Exciting Season Ahead At WEF The Winter Equestrian Festival Features 13 Weeks Of Hunter, Jumper And Equitation Competitions
The 44th annual Winter Equestrian Festival kicked off its 13 weeks of competition in early January, running through April 2 at the Wellington International showgrounds featuring world-renowned hunter, jumper and equitation competitions.
Twelve of the 13 weeks feature FEI-sanctioned competition, welcoming some of the most talented and highest-ranking show jumpers from around the world. Spectators are welcome at Wellington International from Wednesday through Sunday each week.
“The most exciting thing this year is that the riders have started to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games,” said Michael Stone, president of Wellington International. “The qualification period has just started. That means that all the top riders have come here to get their qualifications done early.”
Highlighting the season is the return of Saturday Night Lights, featuring international Grand Prix and hunter derby competitions under the lights in the iconic International Arena.
Spectators can enjoy a variety of food and beverage options, live music, shopping, as well as family-friendly activities, such as face-painting, carousel rides, a petting zoo, magicians and stilt walkers.
Hospitality packages are also available for interested guests who want to experience the night’s competition from the best seats in the house.
“This is the only place where you can get free family entertainment and watch top athletes in the world,” Stone said. “This year, we have Olympic champions, world champions, European and Pan-American champions competing every Saturday night.”
The four CSI5* Grand Prix classes, the highest level of international show jumping in the sport, will take place on Feb. 11 (WEF 5), Feb. 25 (WEF 7), March 11 (WEF 9) and April 1 (WEF 12). These competitions feature the top horse-and-rider combinations in the world and include four FEI World Ranking classes.
The final CSI5* competition of the circuit (WEF 12) will welcome the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*, the most prestigious international class of the 2023 season.
The $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* will once again take place on the final Saturday of the season on the derby field at Equestrian Village.
As part of the Saturday Night Lights series, Wellington International will proudly host the Great Charity Challenge, sponsored by Fidelity Investments, on Saturday, Feb. 4. This exciting event, in its 14th year, blends philanthropy with equestrian sport by awarding more than $1 million to more than 40 charities in Palm Beach County.
On Saturday nights, gates open at 6 p.m., and general admission is free. There is a $20 per car fee for parking.
The Wellington International team will also be expanding its special event offerings with brunch on select Sundays to offer fans and competitors another opportunity to enjoy the sport this season.
“We have started this special brunch offering, so people can come by early on a Sunday afternoon to watch the jumping,” Stone said. “Then they can go on to polo after that and have a really great Sunday of equestrian sports.”
Brunch will be offered in the Blue Ribbon Club, and attendees will start their Sundays with a prime view of the International Arena and a complimentary glass of champagne. The Blue Ribbon Club Brunch debuted on Jan. 29 during WEF 3 and will continue on Feb. 12 (WEF 5), Feb. 26 (WEF 7), March 5 (WEF 8), March 12 (WEF 9), March 19 (WEF 10) and March 26 (WEF 11).
Now owned by the Global Equestrian Group, the former Palm Beach International Equestrian Center was rebranded Wellington International during the final weeks of the 2022 season. Over the past year, the new owners have put nearly $9 million into upgrades at the showgrounds.
“We have done a lot of investing here, such as new stables,” Stone said. “We have built three new permanent barns. This has been really well received by the competitors. This is part of our long-term plan to continue to enhance the facility to ensure that we remain the No. 1 horse show in the world.”
This has included a focus on horses, riders and spectators.
“We continue to improve the footing in the rings, so that the horses have the best conditions to compete in,” Stone said. “We have also created more viewing areas for the public, so that everyone who comes has a place to watch, especially during the Saturday Night Lights events.”
Wellington International is located at 3400 Equestrian Club Drive, off Pierson Road. Visit www.wellingtoninternational.com to learn more.