The 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival will be at an all-time high as the world’s best riders prepare to qualify and represent their countries at September’s World Equestrian Games in North Carolina. Riders travel year after year from all across the globe to take advantage of the warm weather, the challenging jumping courses and the opportunities to win the competitive prize money. This year will include action-packed competitions for the riders to strategize for triumphs to qualify for the four coveted spots to represent their countries. Whether riders compete during the day or under the Saturday Night Lights, the sport of show jumping at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center will be the place to enjoy the fun and excitement of talented world-class pairings of horses and riders. Be sure to cheer for each country’s riders as they work to build their horse’s confidence and fitness levels for an exciting year ahead. In Faces of WEF, we highlight just a few of the top riders competing this season.
Samuel Parot has a quiet presence at the shows. A well-liked and well-respected individual by his fellow riders, the 53-year-old Chilean based in Wellington has become a dominant player on the circuit. He has competed at the top in Europe, Spruce Meadows, as well as on the Longines North American League World Cup Qualifying circuit. In 2017, all just in February at the Winter Equestrian Festival, he won the CSI4* riding Dazzle White, the CSI3* riding Couscous Van Orti, the CSI3* aboard Atlantis, then the huge CSI5* riding Quick Du Pottier — then again, the CSI5* riding Couscous Van Orti. In March, he won the CSI4* Grand Prix aboard Atlantis and the CSI4* riding Quick Du Pottier. When he traveled with his horses to Europe in July to ride at the Aachen, Germany show jumping CSIO5*, he placed third riding Atlantis, and he also placed third in the Aachen CSIO5* riding Quick Du Pottier. Upon his return to the United States, he won the Lexington CSI3* on Quick Du Pottier and the Lexington CSI3* riding Atlantis, with even more wins in Canada and Tryon. A dominant rider on the course, Parot will be one to watch as he prepares to qualify for the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
One of America’s leading hunter riders, Scott Stewart has time and again shown his talent and brilliance in the –Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular win in Wellington. In the 20-year history of the WCHR and his long-running and decorated career, Stewart never made it onto the roster of winners, until 2016. He had competed in the class almost every year since its beginning, and the winning prize had eluded him. In 2017, at the prestigious horse show at Devon, he earned the Devon Leading Hunter Rider award. At the Capital Challenge Horse Show, he was also recognized with the best hunter horses and riders in the country at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Maryland. Then Stewart and Lucador won Leading Hunter Rider, Grand Champion Professional Hunter and won at the 2017 Lexington CP National Horse Show. Stewart grew up in Norwalk, Conn., and competed in the equitation and Medal/Maclay Finals, making it into the final group twice. He has ridden jumpers, taught the up-and-coming equitation riders to the finals and placed at the top in the hunter classes with victories year after year.
The daughter of famed rocker Bruce Springsteen, Jessica Springsteen continues to rock the competition Grand Prix arenas around the world. Springsteen had a standout year in 2017 as she looks to qualify for one of the four coveted spots to represent the United States at the World Equestrian Games. Last February, at the Winter Equestrian Festival, she won a CSI5* riding Tiger Lily, and another riding Davendy S. In March, she won the Ocala Live Oak Plantation CSI3* piloting Davendy S, and another Wellington CSI5* event. Traveling to Europe last summer, Springsteen won the Windsor CSI5* Falcon Stakes with Davendy S, as well as the Monte Carlo CSI5*. In London, she won the CSI2* Grand Prix aboard Tiger Lily, and then the Valkenswaard CSI5* with Davendy S. Most recently, in November, she won a CSI4* in Wellington riding RMF Swinny du Parc. In 2008, she won the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, and the following year topped the George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship. She will kick off this year of top competition in the ring at WEF, where she’s sure to stand out.
Beezie Madden Only the second person to be named U.S. Equestrian Rider of the Year three times, Beezie Madden has spent most of her life around horses. She was the first woman to pass the $1 million mark in earnings for show jumping. She had a stellar 2017, when she won the Deeridge Farms CSI3*-W riding Breitling LS, then the Ocala CSIO4*, followed by the North Salem CSI2* Grand Prix, before becoming the champion at Calgary’s Spruce Meadows CSI5*, all piloting Breitling LS. She had a coveted European win at the Aachen CSIO5*, followed by a win at the Valence CSI5* and then the Brussels CSI5* aboard Con Taggio. Returning home, she won in Spruce Meadows, then at the Washington International Horse Show. She won the Lexington CSI4*-W navigating HHS Hercules, followed by two classes at Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair. A seasoned athlete, Madden rode in the 2008 Olympic Games and won the individual bronze medal and was a member of the gold medal U.S. team. She was part of the gold medal team at the 2004 Olympics and was on the gold medal 2003 Pan American Games team. She also won gold with 2011 Pan American Games team and returned in 2012 to the Olympic Games for her third appearance.
Whether it’s Wellington, the Olympics or the World Equestrian Games, McLain Ward is well-prepared for the challenge. Ward utilizes WEF each year as part of his strategy to win the big championships. Last year, he took a full sweep of victories in four days of high-pressure competition in Omaha at the Longines FEI World Cup CSI-W Final Championships riding HH Azur. He completed the week with no penalties after five rounds of jumping, one rail ahead of the second-place rider. At his 17 appearances at the World Cup finals, the highest Ward had ever placed before was second. He went on to rank No. 1 in the Longines FEI world rankings for the first time. He stayed at the top through June 2017, until fellow U.S. rider Kent Farrington took over, leaving Ward the No. 2 rider in the world. It was the first time two Americans stood at the top of the world rankings. Last year, he won two North Salem competitions riding HH Carlos Z. He won at Devon riding Rothchild, then took two CSI5* competitions at Spruce Meadows riding HH Callas, two CSI5* classes riding Tina La Boheme and three riding HH Carlos Z. The momentum continued in Europe with a big win at Aachen. A talented rider, Ward is a dominant force to watch.
Laura Kraut’s list of competition wins is impressive. She has represented the United States at the Olympic Games, winning team gold at Hong Kong in 2008 with her horse Cedric. Her record of winning top-level competition spans back to 1988, and she is a familiar face in Wellington. Kraut had a stellar year in 2017, winning a Wellington CSI5* aboard Nouvelle and a CSI3* riding Caelle. During her summer tour through Europe, Kraut won the Windsor CSI5* riding Whitney, then a Nations Cup CSIO5* in Sopot, Poland riding Deauville S, and a CSI5* in Villach, Treffen, Germany riding Whitney. In Opglabbeek, Belguim she won piloting Caelle and SFS Vincomte, and returned to the states to win the Lexington CSI4*-W aboard Whitney. Kraut’s successful international career gives her a wealth of knowledge and ability to succeed in the big competitions. Highly ranked on the all-time money list in career earnings with more than 100 Grand Prix wins, she has represented the United States in the Olympic Games, World Cup Finals, and many Nation’s Cup teams. Kraut will be vying for one of the coveted spots to qualify for the U.S. team for the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018.
Jennifer Gates is preparing to become one of the top riders through the Under 25 division. The 21-year-old daughter of tech magnate Bill Gates, she is one of the nation’s top up-and-coming Under 25 riders. The senior at Stanford University balances completing her studies, where Gates majors in human biology, and competing in the big Grand Prix classes. She began riding at the age of six, when she and her childhood friend decided they would like to take lessons together. A few years later, she discovered the hunter/jumper world and pursued a more serious path. Gates quickly progressed through the levels and currently competes in some of the most prestigious equestrian sporting events in the world. In 2017, during the National Horse Show in Lexington, Ky., Gates took home the $100,000 USEF Under 25 Show Jumping National Championship aboard Alex. She went on to have a victory in the U.S. Open $25,000 Hollow Creek Farm Under 25 Grand Prix at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show in September, and she also finished fourth in a world-class field during the $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Lexington riding Pumped Up Kicks. A talented and intelligent rider, she will be one to watch this year.
At only 18 years old, Lucy Deslauriers regularly competes on the big stage against the best riders in the world. Deslauriers has grown up with big ambitions. Her father, Canadian Olympian Mario Deslauriers, also found success at a young age. He still holds the record as the youngest rider in history to win the FEI World Cup Final. These days, he waits anxiously near the in-gate whistling in encouragement. In 2017, Deslauriers had her biggest win to date during Week 8 of the Winter Equestrian Festival in the 1.50-meter $100,000 Suncoast Jumper Classic CSIO4*. Of the field of 49, she had a fault-free finish to the top of the leaderboard. Often one of the youngest riders in her class, Deslauriers is not intimidated by age differences. She also won the 2015 George Morris Excellence in Equitation Award at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. In 2016, she was awarded the Lionel Guerrand- Hermès Trophy by the United States Equestrian Team. The award is for young riders who exemplify both sportsmanship and horsemanship. In 2017, she had victories riding Hester in Wellington, Spruce Meadows, North Salem and more. As her relationship with Hestor continues, Deslauriers looks forward to more victories.
German Olympian Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum grew up as a successful American rider through the junior equitation and young rider systems in the U.S. She went on to learn from George Morris during her college years at Princeton, where she began her success in the Grand Prix ring. Moving to Germany to learn, her skills in precision timing are legendary. Michaels-Beerbaum is impressive to watch as she rides in perfect harmony with her horses. She was the first women to earn a spot on the German team at the European Championships and the first German woman to be ranked No. 1 on the FEI World Ranking. She has won the World Cup Finals three times. In 2006, she took home the bronze individual and team medals at the World Championships, then at the 2008 Olympics, she took fourth place. In 2010, she returned to the World Championships and won team gold. In 2016, at the Rio Olympics, she won the team bronze. Michaels-Beerbaum builds her horses’ confidence throughout the Florida winter season. Notable wins in 2017 at Aachen include the eight-year-old Sparkassen-Youngsters-Cup Final, where she placed second with Calle 67. She placed first in Munich, and second in the Falsterbo Nations Cup CSIO5*.