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Juan Matute Jr. Was Born To Compete, Following In His Father’s Footsteps

Juan Matute Jr. Was Born To Compete, Following In His Father’s Footsteps

In sports, great athletes achieve success with hard work, dedication and a passion to win. It takes guts and courage, too, to be successful. And, at times, it helps to have great bloodlines. Such is the case with Juan Matute Guimon, also known as Juan Matute Jr.

Matute Jr. has emerged in recent years as one of dressage’s best young talents. His family moved to Wellington from Spain in 2008. If you look at the career of his father, Juan Matute Sr., it’s clear that the younger Matute was born to follow his father’s accomplished footsteps, whose first big victory was at the 1982 Young Rider World Championships. During the elder Matute’s career, he won six Spanish National Dressage Championships and had three Olympic appearances for Spain.

Currently, Matute Jr. is living in Spain where he’s competing in dressage and going to college at Madrid’s Universidad Camilo Jose Cela. He moved to Europe last year in pursuit of new challenges and experiences, both as an athlete and in academics.

“I am pursuing a degree in business, but next year, I will change to international relations,” Matute Jr. said. “The winter circuit in Wellington has served as a launching pad for my career as a dressage rider. Over the years, I have gained a lot of experience as a competitor, and this has enabled me to grow as a rider from Juniors to Grand Prix. It was time for me to fly the nest and get out of my comfort zone to continue evolving in all aspects.”

Balancing an athletic career with college is not easy, but he’s making it work. “It’s challenging psychologically and with time management,” he admitted.

Matute Jr.’s most recent competition was a second-place finish in Doha, Qatar in February and a fifth-place finish at the World Cup in Lyon, France last November.

According to his accomplished father, Matute Jr. is a better competitor now at age 21 than he was at age 21.

Right now, Matute Jr. is ranked in top five dressage riders in the world rankings of riders under age 25, and in the world’s overall top 60 riders.

“He is the best at his age. He has a special sense of determination,” Matute Sr. said of his son. “He has a magical touch with the horses.”

Matute Jr.’s career started in 2012, when he competed for the first time in a CDI Juniors while riding Don Diego. He eventually won that division’s gold medal at the European Championships in 2015 while riding Dhannie Ymas. In 2016, Matute Jr. had a banner year. In Wellington, he competed on 36 occasions, and he won 17 of them. That summer, he won the bronze medal at the Under 25 European Championships in Germany, aboard Don Diego.

In 2017, Juan won a bronze medal with Quantico at the Under 25 European Championships in Austria. And in 2018, he won a bronze medal with Quantico at the senior Spanish National Championships and participated with the Spanish national team at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.

The greater dressage world offers high praise for Matute Jr.

“He’s honest, hard-working, and he’s had good guidance in life,” Olympic judge Gary Rockwell said.

“He’s a real talent, following in his father’s footsteps,” German dressage rider Christoph Koschel said.

“He’s a wonderful young man, and he’s very committed to the sport,” added Allyn Mann, director of strategic partnerships for dressage sponsor Adequan.

During his early days in dressage, Matute Jr. maintained a family tradition. In 2014, he wore his father’s 30-year-old tailcoat in competitions. The tailcoat experience was short-lived. “It was a huge honor and privilege to wear his tailcoat,” he recalled. “I wore it for one year. I simply outgrew it.”

As Matute Sr. reflects on his competitive days, one of his fondest memories was coming out of retirement and participating at the 2013 Nations Cup in Wellington, where his two children were his teammates and his wife Maria was the team chef. The Matute triumvirate won the bronze medal.

As for his future in dressage, Matute Jr. explained that his dad has given him great advice. “He constantly reminds me to keep a broad perspective and to remain patient with my ambition to one day become one of the best in the sport,” he said. “Success in our sport depends on the human-horse partnership, and it takes years to form a powerful bond.”

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Teddy Vlock Balances Schoolwork, Training & Moving Up In The Horse World

Teddy Vlock Balances Schoolwork, Training & Moving Up In The Horse World

Teddy Vlock is no stranger to a busy schedule. As a full-time student at Yale University, co-founder of T&R Developments and an up-and-coming young rider with a busy competition schedule at the Winter Equestrian Festival, 21-year-old Vlock knows how to manage his time.

With Vlock Show Stables, based in Wellington, the young athlete devotes half of his week to competing in Florida, and commutes to spend the other half at college in Connecticut. A psychology major, Vlock is in his sophomore year at Yale and has learned how to balance studying for his classes while also maintaining a full show schedule every winter in Wellington.

“I’m in classes all day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday doing school work. When I fly back to Wellington on Wednesday nights, I try to focus on just my riding,” Vlock explained. “I do what I have to do to get my school work done — I study on the plane a lot.”

While many top competitors have been training since childhood, Vlock began riding at the age of 13 thanks to a summer camp that offered equestrian activities as a part of its program. As the summer camp drew to an end, Vlock’s interest in horses was just beginning.

That initial intrigue has developed into more than just an enjoyable pastime. Vlock now competes regularly in FEI classes around the world with some of his current top horses, including Charly Brown, Gaspar Van Den Doorn and Cristobar, a horse that took Vlock from the 1.20m jumpers to international competition at the 1.50m height.

Some of Vlock’s most memorable moments in his career include placing third in the CSI2* final of the Longines Global Champions Tour Saint Tropez in 2018, and more recently placing in the top 10 of the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup CSI3* during Week Six of WEF. “I don’t judge my success on winning all of the time. To finish in the top 10 of a Grand Prix, alongside the top riders in the world, is a great success in my mind,” Vlock said. “I try to compare myself to the people who are at the top in this sport, knowing all of the amazing things they have accomplished.”

Vlock began his competitive career in the junior hunters. With the help of an exceptionally special horse, Grey Street, the pair dominated the junior hunter division in 2016, collecting championship honors during the WEF circuit and the prestigious Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania, finishing the year with a championship win at the historic National Horse Show in Kentucky.

Thanks to the team at Vlock Show Stables, in addition to one of his trainers, Irish show jumper Darragh Kenny of Oakland Stables, Vlock’s transition from the hunter ring to the jumpers was seamless. Working with Kenny, currently ranked 20th in the world, has proven to be a vital part of Vlock’s progression. “Teddy has progressed very nicely in the past few years. He has a great team behind him helping to work toward his goals. We made a plan that we all believe in, and Teddy has worked very hard to be more competitive at the higher levels,” Kenny said.

Kenny and Vlock have now worked together for three years, and Vlock credits much of his success to the Irish athlete, along with his entire team at Vlock Show Stables, including his other trainer Stephen Moore.

“I think we have a very good balance on my team with Stephen Moore and Oakland working together,” Vlock said. “I have a lot of respect for Darragh as a rider and a really amazing teacher.”

While both are based in Wellington during the winter season, the two have formed a dynamic training relationship that works throughout the remainder of year, often while Kenny is campaigning throughout Europe for his own competition schedule. “When Darragh isn’t here, he always watches all of my rounds, wherever they are, and then calls me after the class so we can talk about it,” Vlock said.

As the equestrian season ends in Wellington, Vlock is looking toward preparing for traveling North America and Europe with his team. His competition schedule will take him to Lexington, Kentucky and Calgary in Canada, as well as Europe to compete in various legs of the Longines Global Champions Tour, where the young rider is a member of the Scandinavian Vikings team.

All the while, Vlock will continue studying at Yale and balancing management of T&R Developments, an elite equestrian, residential and restaurant property business.

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Hometown Girl Victoria Colvin Accumulates Victories In Wellington

Hometown Girl Victoria Colvin Accumulates Victories In Wellington

At only 21 years old, Victoria Colvin’s list of victories in equestrian sport is already longer than many seasoned veterans, having earned championships and awards in prestigious competitions across the country since she was a child. Though Colvin’s reign has extended to multiple states, she rode to many competitive highlights in her hometown of Wellington, adding more sweetness to her success.

Boasting titles in the hunter, jumper and equitation rings, the young professional is a frequent sight in the winner’s circle at South Florida’s top horse shows, and she has already added more trophies to her growing collection since the beginning of the 2019 season.

“It’s so amazing to have grown up in Wellington as an equestrian. Though I may not have realized it when I was younger, I had access to some of the best horses and trainers that the country had to offer, all at my backdoor,” Colvin said. “Now as an adult and a professional, I’m lucky to be able to drive down the street to some of the best horse shows and venues in the country, while so many people travel here from across the world.”

Thanks to her natural talent and consistent eye, Colvin set herself up for industry success following a highly productive junior career as one of the winningest young riders in history. She claimed titles in the 2012 and 2014 annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships, both held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, which instigated her subsequent command of equitation classes, during which time she topped the podium in almost all of the country’s major finals.

Since aging out of the equitation divisions, she has rallied in the hunter and jumper rings, now also training her own students to follow in her footsteps.

Colvin has solidified herself as a formidable force, and some of her best showings have been on home turf. In 2019 alone, Colvin triumphed aboard Brad Wolf’s Private Practice in the hotly contested $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular at WEF, her fifth time winning the flagship event, and subsequently rode Meralex Farm’s El Primero to the top prize in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby during the Palm Beach Masters Series’ Deeridge Derby, where she defended her title as the reigning champion.

“This winter show season has been an incredible one for me. After our team’s achievements in 2018, to be able to return in 2019 and repeat some of those successes has affirmed our efforts,” Colvin said. “Last year, we had one of our best show seasons in Wellington to date, so that set a high bar for this year, but I’m proud to say that we have been able to continue our success.”

During the 2018 WEF, Colvin was awarded the status of WEF Overall Hunter Rider after navigating 18 horses to champion or reserve champion honors 29 times in a variety of hunter divisions. In the jumper ring, she raced to the top in the $25,000 Hermes U25 Grand Prix Team Event as the only double clear in the irons aboard John and Stephanie Ingram’s I Love Lucy, and later won the $25,000 CP National Grand Prix with Neil Jones Equestrian’s Clochard, despite having only recently sat on the horse for the first time.

“Some of my best memories have happened in Wellington, including some of my big horse show firsts. As someone who makes her living as an equestrian, there is no place better to build a business and grow in your career,” Colvin said. “More than just my hometown, Wellington is where I have grown as an equestrian and ridden to a number of achievements, so it will always be a special place for me.”

Colvin aptly made her debut appearance in Grand Prix competition in Wellington. At the young age of 13, she navigated Rivers Edge’s Monsieur Du Reverdy to the lead spot in the victory gallop in the $25,000 ESP Spring 6 Grand Prix ahead of 30 other seasoned competitors as a rookie to the class. Since then, the 21-year-old has been a contender in many more upper-level classes in Wellington, sometimes besting counterparts more than double her years from countries across the globe.

As a thriving competitor and trainer, Colvin has made a name for herself on the international stage, all from her hometown. With so many local and national opportunities for greatness at her disposal and a long list of victories bolstering her career, she has certainly taken advantage of all that Wellington’s equestrian scene has to offer.

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Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show Brings Tradition, Family Fun To Wellington

Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show Brings Tradition, Family Fun To Wellington

The inaugural Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show was held Feb. 8-10 at Wellington’s Crab Orchard Equestrian Estate, donated for the weekend by Frank and Monica McCourt. Founded by Victoria McCullough, the event was a marriage of her passion for draft horse breeds and her love of Wellington. A change from the sport horses that usually frequent Wellington, the world-class Clydesdales, Percherons and Belgians flocked to the show to exhibit their power, agility and beauty.

The show was a weekend of fun and excitement with families traveling to Wellington from all over the United States and Canada. A true family affair, most participants showcase generations of family and teamwork, whether they groom the horses, drive in competition or are responsible for standing at their heads while they are evaluated by the judge. The joys of being in the South Florida sun were echoed all weekend by exhibitors and was a welcomed change from the sport’s usual northern venues. The three-day weekend saw tough competition and stand-out performances as teams vied for valuable points to qualify for the finals in the fall.

Draft horse competition may be new to Wellington, but it has a loyal following across North America. The weekend was held as part of the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series, comprised of more than 60 qualifying competitions. Started in 1987 as a way to bring awareness to the draft breeds, the series is now a well-recognized event, with locals coming back each year to cheer on their favorite teams when they come to town. Although it had humble beginnings, the series has grown to offer generous prize money and travel funds for those accepted to the final. Now considered the “triple crown” of draft horse competition, the sport is well followed within the equestrian community and is a welcomed addition to Wellington, which boasts the best in equestrian competition during the winter show season.

As a highly respected philanthropist and horsewoman, McCullough also focused the weekend on giving back to two charities that are close to her heart — the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches and the Equus Foundation.

The Young Singers of the Palm Beaches is an award-winning community children’s choir based at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The group put on an exciting show during Saturday’s intermission and gave exhibitors a taste of the set list for their upcoming performance at the Kravis Center in May featuring familiar Broadway tunes.

“Being able to work with Victoria, what comes through to me is her love of animals and her love of children,” said Shawn Berry, Young Singers co-founder and artistic director. “It’s obviously evident in what she does with her foundation, but also through her actions.”

He was honored to be involved with the Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show. “We’re finding more and more these days that boys and girls need more ways to connect,” Berry said. “Victoria sees the pride on their faces and watches the boys and girls grow from year to year when she attends our concerts. So, for Young Singers, I feel very, very fortunate that we have made a connection with her.”

The Equus Foundation is the only national charity fully dedicated to ensuring the welfare of America’s horses and fostering the bond between humans and equines. By focusing its efforts on empowering equine charities, inspiring horse lovers and educating the public, the foundation’s mission is to protect America’s equines and strengthen the connection between horses and people.

“The Equus Foundation is honored and thrilled to have been chosen as a beneficiary of the inaugural Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show in Wellington by renowned equine advocate Victoria McCullough,” Equus Foundation Vice President of Engagement Valerie Angeli said. “Victoria is not only a lifelong, expert horsewoman, and now owner of world champion competition Clydesdales, but there is no one more committed to the welfare and rescue of America’s horses.”

Equus Foundation representatives were in the spotlight during Sunday’s intermission, including Angeli along with EquuStars Jessica Springsteen and Clementine Goutal. The three brought rescued mini pony Teddy, now owned by Georgina Bloomberg, as a shining example of how a horse or pony in need can find a second chance.

The Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show invited exhibitors to learn about a sport that was new to many of them. With classes ranging from the Classic Eight-Horse Hitch to the Unicorn Hitch, the teamwork and versatility of gentle giants were on display as they pulled both four-wheel wagons and two-wheel carts in teams of two, four, six and eight. Talented female drivers were showcased with two classes dedicated to women drivers and their hitches. The Express Ranches team of Percherons had a successful weekend, winning the Ladies Cart class as well as the Classic Six-Horse Hitch and Eight-Horse Hitch classes. Zubrod Percherons were another strong force, earning the blue in the Percheron Six-Horse Hitch, the Four-Horse Hitch and the Unicorn Hitch classes.

The dedication of each team was on display through the beautifully adorned manes and tails of their horses, hitched with polished tack to each team’s unique wagon. Braided into their manes and tails were special draft horse accessories that featured mane rolls matched to the team colors, along with shiny flights that made each horse look uniform to the next. The feeling of family and community was apparent, bringing the crowd together to celebrate the passion and love for these gentle giants.

“I am overjoyed at the response from the weekend and that everyone felt it was wholesome, relaxing and family orientated,” McCullough said. “It was so exciting for everyone to get to experience something different in Wellington, and it makes me happy that everyone involved enjoyed it.”

McCullough was happy to help support the Equus Foundation and the Young Singers of the Palm Beaches. “I am so proud to have had them involved with the weekend,” she said. “I am also so thankful for the generous support of our sponsors. It was a beautiful collaboration from the community, and everyone wanted to help, which is greatly appreciated.”

The Chesapeake International Draft Horse Show would not have been possible without the generous support of Express Ranches, Hunting Creek Farm, Anderson Farms, Burger Barn, and Frank and Monica McCourt, who donated their stunning equestrian estate, which is currently offered for sale. McCullough looks forward to welcoming the draft teams back next year to Wellington and making the event a prominent stop on the calendar.

Visit www.naclassicseries.com to learn more about the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series.

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Kids, Charity, Community & Golf A Winning Foursome For Wellington’s Martinez Family

Kids, Charity, Community & Golf A Winning Foursome For  Wellington’s Martinez Family

For Wellington residents Gil and Jennifer Martinez, supporting the nonprofit organization Clinics Can Help (CCH) and its upcoming sixth annual Golf Classic on April 26 at the Wellington National Golf Club has become a family affair.

The tournament will benefit CCH’s Kinder Project, which provides free medical equipment and supplies to families with children who have special needs and serious medical conditions.

Little did Gil and Jennifer know when they first got involved with the local nonprofit that it would someday help two members of their own family and engage the entire Martinez clan, including Gil’s father, retired Major League Baseball player Dennis Martinez.

Jennifer first met Owen O’Neill, the founder and CEO of Clinics Can Help, when both worked at Hospice of Palm Beach County in the early 2000s. Jennifer worked in communications, and Owen served as a registered nurse.

It was while Owen was providing end-of-life care that the spark of an idea for Clinics Can Help first ignited. He became keenly aware of the painful reminder home medical equipment represented to families after a loved one had passed. To alleviate his clients’ distress and help them unload the equipment that no one else would take, Owen began hauling hospital beds, wheelchairs and nebulizers in his pickup truck and storing them in his garage.

He quickly discovered that the items were a godsend to local clinics for the underserved. Their clients needed medical equipment for at-home care but were uninsured and could not afford to buy them on their own. Soon, word got out about the hospice nurse offering free equipment, and demand skyrocketed. Owen realized he had uncovered a significant unmet need in Palm Beach County. By 2005, he saw the opportunity to help thousands of people by turning his idea into a charity called Clinics Can Help.

Thanks to funding from local foundations and donors, Clinics Can Help has grown and expanded to a 5,000-square-foot facility in West Palm Beach and six staff members. In the last 10 years, the agency has helped 10,120 clients and donated more than $5 million worth of medical equipment and supplies. In Wellington alone, 343 children and adults have received medical equipment and supplies during the last five years.

Clinics Can Help is the only organization of its kind in Florida and one of the largest in the U.S. providing free durable medical equipment to help people with mobility challenges.

Jennifer, now the president of her own PR firm, JLM Communications, has supported Owen every step of the way by helping him share CCH’s story with the community. She never thought she and Gil would someday turn to the charity to help their own family.

In 2011, their nephew Sebastian suffered a devastating spinal stroke at the age of two that left him partially paralyzed from the waist down. Gil’s brother Dennis and his wife Maritza did everything they could for their little boy. A long-awaited visit to Shriners Hospital for Children finally became a reality, but a wheelchair would help Sebastian’s trip tremendously.

That’s when CCH sprung to action. They provided a wheelchair that was perfect for Sebastian’s needs, tailored for his size and capabilities. To Gil and his family, the wheelchair represented so much more than a piece of equipment — it meant hope, dignity and more independence for Sebastian.

“Remembering some of Sebastian’s challenges, it boosted his confidence and mental state — it affected all of us,” Gil said. “He’s 10 now, and to see his excitement about having his own wheelchair blew me away. He has such great spirit.”

The impact that CCH had on Sebastian drew Gil into becoming an active volunteer as a member of the golf tournament committee. His other family members have all supported the event, helping it raise more than $100,000 over the last five years. But it was Gil’s father who added to the celebrity element that golf great Dana Quigley had created. By attending and bringing along other pros, including fellow Venezuelan player Andrés Galarraga, they were helping to generate added awareness and funds to support the grassroots organization.

“My dad is a huge advocate for kids, education and sports,” Gil said. “Any time he has the opportunity to help, he’s all for it. After seeing what CCH did for Sebastian, he’s even more grateful to be involved.”

Gil is excited to bring the tournament to his hometown of Wellington for the first time. He sees the course as a major driver for attendance and funding because of its exclusivity, course design by the legendary Johnny Miller, and its ranking as one of the nation’s Top 75 Private Golf Courses by Golf Digest.

Also sure to draw attention and players is CBS 12 morning anchor Matt Lincoln, who is serving as this year’s event chair, and longtime CCH supporter Quigley, who is serving as honorary chair. The tournament features a 1 p.m. shotgun start, prizes for closest to the pin, longest drive, a putting contest and hole in one. Following the game, players and attendees are invited to enjoy delicious food, a silent auction and an awards ceremony.

“We have great leaders at the helm of this year’s annual Golf Classic,” Owen said. “Our committee and our new location at Wellington National have put our tournament on the map. We expect to have a very successful event to raise funds for the children of our community.”

More than 6,200 children in Palm Beach County live with special needs, and that doesn’t include those who are stricken with a serious illness or are involved in accidents. With his prior training as a nurse, Owen understands just how important the right medical equipment is to help a child improve mobility.

“Items like adaptive strollers can make all the difference in allowing a child with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy the chance to ride the bus, see his classmates at eye level and participate in schoolyard activities,” Owen said. “We believe that no matter what their abilities, kids should be able to just be kids.”

The Clinics Can Help sixth annual Golf Classic will be held at the Wellington National Golf Club (400 Binks Forest Drive, Wellington) on Friday, April 26 with a 1 p.m. shotgun start. For more information, call (561) 640-2995 or visit www.clinicscanhelp.org.

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Lucchese 40-Goal Polo Challenge Raises $375,000 For Injured, Ill Players And Grooms

Lucchese 40-Goal Polo Challenge Raises $375,000 For Injured, Ill Players And Grooms

Polo players and fans convened at the renowned International Polo Club Palm Beach on Feb. 16 for the annual Lucchese 40-Goal Polo Challenge. The match is the marquee fundraising event for the Polo Players Support Group, a nonprofit that provides financial support for seriously injured and ill polo players and grooms. The event raised $375,000, which will be used to help members of the polo family in need.

The event featured two star-studded lineups. The opening act, the Future 10s match, was a four-chukker display of the future. Junior polo players with familiar surnames, such as Hope Arellano, Miki Novillo Astrada and Antonio Aguerre, were joined by young Americans, such as Jack Whitman and Aiden Meeker. The youngsters impressed the crowd with masterful moves usually seen at the top level of the sport. U.S. Polo Assn. (Antonio Aguerre, Finn Secunda, Jack Whitman and Hope Arellano) slid past Port Mayaca Polo Club (Florencio Lanusse, Miki Novillo Astrada, Aiden Meeker and Milly Hine) to end the match 4-3.

The high-goalers had a tough act to follow, but they were able to deliver. Four 10-goalers and four past 10-goalers made up the Airstream (Nacho Novillo Astrada, Polito Pieres, Sapo Caset and Miguel Novillo Astrada) and Pilot Catastrophe Services (Agustin Merlos, Mariano Aguerre, Hilario Ulloa and Facundo Pieres) teams. The game started with what would turn out to be the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Longshot of the Day award, made by Polito Pieres in the first 30 seconds of the game. Play throughout the first half remained open and fast, giving spectators the unique opportunity to view an impressive high level of polo.

At the halfway point, Airstream held the lead by one, thanks to two vital goals by Miguel Novillo Astrada. The third chukker began with Airstream’s Caset catapulting his team ahead by scoring two consecutive goals. Pilot’s Ulloa responded with his first goal of the game in an attempt to put his team in the lead for the first time. The rest of the third chukker, and into the fourth, Airstream held onto the lead, despite goal attempts from Pilot’s Aguerre and Facundo Pieres. The final score of the game settled with Airstream winning 8-6. Best Playing Pony, sponsored by 5-Star Builders, was awarded to Pucho, played by Caset. Players received Rich Roenisch bronzes, sponsored by Port Mayaca Polo Club, Gillian Johnston and the Orthwein family, in memory of Steve Orthwein Sr., a great supporter of the organization who passed away in 2018.

Despite Airstream’s repeat victory, players from both teams were happy to donate their time to this vital fundraising event. “Playing in the 40-Goal Challenge is a great opportunity to help others, and I think that anybody in our situation would do the same thing to help out,” said former 10-goaler Mariano Aguerre, who has played in the 40-Goal Challenge nine times.

Ulloa, a 10-goal player, also enjoyed playing for a good cause. “I like playing the 40-Goal Challenge because it’s a way to help people who need our support,” he said. “It’s a great way to raise funds for people who need help.”

Miguel Novillo Astrada, who has been playing in the event since 2004, noted on the importance of participating. “I’ve been playing for many years, and I think it’s a very good cause. It’s a way of helping a great organization that gives a lot to polo. It’s great to be here,” he said.

Following the game and awards presentation on the field, attendees made their way to the Pavilion at IPC, where they enjoyed a cocktail hour while bidding on silent auction items before piling into a sold-out steak and lobster full-course dinner, sponsored by the Whitman Family. High-priced items such as a complete set of Paul Brown prints sold for $5,300 to Chris Desino; the Costa Rica vacation, donated by the Escobar family, sold for $14,000 to Steve and Jessica Carbone; and newly inducted Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Iglehart Award winner Karlene Beal Garber purchased the unique vacation to Costa Careyes for $5,000.

In addition, all participating player jerseys were auctioned off throughout the evening. Continuing the momentum of the games on display throughout the day, the highest jersey bid was not from a 10-goaler’s jersey but from junior player, Hope Arellano, whose father, 8-goaler Julio Arellano, received financial assistance after a traumatic polo-related accident in 2018. Her jersey was won by superstar show jumper Ashlee Bond, winner of the $72,000 NetJets Classic at the Palm Beach Masters that day at nearby Deeridge Farms.

The Polo Players Support Group thanks the sponsors, players, donors, ticket and table purchasers, volunteers and more. Thanks to the annual 40-Goal Polo Challenge and its supporters, the organization has awarded more than $2.5 million to 80 seriously injured and ill polo players and grooms.

Learn more about the Polo Players Support Group at www.polosupport.com.  

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Faces of Dressage

Faces of Dressage

The majestic sport of dressage has returned to Wellington, home of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, for another amazing season of this majestic Olympic sport. Often compared to horse ballet, or dancing with horses, dressage showcases the grace, beauty and elegance of a horse and rider pair working together as one. From elite dressage to more introductory levels to the uplifting sport of para-dressage, all levels of the sports are on display here in Wellington this winter. While it may look effortless in the ring, dressage performances are really the end result of years of hard work. Once again, we celebrate this hard work and determination in Faces of Dressage 2019, highlighting just a few of the amazing riders you can see in action this winter at the AGDF.

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Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén of Sweden is one of the greatest dressage riders of all time. Vilhelmson-Silfvén began riding at age seven and became interested in dressage after her mother taught her about the sport. The seven-time Olympian is a master of training young horses into being some of the best in the world. Vilhelmson-Silfvén has also competed at six World Equestrian Games and 10 European Dressage Championships. She has won three bronze medals in team competitions at the European championships, and also competed at seven editions of the Dressage World Cup finals. Vilhelmson-Silfvén has been spending winters in Wellington for nearly a decade and continues to shine at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Early in the 2018 season, she wowed the crowd riding Paridon Magi at the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDIW. She launched the 2019 season in similar style, this time taking third aboard Don Auriello. After placing eighth individually with Don Auriello at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and competing at the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018, she is now focused on qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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Laura Graves

Laura Graves

Laura Graves and her horse Verdades have a strong bond of harmony and talent. Graves and her mother brought the horse as a foal from Holland, and she set to work to master each step of the training. In 2014, Graves impressed the judges at the U.S. Dressage Championships in Gladstone, N.J. She placed second overall and received one of the highest scores of any American rider to qualify for the 2014 World Equestrian Games. That summer, her first time in Europe to compete, the pair impressed the judges at the CHIO Aachen 5* and then at the WEG in Normandy, France. In 2015, she competed at the Pan American Games in Toronto, where she won the team gold medal and the individual silver medal. In 2016, Graves competed at her first Olympics, capturing the bronze medal in the team competition in Rio and earned the fourth position individually. In 2018, she scored an impressive 84.675 percent in CDI-World Cup Qualifier FEI Grand Prix Freestyle. Later in the year, Graves and Verdades represented the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018, capturing the individual silver medal after a stellar performance in the Grand Prix Special. She helped lead the U.S. team to the silver medal as well.

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Adrienne Lyle

Adrienne Lyle

Raised on a small cattle farm in Whidbey Island, Washington, Adrienne Lyle has always spent time around horses. She originally rode western, then switched to English at age seven. She tried eventing before dressage became her calling. Lyle began competing at 13 years old. She was a member of the silver medal team at the 2002 Cosequin Junior Dressage Championships and the bronze medal Region 6 team at the 2004 North American Young Rider Championships. Lyle has trained with Olympic dressage rider Debbie McDonald. Career highlights include competing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and contributing to a fourth-place team finish at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France. 2018 was a banner year for Lyle and her mount Salvino, with a string of wins at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, including a breathtaking victory in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO3* to cap the season. The pair qualified for the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018, where they helped the U.S. team win the team silver medal. Lyle and Salvino are back in action this season in Wellington.

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