and we are thankful for the ongoing support of our distinguished sponsors that stood by us during 2020 and continue to partner with GPL to promote diversity and inclusion,” he said.

“When companies like Lexus and Douglas Elliman Real Estate collaborate with LGBTQ+ events, like GPL, it speaks volumes about their positive company values and inclusive culture. All of our sponsors share our mission to elevate and promote equality for everyone,” McKenney continued.

Attendees enjoyed great polo coupled with the chance to participate in the traditional tailgate competition, as judged by Hotels at Sea and Celebrity Cruises. Tailgates this year were limited to groups of 12 people each and separated to ensure social distancing, yet this did not slow down the creativity of the community.

“It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying their time together while staying safe,” McKenney said.

Another fun tradition during the tournament weekend was the GPL Polotini event on Friday, March 26. Instead of the usual Wigstock competition, this year’s theme was “MASK-QUERADE,” with the best mask taking home both bragging rights and a trophy.

The event’s charity partner was SAGE USA, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ seniors. McKenney is very proud that the event was able to help this worthy nonprofit.

“With COVID-19, a lot of people are limited on funds, but correspondingly, the needs are more significant than ever,” he said. “The senior community was hit very hard, and SAGE does a wonderful job of helping elderly people avoid isolation and being shut in.”

Despite the cancellation of last year’s tournament, the GPL still hosted a summer fundraiser to support SAGE USA. With a matching pledge from Cherry Knoll Farm, the organization raised $20,000 for the nonprofit. For more information about SAGE USA, visit www.sageusa.org.

In these uncertain times, GPL is happy to be able to host a tournament that so many Wellington locals enjoy, and that draws a crowd from around the country. A successful, safe, enjoyable event was a marvelous start to the Florida spring season.

Learn more about the Gay Polo League at www.gaypolo.com.

 

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Gauntlet Of Polo Series Partners With U.S. Polo Assn. To Support Polo Charities

Gauntlet Of Polo Series Partners With U.S. Polo Assn. To Support Polo Charities

Story by Stacey Kovalsky  |  Photos ©Global Polo Entertainment

U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the United States Polo Association and primary sponsor of the Gauntlet of Polo tournament series, is making generous donations to multiple polo charities as part of the exciting tournament series currently underway at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.

Recipients will be selected by the first and second place teams of each of the Gauntlet’s tournament finals. The Gauntlet of Polo is one of the pinnacle tournament series globally in high-goal polo competition. This highly competitive event features the most skilled athletes and finest horses in the world.

“The sport of polo is at the heart and soul of our brand, so we wanted to ensure that these worthy, polo-based charities were a component of this high-profile polo event,” said J. Michael Prince, president and CEO of USPA Global Licensing, which manages the global U.S. Polo Assn. brand. “As a cause-based brand that supports philanthropic events around the world, U.S. Polo Assn. is extremely honored to partner with these amazing teams and charities during these challenging economic times.”

Because of the important causes these charities represent, U.S. Polo Assn. will also make donations to any charity not represented by a team. In total, more than $50,000 will be donated. The USPA is grateful to all the teams participating in the Gauntlet and to U.S. Polo Assn. for not only being the top sponsor of the series, but also for generously donating to these notable polo charities.

These donations will continue to bring awareness and support to the polo community.

The participating charities include: Homes for Horses, Polo for Life, the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, Polo Pony Rescue, the Polo Players Support Group, the Polo Training Foundation, Replay Polo, the Retired Racehorse Project and Work to Ride.

Homes for Horses is a national coalition dedicated to increasing collaboration, professionalism and growth in the equine rescue and protection community. Members are committed to ending horse slaughter and all other forms of equine abuse. The coalition is an initiative of the Animal Welfare Institute and currently includes more than 520 members representing horse rescue and sanctuaries throughout the U.S. and beyond.

Polo for Life is dedicated to helping families facing the challenge of surviving childhood cancers. The nonprofit organization focuses on direct impact initiatives by partnering with local organizations to ensure the needs of patients and their families are met and their financial hardships resulting from a cancer diagnosis are minimized. Polo for Life is the driving force behind Polo for a Purpose, which has raised nearly $2 million for the benefit of local organizations.

The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the sport, its history, development and traditions by acquiring, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting collections, as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport. The museum is a rich repository of documents and physical treasures, which include works of art, historic trophies, artifacts, books, statistics, periodicals, films, videos, recordings and memorabilia.

Polo Pony Rescue rescues equines, primarily former polo ponies that have been neglected, abused, seized by law enforcement or are at risk of slaughter; provides any needed veterinary care, rehabilitation or retraining; and finds them new, loving homes. They also offer permanent retirement to horses who have physical or mental conditions rendering them no longer able to be ridden.

The Polo Players Support Group provides financial assistance to seriously injured or ill players and grooms. PPSG created the annual 40-Goal Polo Challenge in partnership with U.S. Polo Assn. to raise funds to help members of the polo community in financial crisis caused by physical injury or illness.

The Polo Training Foundation is dedicated to cultivating the future of polo while making it accessible and fun for everyone. PTF supports polo training at all levels, including beginner clinics, intercollegiate/interscholastic tournaments and clinics, and international player exchanges. PTF also seeks to encourage the highest standards of sportsmanship and promotes international good will through polo competition.

Replay Polo’s mission statement is “Save Polo Ponies. Transform People.” The organization devotes itself to repurposing retired polo ponies that are far from the end of their usefulness, having the experience and character to be “repurposed” for continued usefulness in important new capacities.

The Retired Racehorse Project exists to facilitate placement of thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers and organizations that transition them. Since its 2010 founding, RRP has put a spotlight on these horses with social media efforts and events, and it has inspired thousands to choose an “off-the-track” thoroughbred.

Work to Ride is a nonprofit, community-based prevention program that aids disadvantaged urban youth through constructive activities centered on horsemanship, equine sports and education. The program is housed at Chamounix Stables located in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Work to Ride programs and activities are designed to explore new ways of engaging youth in significant educational, social and cultural experiences that are otherwise unavailable.

To learn more about this initiative, visit www.uspoloassnglobal.com.

 

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Wellington Rotary Club Emphasizes The Importance Of Service Above Self

Wellington Rotary Club Emphasizes The Importance Of Service Above Self

By m. Dennis Taylor 

The importance of giving can never be overemphasized, and there’s always joy in acts of giving. This timeless bit of wisdom is taken to heart by the Wellington Rotary Club, which has been continually serving the community for 40 years.

Rotary International — of which the Wellington club is a local affiliate — is a service organization that spans the globe promoting peace and health. “It has promoted everything from polio vaccines to infrastructure and equipment for indigenes in South America,” said David Berns, the current president of the Wellington club.

The local branch is active in a range of activities, from helping hand out free food to those hardest-hit in the area by the COVID-19 pandemic, to supporting shelters for those less fortunate.

Ask any Rotarian, and you’ll get a litany of reasons to get involved with the group, but most of the explanations could easily fall into the category of bettering oneself by improving the local and worldwide communities.

The group has spent most of the past year partnering with the Village of Wellington, Feeding South Florida and others to provide weekly food boxes to some 900 local families.

“We provide six to 10 people each week to supply helping hands at the distribution point,” Berns said.

Every Tuesday morning, hundreds of cars line up at the Mall at Wellington Green for an efficient distribution of a week’s worth of supplies that have meant a great deal of difference in the lives of locals hard-hit by the present circumstances.

Another on-going project has been to get a “Buddy Bench” in each of the elementary schools in the village, with a program of peer “ambassadors” trained and set up to support anyone who feels isolated or bullied. Such a child is encouraged to merely sit on the designated, colorful bench and is soon met by another student to talk with them. The popular and successful program is being expanded.

The arrival of Santa in the end of the annual Wellington Holiday Parade is arranged by the group, as are gifts for children in hospitals and for healthcare workers. For decades, the club has supported the Back to Basics program to provide school uniforms for students returning to school each year and holiday gifts for children each December. People in times of trouble who need a place to stay are helped by the club’s longtime support the Lord’s Place, a program serving the local homeless population.

The club’s annual peace initiative and ceremony is considered by many to be one of Rotary’s signature events. Held at Wellington Rotary Peace Park near the Wellington branch library, this special event includes presentations, performances and awards presented to winning students. The events are organized and presented in honor of each United Nations International Peace Day by the Wellington Rotary Club.

Past president and 23-year club member Don Gross said the peace initiative is one of his favorite club activities. “It is held the third Sunday in September around the United Nations Peace Day, which is Sept. 21,” Gross said.

There are contests in all the schools with prizes awarded by the club. “We have a poster contest for the elementary students, poems from the middle schoolers and an essay competition for the high schools,” Gross explained.

Gross is also enthusiastic about the club’s annual dictionary giveaway to third graders.

“It has been going on for 20 years,” he said. “We give a dictionary to each student in third grade. Some people ask why we give a book when you can find everything on Google, but the kids love it. It is their book. They can hold it in their hands and flip through it.”

These are just some of the many acts of giving that the club participates in. “We primarily work in the background,” said Berns, who explained that the group doesn’t seek out publicity.

Gross said that the club works wherever it sees a need. “It is involved behind the scenes in every aspect of the community providing benefits,” he said.

That group has changed in complexion since its founding in 1980. “Originally, it was older retirees,” Berns said.

Then, when women began joining the previously all-male Rotary, the changes were marked. “Today, we are about a 50-50 mix of men and women, and the group of nearly 50 active participants itself has more younger people in their 30s and 40s,” Berns said.

Gross agreed that the shifting demographics have brought beneficial changes to the club for this era.

“Years ago, ‘supporting’ a program might mean writing a check. Today, it is the hands-on hours put in by the members, not just money,” Gross explained.

He said that members are a group of mostly businesspeople and professionals, and still many are retired. Since the chapter’s inception, even before the Village of Wellington was incorporated, the members have been and still are community leaders interested in the social good.

Community Services Coordinator Maggie Zeller joined the club some eight years ago. She pointed out that the original Rotary organization was founded in Chicago in 1905, and it wasn’t until 1987 that the all-male organization began accepting women members.

“I truly believe in the Wellington Rotary Club,” Zeller said. “I agree the club has changed with women joining… We helped it evolve from just the check writers who supported things in the past. I think we bring a humanitarian, caring and nurturing perspective of giving back to the community.”

While today’s Wellington Rotary Club is now an organization of men and women with spouses encouraged to get involved in the projects as well, “It is far from a mere networking or social club,” Gross said. “The mindset is on community service.”

That community mindset has been consistent over the years of growth in the Village of Wellington, the changing needs of its residents and the expansion of demographics in the club. Throughout it all, however, has been the simple joys contained in the act of giving.

For more information about the Wellington Rotary Club, visit www.wellingtonrotary.org.

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World-Famous Dressage Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén Enjoys Her Winters Competing In Wellington

World-Famous Dressage Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén Enjoys Her Winters Competing In Wellington

Aiming for a possible eighth Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo, Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén of Sweden has made Wellington her winter home for the past 10 years.

As one of the most respected and high-profile riders at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), Tinne has kept horses central to her life since childhood and has found happiness in the warm Florida winters.

Tinne’s mother Berit, also a dressage rider and a horse show organizer (including dressage at the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stockholm), got her daughter involved in the sport at a young age and had her learning from some of the best in the world, like Walter Christensen, who was the chef d’équipe for Sweden at the time.

While dressage wasn’t a foregone conclusion for Tinne, she does think that the sport, which requires patience and intricacy, suits her well.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to find a new solution to different problems,” she explained. “I can sit forever and try to figure something out, and that’s a little bit how dressage can be, too. The relationship with the horse can be like that, to figure out how they think and react and how I can get them to do it the best way. I think it’s really fascinating, so I think dressage suits my personality.”

Tinne turned professional and started her own business with dressage horses at the age of 23 and made it to two Olympic Games before a meeting with Antonia Ax:son Johnson of Lövsta Stuteri changed her life in 1999. Antonia had a four-year-old stallion and asked Tinne to ride him. Since then, Lövsta Stuteri has become one of the top equine breeding operations, offering stallion breeding around the world.

“We started to talk, and after an hour in the indoor schooling arena, I ended up going home with a new job instead, which was moving over to work for her,” Tinne recalled. “It was the best thing I ever could have done. It changed my life and my possibility to be a professional rider.”

Tinne and Antonia went on to incredible success on the world stage with top performances at eight European Championships, seven FEI Dressage World Cup Finals, five FEI World Equestrian Games and five more Olympic appearances.

The standout in Tinne’s long list of talented mounts was Don Auriello, a Hanoverian gelding that received the silver medal at the 2016 Gothenburg FEI Dressage World Cup Final in Tinne’s home country of Sweden.

But among the standout memories of Don Auriello for Tinne were his Friday Night Stars freestyle performances at the AGDF.

“It’s going to stay in my heart forever, I think,” she said. “The atmosphere and the feeling in the evening is a cool memory. Don Auriello loved the atmosphere and loved to be in front of people. That’s a great feeling to sit on a horse that enjoys it and wants to show himself. I think it’s going to stay my favorite memory. I have a lot of other fantastic horses, but he was very special.”

Tinne first competed in Wellington in 2010 at the World Dressage Masters at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. Together with Antonia and her daughter, Sophie Morner, who had already competed jumpers at the Winter Equestrian Festival in previous years, Tinne and Antonia still come to Wellington every winter, and Tinne shares stabling with Sophie at Lövsta South.

When she first came to Wellington, her first impression was one of awe.

“It’s like a dream world for a horse person to see so many stables,” Tinne said. “You think you are coming to a normal community, but it’s just horses everywhere, and I think it is just great. Almost the whole town is built for horses, so it’s an impressive thing to see first-hand. It’s fascinating, and it has grown so much since then as well, but even then, it was amazing.”

That favorable impression extends to the AGDF. Tinne credits the show for its international feel, professional management, fantastic footing, top judges, and safe, horse-friendly stabling.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare my horses for the championships than being here in the winter,” she said. “The first year when we came home [to Sweden] in the spring, I was worried the horses would be tired because they [competed] all winter, but actually the horses that were here over the winter were more fit and more ready to work than the ones that had been home in the winter in the cold.”

Being a part of the Wellington community has developed over the years for Tinne and Lövsta. Lövsta was a major festival sponsor this winter and presented the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W during AGDF 1 in January.

Last year, Tinne and Antonia, along with Louise Nathhorst, were instrumental in bringing the Lövsta Future Challenge, a concept that started in Sweden, to Wellington. The series gives young Grand Prix horses the opportunity to compete for valuable international experience at a major competition, prize money and recognition early in their careers.

Antonia also pledged that for every entry in the Lövsta Future Challenge, Lövsta would donate $250 to the local charity, Friends of Palm Beach, a nonprofit organization that cleans the beaches of Palm Beach regularly to remove incoming plastic, trash and unnatural debris, and to educate the community on the effects of this on the environment and marine life. They partner with other nonprofit job placement programs to help end the cycle of homelessness while also helping to end the cycle of trash in the ocean. Lövsta ended up giving $8,500 to Friends of Palm Beach in 2020.

Outside of the horse show, Tinne’s husband, Jan, who works for Garmin on sailing boat navigation, joins her every winter, and her son Lucas came to Wellington and attended school in the community. While Lucas is 19 now and stays in Sweden, Tinne still enjoys the opportunities that life in Wellington affords her.

“I think this combination of being able to compete and train and still be social with my family at the same time is a dream for me,” she explained. “If you’re in Europe, then you travel for days before you even get to the show, and then you are gone for a week. Here, I can compete and still be home, which is very different. I can make the horses my focus here and still keep up with my family. I get to have both.”

While Tokyo is on her mind, the fluctuating situation regarding major sporting events leaves the rest of 2021 up in the air. For Tinne, she will continue to do what she has always done — focus on her horses and her current situation. That focus on the details that drew her to dressage in the first place remains her driving force.

“With everything going on in the world right now, I am just happy that we can keep competing and that it is possible to even do this at the same time,” Tinne explained. “That we can keep going with our passion and our professional lives is great right now; many people can barely live. I just like to stay prepared and see what happens.”

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Faces of Dressage – Roxanne Trunnell

Faces of Dressage – Roxanne Trunnell

Roxanne Trunnell is a 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympian and a two-time FEI World Equestrian Games U.S. Para Dressage team member. Trunnell is currently the highest-ranked para dressage athlete in the world by FEI rankings and has broken numerous records. As a competitor in able-bodied dressage, Trunnell earned a United States Dressage Federation (USDF) bronze medal and was close to obtaining her silver medal before contracting a virus in 2009 that caused swelling in her brain, changing her life forever and requiring her to use a wheelchair. However, she refused to let this stifle her dreams. After a long recovery, she rode her first CPEDI event in 2013. Here in Wellington, she dominated the FEI Para Team Test Grade I CPEDI3* class with Dolton during Week 3 of the 2020 Adequan Global Dressage Festival. She secured several more victories during para dressage competitions at this year’s festival, also riding Dolton, owned by Flintwood Farm LLC.

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Being Part Of Wellington’s Tight-Knit Dressage Community A Wonderful Experience For The Rizvi Family

Being Part Of Wellington’s Tight-Knit Dressage Community A Wonderful Experience For The Rizvi Family

When amateur dressage rider PJ Rizvi first came to Wellington in 1999, she was 29 years old and competing in the amateur jumpers at the Winter Equestrian Festival. She had no children and was working on dressage with her jumper to improve her flatwork. It was her friendship with Olympic dressage rider Ashley Holzer that brought her into the fold of the dressage world and kept her a part of it throughout four pregnancies in six years. But it was Wellington and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) that gave Rizvi the confidence to ride at the top levels of international sport and the chance to share time and horses with her whole family.

After that first winter competing at WEF, she was back in New York and taking dressage lessons with Holzer, whom she has known since she was 22 years old. But riding was put on hold when she gave birth to her first daughter Yasmin in 2001. With three more children over five years, Rizvi could only ride periodically between pregnancies.

“I showed Fourth Level after child two, Prix St. Georges after child three, and then after child four, I started doing Grand Prix,” she recalled with a laugh. “The kids were starting in ponies, so getting out to White Fences [in Loxahatchee] was difficult. It was hard for me to watch my kids and go do dressage all at the same time.”

When Equestrian Sport Productions planned and broke ground for a new horse show facility to host the AGDF, Rizvi and her husband Suhail signed up to be founding sponsors, and when the circuit started in 2012, it propelled her into the next level of the sport.

“Having the opportunity to show at Global changed things a lot for me because I went from being a very novice amateur rider, and then the very next year, I did my first CDI in Wellington with my old partner Breaking Dawn,” Rizvi said. “I was able to show the CDIs for the next three seasons with him, and I went from being just a mom with no ranking to having a world ranking, which my kids thought was very funny.”

The horse show circuit in Wellington, both jumping and dressage, brought success to the whole Rizvi family. While mom was moving up at AGDF, daughters Yasmin, Farah and Zayna were riding ponies and graduating to the equitation and junior jumper ranks. Farah also took an interest in her mother’s sport and competed in the FEI Pony dressage division at AGDF for multiple seasons.

“It’s great to pursue my passion and do something that I love,” Rizvi said. “I think it has set a good example to my girls, not just with riding but with other aspects of their life, because they realize these things take a lot of commitment and time, but at the end of the day, you just have to love it and enjoy it or it’s not worth it. I think it has been good for them to see their mother have her own passion and interests.”

Rizvi’s horse Breaking Dawn, who competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games with Holzer before Rizvi took over the ride, is 21 years old now and retired. Rizvi and “Edward” won their final class together, the Grand Prix Special CDI3*, at the 2019 AGDF.

“AGDF gave me the opportunity to develop and compete against great riders and have a really great community, and I find that the dressage community as a whole is really friendly and helpful,” she said. “I miss Friday Night Stars more than anything! To have a few thousand people watching you and cheering is just electrifying. You feel like everyone is rooting for you even if you don’t have your best test.”

Rizvi plans to compete at this year’s AGDF when time allows. While Yasmin, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and 17-year-old Farah is preparing for college, Zayna, 15, is “all about the jumpers.” Her son Arslan, 13, rode polo for years before making tennis his main sport. Suhail enjoys watching his wife and daughters ride but is also one who will help his wife stay up with a sick horse at night. “He really loves animals,” Rizvi noted. “He thinks it’s fun when they are spunky and do naughty things!”

The Rizvi family enjoy the summers in Wellington ever since they moved full-time from New York in 2015. Takeout and margaritas from Don Chepo’s is a regular occurrence, as is visiting friends in town for cookouts and enjoying the beautiful weather year-round.

Rizvi is closely involved with Polo for Life, a Wellington-based nonprofit that has raised almost $2 million to help support pediatric cancer patients and their families, and focuses on direct impact initiatives by partnering with local organizations to ensure that the needs of patients and their families are met and their financial hardships, resulting from a cancer diagnosis, are minimized.

It’s a cause that is close to Rizvi’s heart, as her sister Penny passed away from leukemia. Yasmin, Farah and Zayna help their mother by soliciting auction items, selling tables to the fundraising event, volunteering and enjoy spending time with the children and their siblings and taking them shopping at Christmas.

It’s a delicate balance of time management for her family, nonprofit work and riding. “I don’t know if there’s a secret,” she said. “I’m extremely organized. Family is the first priority for me. You have to create a balance. It can’t be so all consuming that the only world is horses and you’re not aware of anything else that is going on. My kids are very well-rounded, which is super important. I have always told them that they need to look at riding as a long-term sport.”

For Rizvi, the connection to AGDF is so important because it helped make dressage a lifelong sport for her.

“I didn’t grow up riding. It was something that was made possible for me in the second half of my life that I never thought could happen,” she said. “If it wasn’t here all in one place, in Wellington, I couldn’t have done it.”

That advice rings true when Rizvi looks back at her decades of time with horses, from when she was broke in her 20s and had to ride bareback starting out with her first horse, to her summer competing in CDIs in France and Austria, to this season where, at 50 years old, she will go back to the ring after two years off from international competition.

Those who weather the changes and the years and get the most out of their time with horses come away with a lifetime of memories.

Rizvi and her family will be the first to tell you that their time with horses is worth it, and the best may be yet to come.

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Faces of Dressage

Faces of Dressage

Each winter, the majestic sport of dressage is on display here in Wellington, home of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, which is celebrating its 10th season this year. Often compared to “dancing with horses,” the Olympic sport of dressage showcases the grace, beauty and elegance of horse and rider pairs working together as one. While the top dressage shows will be harder to see in person this season due to COVID-19 restrictions, top riders from around the world have returned to participate in AGDF, North America’s most prestigious dressage series. AGDF opened in January and continues at Equestrian Village through April 4 featuring 10 weeks of competition, with seven of those weeks offering international, FEI-level classes. You can catch all the action streaming live at www.globaldressagefestival.com. Meanwhile, check out just a few of the amazing dressage riders competing at AGDF in our annual Faces of Dressage pictorial section.

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Faces of Dressage – Steffen Peters

Faces of Dressage – Steffen Peters

German-born Olympian Steffen Peters, who competes for the U.S., began riding at age 7, and by age 15 was competing at the international level. After receiving his first horse, Udon, at age 16, Peters began seriously training in dressage. It was aboard Udon that Peters won a team bronze medal when he represented the U.S. at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Peters has represented the U.S. at numerous other international competitions, including the World Equestrian Games in 2006 and 2010, when he secured bronze medals, and 2018, when he took silver. He returned to the Olympics in 2016 and helped the U.S. to the bronze medal in team dressage. Peters has been named the USEF Equestrian of the Year a record three times. Last year at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, he led the U.S. dressage team to a Nations Cup victory in Week 10. He was back to his winning ways this season, earning his 16th win in a row with mount Suppenkasper to open AGDF 3 by winning the FEI Grand Prix CDI4*, presented by Havensafe Farm.

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