The Adequan Global Dressage Festival, located at Equestrian Village at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, has started the 2019 season off with a bang, welcoming top combinations from around the world to the iconic venue in the heart of Wellington’s equestrian community.
As one of the three Olympic equestrian disciplines, dressage has become a staple of the horse show circuit in South Florida from January to March. The AGDF has steadily grown into one of the most competitive proving grounds in North America, as established combinations and rising stars showcase their talents across the 10-week international circuit.
The Friday Night Stars series has become one of the most popular competition evenings in Wellington during the winter, hosting FEI Grand Prix Freestyle competition under the lights at Equestrian Village. Beginning at 7 p.m., Friday Night Stars offers spectators the opportunity to watch some of the world’s top combinations compete their choreographed routines to music variations of all genres. General admission is free to the public each Friday evening, and parking is $10 per car.
The 2019 AGDF season began Thursday, Jan. 10 with the first FEI World Cup Qualifier (CDI-W) of the season, which saw Team USA’s top combination of Laura Graves and Verdades take top honors. This iconic duo is currently ranked second in the world and was a major catalyst in the United States winning the team silver medal at the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018, which qualified them for the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020.
“The 2019 AGDF season is one that we anticipate will be very competitive for the riders and their horses, as we’re seeing many combinations return to the competition ring after some time off following their successes at major championships last year,” explained Thomas Baur, director of sport at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. “Each year, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the popularity of the circuit, and the projections are showing a continued increase in participation, which is very exciting for our management team. We are looking forward to welcoming more spectators and attendees to experience the talents of these incredible riders.”
The second week of the circuit hosted CPEDI 3* competition, which served as one of two international competition weeks for para-equestrian riders. These spectacular athletes compete across five different grade categories, based upon the degree of their physical disabilities. Para-equestrian athletes complete pre-designated tests, the same as able-bodied riders, which range in difficulty based on the grade of competition. Team USA had a very successful para-equestrian showing at the WEG, medaling for the first time in program history, as Rebecca Hart captured a bronze medal individually. The second CPEDI 3* week of the 2019 season will take place during AGDF 9 (March 7-10).
The third week of the circuit welcomed the popular US PRE-sponsored week of CDI-W classes at the venue for international competitors, pushing the main stretch of the internationally sanctioned competition. The week honored the presence and popularity of the Spanish-bred horse within the dressage community in the United States and around the world.
National-level competition took center stage during AGDF 4 (Feb. 1-3), before the start of the highly anticipated CDI 5*, the highest and most prestigious designation of competition offered during the 2019 season at the venue. The CDI 5* entertained audiences throughout the week, as the first-ever clinic with star Isabell Werth was hosted on Thursday, Feb. 7, in addition to the elite competition featuring both Large Tour and Small Tour competition. The clinic featured five different horse and rider combinations, who received personal and engaging feedback and instruction from Werth, the most decorated equestrian Olympian of our time. The clinic was one of the major highlights of the week, and also the season at Equestrian Village.
“It was the first time in the history of AGDF that we had the opportunity to host a clinic with Isabell Werth, one of the most iconic riders in the history of dressage,” Baur said. “We are incredibly honored to offer a clinic like this to the loyal dressage community here in Wellington and are hopeful that this will become a standing event at AGDF annually.”
The season continued forward with AGDF 7 (Feb. 20-24), featuring CDI-W competition presented by Helgstrand Dressage, which once again hosted a week of top Large Tour and Small Tour competition, and highlighted the Grand Prix Freestyle on Friday, Feb. 22.
AGDF 8 (Feb. 28 through March 3) follows directly after, welcoming the historic Palm Beach Dressage Derby, a staple of the South Florida dressage scene for nearly four decades. The week will feature CDI-W competition and includes the final round of the entertaining Palm Beach Dressage Derby competition during the midway point of the Friday Night Stars Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W.
The Palm Beach Dressage Derby is a highlight for spectators, as four top-level riders compete against each other on horses they’ve never ridden before in a knock-out style format. Riders who receive the highest scores will advance to the final round, taking place under the lights in an electric atmosphere at Equestrian Village during the Grand Prix Freestyle, where the 2019 winner will be crowned.
CDI competition continues with AGDF 10 (March 14-17) as the FEI Nations Cup CDIO 3*, presented by Stillpoint Farm, which has been traditionally held during AGDF 12, begins. Serving as the only non-championship CDIO 3* in the western hemisphere, this competition is one of the pinnacle weeks of competition at the AGDF. Riders represent their countries on teams of three or four and compete for top honors in one of North America’s premier competitions.
The AGDF is set to conclude with AGDF 12 (March 28-31) with the final international competition of the season, the CDI 4*, presented by Havensafe Farm. The CDI 4*, which will be hosted for the first time during AGDF 12, providing riders with their final opportunity to take to the international arena in 2019. AGDF 12 will mark the final Friday Night Stars FEI Grand Prix Freestyle of the season on Friday, March 29.
Equestrian Village at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is located at 13500 South Shore Blvd. in Wellington. To learn more about the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and to view a full weekly and daily schedule of competition, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.