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Wellington The Magazine, LLC Featured Articles

A Celebration Of Horses And Riders

A Celebration Of Horses And Riders 
Winter Equestrian Festival Opens With Additional
Upgrades To The Wellington International Showgrounds

Story by Olivia Parr  |  Photos by Cassidy Klein

Thirteen weeks of prestigious competition got underway last month at the 45th annual Winter Equestrian Festival. World-renowned hunter, jumper and equitation competitions bring the Wellington International showgrounds to life starting in early January and running through March 31. Spectators are welcome at Wellington International from Wednesday through Sunday to cheer for some of the most talented and highest-ranking show jumpers from around the globe.

Alongside the weekly competition, Wellington International is celebrated for its dedication to the well-being of horses with the introduction of shaded shelters at each show ring. These shelters, strategically placed to offer respite from the Florida sun (and sometimes rain), embody the venue’s commitment to ensuring the comfort of both equine athletes and riders, as well as spectators.

The installation of shaded shelters is not Wellington International’s only commitment to guaranteeing the well-being of both athletes and spectators. The updated bridle paths, adorned with understated elegance that weave through the grounds, transcend their role as mere conduits for horses and riders — symbolizing a commitment to creating an environment that reflects the prestige of the Winter Equestrian Festival.

Closer to the international ring is the brand-new media center, which stands as a testament to the organizers’ dedication to contemporary technology. This facility serves as the nerve center for information dissemination and coverage during class events. It is designed to accommodate journalists, photographers and media professionals, providing them with the resources and infrastructure necessary for comprehensive coverage of exhilarating top equestrian sport. Reflecting the evolving landscape of equestrian sports, this state-of-the-art facility underscores the commitment to providing a world-class experience for participants, media and fans alike.

As the Winter Equestrian Festival unfolds in a crescendo of excitement, each week offers a distinctive blend of competitions that captivate both seasoned enthusiasts and newcomers to the sport. The pinnacle of equestrian excellence, the 5* classes, unfold during weeks five, seven and nine, and culminate in the grand finale, the Rolex Finale Week. These distinguished 5* classes draw top riders from around the world to vie for supremacy on the famed grounds of Wellington International.

During the final week of the Winter Equestrian Festival is the Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix, a testament to show jumping excellence in the class itself. Competitors face a challenging track that puts both horse and rider abilities to the ultimate test.

These events also allow spectators to partake in diverse culinary and drink selections, experience live musical performances, explore shopping opportunities and engage in family-oriented activities, such as face painting, carousel rides, a petting zoo, and enthralling encounters with magicians and stilt walkers.

Week 6 spotlights the Hunter Spectacular, a unique event that highlights the elegance and precision of the hunters competing at Wellington International. Participating riders aim to exemplify the traditional and polished form expected in the hunter discipline, where the emphasis lies on smoothness, consistency and the horse’s athleticism. Judges evaluate each performance based on the horse’s movement, style over fences, and the overall harmony between horse and rider. Amid challenging courses that feature a diverse array of jumps and a distinctive format, this competition captivates audiences with the visually stunning and aesthetically pleasing show of horsemanship, adding yet another layer of excitement to the Winter Equestrian Festival, and exhibiting an event that is a true celebration of the artistry and tradition found at Wellington International.

A true highlight on Saturday, March 2, is the Nations Cup, which sees teams competing for victory and national pride. In this event, riders represent their nations and compete as a team, showcasing both individual skill and collective teamwork. As each team aims to secure victory for their country, the Nations Cup is known for its high level of competition and sportsmanship. The enthusiasm and pageantry of this event create an electrifying atmosphere, echoing the international spirit of equestrian competition.

During Week 11, the focus intensifies on the future of top equestrian sport. For those with an eye on the future stars, the WEF Equitation Challenge provides a platform for emerging talents to showcase their skills, adding an element of anticipation to the festival. This highly anticipated class showcases the riders’ form, technique and overall horsemanship. Competitors demonstrate their mastery of equitation, emphasizing proper position, control and communication with their horses. This event highlights the riders’ technical abilities and underscores the harmony between horse and rider. The WEF Equitation Challenge often draws top horse-and-rider talent, making it a captivating and highly anticipated feature of the Winter Equestrian Festival.

In the twilight hours of each competition day, Wellington International stands not merely as a venue but as a beacon of excellence, where the timeless bond between horse and rider is celebrated with unparalleled brilliance. The new shaded shelters, updated bridle paths and cutting-edge media center enhance the overall experience. Meanwhile, the 5* classes, Week 6 Hunter Spectacular, Nations Cup and WEF Equitation Challenge etch unforgettable chapters into Florida’s equestrian paradise narrative.

As the sun sets over Wellington, the pages of the Winter Equestrian Festival turn, leaving an indelible mark on the world of equestrian sport.

For the latest updates on the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival, visit www.wellingtoninternational.com.

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Faces of WEF 2024

Faces of WEF 2024

The Winter Equestrian Festival has once again returned to the Wellington International showgrounds for its 12-week run. From the graceful movements as a horse and rider soar over a fence, to the quiet of the crowd as it counts down the seconds to the cheers after a successful ride, all the action is open to spectators from far and near. They will delight as the skillful pairs navigate complicated sequences and make hairpin turns. Riders have come to Wellington this winter from all corners of the globe to compete at the longest and richest horse show series in the world. As these riders — from international champions to amateurs and juniors — put their abilities to the test, aiming for the blue ribbon, Wellington The Magazine once again presents our annual Faces of WEF section. Over the next few pages, you’ll get a glimpse at just a handful of the amazing riders competing this season at Wellington International, from Olympic-caliber superstars to up-and-coming riders who will one day be the stars of tomorrow.

Ben Maher
Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher rides for Great Britain and has competed in four Olympic Games. He is currently ranked second in the Longines Rankings and second in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (Western European League). With more than 160 wins under his belt, Maher is back in action at the Winter Equestrian Festival this year. He got off to an impressive start, riding Enjeu de Grisien to victory in the $140,000 Southern Arches CSI3* Grand Prix at the first Saturday Night Lights grand prix of the season.

Kent Farrington
Kent Farrington, who has been riding since age eight, turned pro in 1999 and has been winning ever since. Originally from Chicago, he was on the gold winning U.S. team at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara and took the team bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. He also won a team bronze at the 2014 WEG in Normandy. In 2016, Farrington earned Olympic silver with the U.S. team in Rio. He is currently third in the Longines Rankings and can frequently be found in the winner’s circle at WEF.

Mclain Ward
One of the most decorated U.S. riders, New York native McLain Ward is a perennial fan favorite. A five-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ward is currently ranked ninth on the Longines Rankings. He is a frequent winner at WEF. He had a particularly good Week 5 last year, when Ward topped a field of 67 in the CHF75,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI5* 1.50m Classic to be the first rider to win both the grand prix and 1.50m classic back-to-back at WEF since 2014. He later won the $146,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI4* 1.50m Series Final.

Richard Vogel
From an equestrian family, German rider Richard Vogel has been on horses since age four. He began competing at the age of seven, achieving international success in 2010 when he won the junior European championship in Sweden. He later won the 2018 FEI World Cup Final in Paris aboard Ragna. Currently 10th on the Longines Rankings, Vogel has had plenty of success at WEF. This includes winning the $500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix with mount Cepano Baloubet during the final Saturday Night Lights of WEF 2023

Shane Sweetnam
Shane Sweetnam is an Irish equestrian who began his Grand Prix career at age 16 and has since participated in classes in both North America and Europe. He won the team gold medal at the 2017 FEI European Championships in Gothenburg and later represented Ireland at the Olympics in Tokyo. He is currently 12th on the Longines Rankings and second in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (North American League). Here in Wellington, Sweetnam operates Sweet Oak Farm with his wife Ali and is a frequent WEF competitor.

Daniel Coyle
Irish show jumper Daniel Coyle is currently ranked 14th on both the Longines Rankings and the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (North American League). From a horse-loving family, he jumped his first Grand Prix at age 12. Coyle had several wins last season at WEF. He started off on the right foot during Premiere Week as part of the men’s team that won the popular Battle of the Sexes, and continued with many other great showings, including winning the $226,000 JTWG Inc. CSIO4* Grand Prix with Ivory TCS during Week 8.

Conor Swail
Irish native Conor Swail is a frequent rider on the WEF circuit. He is currently ranked 16th on the Longines Rankings and fourth in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings (North American League). Swail, who is proud of winning the 2022 Nations Cup as part of the Irish team at the Dublin Horse Show, is a crowd favorite at WEF. Last year, he won the CHF216,000 MARS Equestrian CSI4* Grand Prix with his mount Count Me In during Week 4. He also rode Casturano to victory in the $146,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI3* Grand Prix during the 2023 Spring Series.

Darragh Kenny
The son of two trainers, Irish rider Darragh Kenny began competing at the age of 10 and competed in his first Grand Prix at 14. He soon began working with North Run Farm under Missy Clark and John Brennan. With their help, Kenny was able to ride Obelix, a horse that guided him to the top level of the sport. He is currently 17th in the Longines Rankings. After capping 2023 winning the $226,000 Bainbridge Companies CSI4* Grand Prix, Kenny jumped out to the front with back-to-back wins during Week 1 of WEF 2024.

Laura Kraut
Laura Kraut has represented the U.S. at the Olympic Games four times, winning team gold at Hong Kong in 2008 with Cedric, and in 2021, Kraut was part of the silver medal-winning U.S. team in Tokyo with Baloutinue. With more than 100 Grand Prix wins, she has also represented the U.S. at the World Equestrian Games, winning team silver at Aachen in 2006 and team gold at Tryon in 2018. She has been a familiar face at WEF for decades. Last season, Kraut and Baloutinue won the $425,000 Lugano Diamonds CSI5* Grand Prix during Week 7.

Tiffany Foster
Show jumper Tiffany Foster is currently 24th on the Longines FEI World Rankings, making her the highest ranked Canadian rider. Foster originally hails from North Vancouver and now splits her time competing out of bases in Langley, British Columbia; Antwerp, Belgium; and here in Wellington. She represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics in London, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Team Canada placed fourth. Most recently, she helped Team Canada take the team silver at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

 

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Evolution Of A Horse Show Series

Evolution Of A Horse Show Series 
The Ridge At Wellington Groves Combines Horse Welfare,
Top Competition And A Custom Experience For Equestrians

Story and Photos by Holly Johnson/Equinium Sports Marketing

Imagine if a horse could create its own perfect horse show. Consider the horse’s preferences: an idyllic setting, perfect footing, ideal experience. Based on knowledge of equine instincts and sense of horsemanship, many would think a horse would like wide open spaces, footing with built-in support and shock absorption under hoof, a warm sun and cool breezes, a relaxed atmosphere, and perhaps complimentary carrots at the in-gate.

Now add its rider’s preferences into the mix, and you merge that perfect horse’s horse show with a customizable experience, gorgeous jumps, an easy-to-navigate entry system and friendly staff. A selection of classes catering not only to green horses and riders, but also to those looking for a challenge, and even Olympians fine-tuning their ride. Flexible schedules, allowing riders to show when they please. Complimentary breakfast and lunch. Generous prize money. And, perhaps most importantly, entry fees that don’t break the bank.

Believe it or not, the horse and rider’s combined perfect horse show exists in Loxahatchee Groves, right down to the affordable classes and complimentary refreshments, including carrots at the in gate.

The Ridge at Wellington Groves has evolved its horse show offerings since the organization’s first rated events in 2008 to meet the needs of the equestrian community.

In 2022, they purchased a 20-acre facility near E Road and Okeechobee Blvd., and after a series of refurbishments to the arenas and grounds, the Wellington Groves hunter, jumper and equitation series began last season.

The Ridge’s events were created and evolved to be the most competitor-friendly and horse-friendly show, maybe in the world. Organized and produced by co-founders Olympian Nona Garson and George D’Ambrosio, The Ridge at Wellington Groves show series is a far cry from the chaotic show grounds that have become common place, yet its venue is just minutes from the winter season’s most prestigious and highly decorated equestrian events.

Garson and D’Ambrosio’s lifetime of experience at the highest levels of equestrian competition drove their passion for a show that was designed for the horse, with amenities to keep the humans equally happy. This is encapsulated in their slogan, “Where Horses Matter.”

Weekly USEF “B” Rated Hunter/Equitation, USEF Jumper Level II and Schooling Show events take place each week from January through March. Weekly classes range from the .70M heights all the way up to the $5,000 1.30M Rising Star Classic and $15,000 1.40M Grand Prix, Talent Search and WEC Cup Equitation, and a selection of unique, only-at-The-Ridge offerings, like monthly weekend schooling shows, $500 hunter derbies and evening classes, so a wide range of riders can experience the excitement and vibe of a night class.

 

Complimentary refreshments, snacks, drinks, horse treats and lunch are served each competition day, and open to everyone from the riders and owners to grooms and spectators. The event even includes adult amateurs competing ringside with Olympians, and offers a dynamic platform for the development of the young horse, green rider or just provides a refreshing change of pace from the classic horse show vibe.

“We created our show series, and all of our events, with the horse as the first and foremost consideration,” said Garson, who rode her spectacular Budyonny gelding Rhythmical for the United States at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. “Riders should be able to show without stress, without massive expense and in an environment that is conducive to their partnership with the horse. Horses shouldn’t feel cramped, rushed or stressed when showing; it should be a positive experience for everyone.”

This year, The Ridge is adding even more perks and streamlining into shows, and riders are reaping the benefits. Small things like ample trailer parking and no rush at the in-gate make all the difference in experience for riders and their mounts. On a deeper level, The Ridge is planning a long-term partnership with the innovative new horse show management company, Horse Spot, to further simplify entries, results and schedules.

When it comes to sponsorships and prizes, it’s hard to compete with The Ridge’s offerings. This year alone, the series will award more than $350,000 in prizes, including a coveted prize for equitation riders: the points leader of the five-week WEC Cup Equitation series held each Tuesday will receive a private flight to the finale in Ocala (trainer and pets included) compliments of Verijet, a carbon-neutral private aviation company aiming to redefine travel by offering a one-of-a-kind experience that eliminates the hassles of air travel.

“We’ve really gone above and beyond to make this an incredible experience for competitors,” D’Ambrosio said. “Our arenas see everyone from leadline competitors to Olympic gold medalists. In terms of convenience, affordability and overall experience, The Ridge at Wellington Groves is one of the most unique and exceptional equestrian events in the U.S. Our goal is to provide a platform for people and horses to succeed in and really enjoy the sport.”

The Ridge also hosts a full circuit of rated events at its spring, summer and fall base in New Jersey. For more information, visit www.ridgeshowjumping.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Combining Horses And Hospitality

Combining Horses And Hospitality 
Wellington Is A Perfect Fit For Businesswomen And Equestrian Michelle Durpetti

By Emily Randolph

It is a rare occurrence to catch Michelle Durpetti without her hands full.

One moment, Durpetti’s fingers are curled around her horses’ reins; the next, they are gripping a clipboard as she juggles her duties as an event planner. On another day, her hands could be balancing a plate of food as she works as the managing partner of her family’s Gene & Georgetti restaurant in Chicago, or they could be gripping a broom as she sweeps the aisle at her own Andiamo Farm here in Wellington.

For as occupied as Durpetti’s hands may be in her many roles, she has found life in Wellington to be equally as full: full of dreams, opportunities and, of course, horses.

While Durpetti hails from Chicago, she made her first visit to Wellington more than 20 years ago and immediately fell in love with the community and what it represented to her as a young equestrian.

“I began competing down here when I was 19, and my very first handy class in the amateur owner hunters happened here! It was on the grass, too, which is such a great memory,” said Durpetti, who continues to compete as an amateur in both the hunters and the jumpers. “It was so special to come down to Florida to compete back then as, up until a short while before that, many of us in the Midwest would compete at indoor facilities throughout the winter. So, the idea of coming down to a place like this and then being able to see some of the biggest names in the community right in front of you riding was so special.”

Throughout the decades that followed, Durpetti made frequent trips to Wellington and South Florida to compete and to enjoy many life moments — including getting married at the Breakers Palm Beach in 2018.

“What I think I loved the most about [my wedding day] — aside from marrying my wonderful husband, Collin, who is so supportive of the equestrian elements in our lives — was that I was able to drive to Wellington and feed my horses breakfast that morning before getting ready. That is a moment I will never forget. To have them with me on such an important day was truly so special,” Durpetti said.

Despite Durpetti’s fondness for the area and the many treasured memories made in Wellington, she never called Wellington a permanent home. That was until a great opportunity presented itself in 2022, an opportunity that had Durpetti saying, “Andiamo!” or “Let’s go!”

“As a child, my Italian grandfather, Gene Michelotti, was always telling us, ‘Andiamo! Andiamo!’ It means ‘let’s go’ when you translate it, or ‘we go.’ After a while, we sort of just adopted it as a mindset for our family,” said Durpetti, whose family is of Italian descent, specifically from Lucca, Italy, in the heart of Tuscany.

Roughly 25 years ago, in honor of Durpetti’s grandfather and the family’s catch phrase, Durpetti’s father acquired a new, beloved boat and named it the “Andiamo.”

“Ultimately, due to some health issues of [my father’s], we had to sell [the boat] a few years ago,” Durpetti explained. “It was such a heartbreaking time for our family, as we had so many memories on that boat. However, adopting that same mentality of ‘let’s go’ or let’s move forward, as a family we did just that.”

This led to Durpetti’s farm in Wellington. “About a year or two later, our wonderful home in Wellington found us, and I just knew immediately that it would be the next iteration of ‘let’s go’ for our family,” she said.

With the acquisition of peaceful farm property in Wellington’s Paddock Park neighborhood, Andiamo Farm was born.

“We gave the name to the farm as well to both honor the beloved boat that was so wonderful to us, and this idea that together, we move forward and accomplish great things and get through painful things,” Durpetti said. “So, it’s very symbolic for me and immensely personal, too.”

Today, Andiamo Farm is the quiet oasis where Durpetti is fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning and operating her own property — both for her own horses as well as boarders. But that is not the only dream Durpetti is pursuing in Florida.

The Village of Wellington not only provides a hub for equestrians, but it is also a hotspot for hospitality, Durpetti’s other love and area of expertise.

“I am so thrilled to have my event planning and wedding production company now based down here in South Florida,” said Durpetti, who operates Michelle Durpetti Events, an industry leader in wedding planning.

Durpetti has great aspirations for her event-planning company in South Florida, and she also hopes to one day — in the not-too-distant future — bring a taste of her family’s legendary Chicago steakhouse, Gene & Georgetti, to South Florida as well.

“We have been working on bringing our family restaurant down to South Florida for the past couple of years, and that is something I am so excited about,” Durpetti said. “I am also thrilled to be working with a wonderful couple this May on their beautiful Palm Beach wedding, and my bride happens to be an equestrian. That always just makes my heart so happy when two of my most favorite worlds come together!”

Durpetti is excited to think about what the future holds in store.

“I think that is what I am hoping for here in Wellington — to continue to flourish with my horses, to continue to grow my planning company and plan amazing celebrations down here for equestrians and non-equestrians alike,” she said.

For more information about Andiamo Farm, visit www.andiamofarm.com. Visit www.durpettievents.com to learn more about Michelle Durpetti Events.

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Gauntlet Of Polo Teams Announced

Gauntlet Of Polo Teams Announced 
The Three-Part Series Opens Feb. 9 With The C.V. Whitney Cup

The United States Polo Association and the National Polo Center recently announced that nine teams will compete in the 2024 Gauntlet of Polo series in Wellington.

The prestigious Gauntlet of Polo returns for its sixth year, drawing the world’s greatest polo talent to vie for the three most sought-after American titles: the C.V. Whitney Cup, the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship.

Similar to last year, teams can also enter any of the three tournaments individually. One team will take advantage of this opportunity, competing exclusively in the USPA Gold Cup and the U.S. Open Polo Championship. While teams can enter individual tournaments within the series, they cannot win the entire Gauntlet of Polo if they choose to do so.

This year’s competition features many returning players and teams, including defending U.S. Open champions, Park Place. Five-time C.V. Whitney Cup winners Valiente will also be returning. 2023 USPA Gold Cup winners Scone will return to compete under a new team name, La Dolfina. Pilot, the only team to ever capture the entire Gauntlet series, will attempt to soar back to the top of the podium for the first time since 2022.

Former USPA Chair Chip Campbell returns to the competition under a new team name, Clearwater. Campbell has not competed in the Gauntlet since 2021, when he played for Cessna. Coca-Cola’s Gillian Johnston, the only woman set to compete in the series, is hoping to achieve Gauntlet success having previously won the U.S. Open Polo Championship in 2002. La Fe and Dutta Corp boast a unique advantage, with both teams competing with identical 2023 rosters.

Additionally, four 10-goalers — Hilario Ulloa, Facundo Pieres, Poroto Cambiaso and Adolfo Cambiaso — will compete, representing the highest level of the sport. Pieres is fresh off his win in the 2023 Argentine Open with La Natividad, where he competed against the father/son Cambiaso duo, who represented La Dolfina Saudi.

Poroto Cambiaso will compete in his fourth Gauntlet of Polo season. As in 2023, Poroto will play for La Dolfina, while his legendary father, Adolfo, will compete for Valiente.

Teams competing in the full Gauntlet of Polo are: Coca-Cola with Gillian Johnston, Kristos “Keko” Magrini, Pablo “Polito” Pieres and Julian de Lusarreta; Pilot with Curtis Pilot, Santos Merlos, Facundo Pieres and Santiago Torres; Dutta Corp with Timmy Dutta, Joaquin Avendaño, Mariano “Nino” Obregon Jr. and Tomas Garcia del Rio; Park Place with Andrey Borodin and Hilario Ulloa; La Fe with Louis Devaleix, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Francisco Elizalde and Roberto Bilbao; La Dolfina with David Paradice, Rufino Merlos, Poroto Cambiaso and Tomas Panelo; Tamera with Alejandro Poma, Segundo Saravi, Matias Torres Zavaleta and Diego Cavanagh; and Valiente with Bob Jornayvaz, Mariano “Peke” Gonzalez Jr., Paco de Narvaez Jr. and Adolfo Cambiaso. The Clearwater team with Chip Campbell, James “Jared” Zenni, Lucas Criado Jr. and Raul “Gringo” Colombres will compete in the USPA Gold Cup and U.S. Open Polo Championship.

The 2024 Gauntlet of Polo will serve as the premier spectacle of the NPC season. The three-part series will begin Feb. 9-25 with the C.V. Whitney Cup, continue with the USPA Gold Cup from Feb. 23 to March 24, and conclude with the U.S. Open Polo Championship from March 22 to April 21. The prize money distribution for the 2024 season will follow last year’s format: $50,000 will be awarded to each of the winning teams of the C.V. Whitney Cup and the USPA Gold Cup, and $100,000 will be presented to the winner of the U.S. Open Polo Championship.

All Gauntlet of Polo games at NPC will be broadcast exclusively by the USPA Polo Network. Livestreamed games will be available at www.uspolo.org, as well as across multiple USPA social media platforms.

In addition to livestreaming on USPA Polo Network, Global Polo Entertainment and USPA Global Licensing have extended their historic relationship with ESPN through 2024 to bring the finals of the top U.S. polo events to ESPN platforms.

Tickets for Sunday brunch and stadium seating for all Gauntlet of Polo events on U.S. Polo Assn. Field One can be purchased at www.nationalpolocenter.com.

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Serving The Eyecare Needs Of Patients

Serving The Eyecare Needs Of Patients

Highly Skilled Ophthalmologists And The Latest In Technological Advances At Florida Eye

For nearly 50 years, the Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute has been taking care of the eyecare needs of local residents. In that time, the practice has grown to include a medical staff of highly skilled ophthalmologists at offices in Wellington, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and west Boynton Beach.

The practice was first established by Dr. Jonathan Chua in 1975. It was purchased by Dr. Randy Katz and Dr. Lee Friedman in 2004. Under the direction of Katz and Friedman, Florida Eye’s mission has remained the same — to provide outstanding vision care to residents of South Florida. The addition of Dr. Barry Schechter as the institute’s third partner made it possible for the practice to reach out to even more patients, offering a more comprehensive range of eyecare solutions.

The practice has multiplied in more recent years, adding another full-time ophthalmologist in 2016, Dr. Jonathan Criss, followed by Dr. Megan Rowlands, Dr. Steven Naids, Dr. Jonathan Lam, and an optometrist, Dr. James Walsh, in 2021. The practice is managed by Jason Feuer, an experienced administrator with more than 27 years of ophthalmology experience.

Several years ago, Florida Eye partnered with EyeSouth Partners, an eyecare management organization, to ensure high-quality administrative support, clinical quality, and long-term stability and growth of the practice.

When patients come to Florida Eye, they become a part of a practice that treats patients like family. Through exams and corrective procedures, patient education and continued contact, Florida Eye keeps patients healthy, informed and seeing the world more clearly.

At Florida Eye, patients receive treatment for a wide array of eyecare needs, such as diabetic eye exams, diagnosis and treatment of macular degeneration and other eye diseases, emergency eyecare, treatment of eye trauma and infection, retinal eye exams and laser treatment, glaucoma exams and treatment, LASIK and refractive surgery, cataract and lens implant surgery, corneal transplants and glaucoma surgery.

“At Florida Eye in Wellington, we are board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons,” Dr. Steven Naids said. “We practice the most minimally invasive and cutting-edge technology to make the cataract surgery experience seamless. Many of our patients choose to have laser-assisted cataract surgery. Recently, we became one of the few practices in the country to offer the most advanced laser, the Ally femtosecond laser, to our patients.”

This is just one of the treatments available for debilitating vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.

“Along with femtosecond laser technology, we also offer lifestyle-friendly advanced technology intraocular lens implants at the time of cataract surgery. This can provide an extended range of vision and freedom from glasses for the right patients,” Naids said. “Here at Florida Eye, we understand that glaucoma is a lifelong disease and treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. As such, we offer the full array of treatments for glaucoma of all severities, including lasers in the clinic and operating room, a variety of minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries, as well as traditional glaucoma surgeries, like trabeculectomies and tube shunts for more refractory cases.”

The doctors and staff at Florida Eye stay up to date with the latest advancements in eyecare.

“Our doctors are members of major societies and are thought leaders in the field of ophthalmology,” Naids said. “We publish original research, and our doctors have received best paper honors at international meetings.”

The practice takes a patient-centric approach to eyecare. “We empower patients to make the right choices for themselves by involving them in the decision-making process,” Naids said. “Vision is such a vitally important part of our lives. Cataract surgery can improve your quality of life overnight. With a combination of state-of-the-art technology and compassionate care, we can achieve an outstanding visual result.”

Florida Eye also prides itself on technological innovation to enhance the quality of patient care.

“Integrating technology into our patient care helps us optimize our patients’ surgical outcomes and improve our patients’ surgical experiences overall,” Dr. Megan Rowlands explained. “Our Ally femtosecond laser system during cataract surgery, for example, not only allows us to achieve greater precision for astigmatism correction by incorporating iris registration, but also minimizes the amount of energy and time required to remove the cataract. This confers a smoother surgical experience and faster healing time for our patients.”

The practice works closely with other medical professionals to support the needs of patients. This collaborative effort involves open communication, shared insights and coordinated efforts to address various aspects of a patient’s health that may impact their eyecare. This process also includes a multi-faceted approach to patient education. Curated patient literature offers detailed insights into various eye conditions, treatment options and preventive measures, complemented by informative videos that break down complex concepts into easily understandable visuals.

Florida Eye’s commitment to personalized care is exemplified through one-on-one consultations between doctors and patients, fostering a collaborative environment where questions are answered and individualized plans are crafted to ensure optimal eye health. In addition, patients have access to a wealth of information available at www.fleyedocs.com covering a range of eye health topics.

Meanwhile, the staff actively engages with the community through informative lectures, providing an opportunity for in-depth discussions on various eye health matters. The practice also takes part in a variety of clinical trials that may be available to patients that qualify. This research serves as the cornerstone of continuous improvement in patient eyecare.

This commitment helps Florida Eye stay at the forefront of ophthalmological advancements and extends to active involvement in research and academic pursuits, which includes publishing original research that contributes to the evolving landscape of eyecare. The doctors at Florida Eye have not only engaged in groundbreaking research but have also been honored with recognition at international meetings, helping to shape the future of ophthalmology on a global scale.

The Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute accepts more than 600 insurance plans, in addition to Medicare. Patients with financial concerns can call the office at (561) 737-5500 to inquire about insurance issues and payment plans, such as the CareCredit card and the Alphaeon credit card.

The Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute is located at 2575 S. State Road 7 in Wellington. For more information, call (561) 792-1205 or visit www.fleyedocs.com.

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Village To Host Black History Month Forum

Village To Host Black History Month Forum

In order to celebrate the growing diversity of the village and the unique perspective of Wellington’s Black community, the Village of Wellington will host its second annual Black History Month Leaders Forum on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at the Wellington Community Center.

As February unfolds, the nation comes together to honor and celebrate Black History Month, recognizing the significant contributions of the Black community. In Wellington, the Black History Month Leaders Forum, now in its second year, is a compelling event that brings together influential leaders to share insights, experiences and visions for the future.

Wellington, having grown more diverse over the last decade, is an ideal location for events promoting inclusivity and understanding. The Black History Month Leaders Forum aims to foster dialogue, inspire change and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Black community. Special thanks go to Palm Beach County School Board Member Marcia Andrews of District 6 and Marcia Hayden, president of the Alpha Alpha Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., for hosting this event in partnership with the Village of Wellington.

This year’s forum is set to take place on Wednesday, Feb. 7, featuring a diverse lineup of speakers excelling in various fields, including business, politics, arts and academia. Last year’s speakers included Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker; orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Coleman; Ricky Wade, owner of 30 McDonald’s franchises in South Florida; School District of Palm Beach County Chief Operating Officer Joseph Sanches; Teledactyl co-founder Alan Bottorff; women’s healthcare specialist Dr. Colette Brown-Graham; Brian and Cassandra Oliver, owners of KWA Group Branding; and Palm Beach State College President Ava Parker.

This year, attendees can look forward to engaging discussions led by additional influential figures who have played pivotal roles in shaping the narrative of Black history in Palm Beach County and the Wellington community. They include School District of Palm Beach County Chief Academic Officer Dr. Glenda Sheffield; Emerald Cove Middle School Principal Dr. Eugina Feaman; Palm Beach County Bar Association President Grasford Smith; Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Byron Smith; and Lamont Humber, a retired agriculture pilot for the United States Forest Service.

This year’s featured speaker is Nicole Cummings, deputy program manager for the Exploration Upper Stage RL10 Rocket Engine. Cummings also happens to be a graduate of Wellington High School. Galean Stewart, assistant news director for WPTV NewsChannel 5, will serve as moderator of the Black History Month Leaders Forum.

The forum will feature conversations addressing topics such as the significance of Black History Month, the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the role of education in promoting understanding and unity. These discussions aim to provide attendees with valuable insights and perspectives contributing to positive change in the community. Speakers will take the stage to share their personal journeys, triumphs and challenges, inspiring attendees and serving as a testament to their resilience and determination. From community leaders to business professionals, the speakers will provide a diverse array of experiences highlighting the multifaceted nature of Black excellence.

The forum will provide opportunities for community engagement, allowing attendees to connect with local leaders actively working toward creating a more inclusive and equitable society. In its second year, the Black History Month Leaders Forum is not just a one-time event but a platform to promote ongoing awareness and dialogue. Attendees will be encouraged to take the lessons learned and discussions held back to their communities, fostering a ripple effect of positive change.

The Black History Month Leaders Forum stands as a testament to the power of dialogue, education and community engagement. As we celebrate Black History Month, events like these play a crucial role in shaping a more inclusive and understanding society. Wellington’s commitment to hosting such forums is a step toward building bridges, fostering unity and acknowledging the invaluable contributions of the Black community to the fabric of our community and great hometown.

 

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Recollections From The ‘Voice Of Polo’

Recollections From The ‘Voice Of Polo’  
Tony Coppola, Owner Of The Tackeria And A Former President Of The United States Polo Association, Has Been There Since The Very Beginning Of Polo In Wellington

By Y.A. Teitelbaum

Wellington The Magazine’s year-long Wellington History feature series includes the recollections of early Wellington pioneers who built the community we enjoy today. This month, longtime polo writer Y.A. Teitelbaum speaks with “Voice of Polo” Tony Coppola, founder and owner of The Tackeria, on the early years of polo in Wellington. Coppola was already a familiar face on the South Florida polo scene when the legendary Bill Ylvisaker unveiled his vision for polo in Wellington.

Tony Coppola is synonymous with polo in Wellington, just as Wellington is recognized as the “winter equestrian capital of the world.” As the iconic “Voice of Polo” and a local businessman, Coppola has been here since the beginning.

Coppola started riding when he was nine years old and began playing polo on Long Island in New York before he turned 13. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and spending several winters at home after being discharged, he moved to South Florida and continued playing. He also was a club manager and an umpire before he shifted his focus onto the business side of the sport. He opened The Tackeria in the mid-1970s, selling polo tack to players from a mobile trailer parked next to the fields.

“In 1977, I took a ride with [Palm Beach Polo founder] Bill Ylvisaker west of [State Road 7], the end of the world, and he told me about this great vision that he had [of a polo club],” the 77-year-old Coppola recalled. “Forest Hill was just two lanes. Big Blue was still a dirt road. South Shore was paved only until Pierson, and a dirt road the rest of the way.”

That vision was the catalyst that ultimately materialized into the internationally renowned Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, a gated community where high-end homes were eventually surrounded at its peak by 10 full-sized fields, including a stadium, 45 holes of golf and some two dozen tennis courts.

“The amazing thing was that Ylvisaker’s vision was incredible,” said Coppola, who moved to Loxahatchee Groves in 1979. “Prior to that, the Sunshine League in Boca Raton had four, maybe six teams. He had this thing about making this an international destination. The first couple of years we had 10, 12 teams playing 22-goal level polo. We had two teams out of Colombia, [one from] Nigeria, [one from] France, Argentina.”

It was quite a sight to see when Coppola returned to Wellington before the 1979 polo season started.

“Actually, what I always marvel over was when I returned in the fall, the stadium was only partially finished,” he continued. “The Saturday before the first game on the stadium field, there were well over 100 people working. There was a line of people carrying chairs up the stadium stairs. It was like the ants bringing the crumbs back to the queen. Painters painting, welders welding.”

This year, The Tackeria celebrates its 45th anniversary and is one of the longest continuous businesses still operating in the village. He knows they were lucky to be here at the beginning and still here decades later.

“Schaefer Drugs is the oldest in the community, and probably a couple of real estate brokers,” said Coppola, who remembers the paint store, the deli and pizza shop from the earliest days. “But we’re in the top 5. Businesses have come and gone. If we’re not in the top 5, then the Top 10.”

During the first several years, Coppola operated a small store in the polo club barns to be closer to the players, which made it easier to sell tack, bridles, mallets, bits and other polo equipment.

The business moved to various locations around Wellington as the growth of polo and equestrian disciplines flourished at a steady pace. Coppola’s 12,000-square-foot store and warehouse has been at the epicenter of the equestrian crossroads on the corner of South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road for the last 15 years. The store is close to numerous polo fields, as well as the hunter/jumper and dressage venues, basically across the street from the original Palm Beach Polo stadium.

“We used to turn in to come to the polo club [where the west entrance on South Shore is] and drive along that canal, it was a dirt road, to get to the club barns,” Coppola said. “And then they finally closed it off, and we had to drive all the way to the corner and make a left-hand turn [onto Pierson].”

For Coppola, the polo in Wellington wasn’t limited to just the stadium. Wellington had less than 10,000 residents in the early 1980s, so locals took advantage of the abundant empty space.

“Where the village complex sits, we used to play polo, three on a side, there, right on Forest Hill Blvd. in the summer for the locals,” Coppola recalled.

In addition to running his business full-time, Coppola was announcing mid-week polo matches at Palm Beach Polo. He has now announced every U.S. Open, the premier polo tournament in North America, for the last 45 years. He has also served on numerous committees for the United States Polo Association (USPA) and recently served a two-year term as president.

In 2006, Coppola received the prestigious Iglehart Award for his lifetime contributions from the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, reflecting his years of passion and dedication to the sport.

Wellington, Coppola and The Tackeria grew up together. Coppola has many memories and has seen even more changes.

One sentimental memory Coppola recalls isn’t the first dollar earned from The Tackeria but rather a guestbook that he started while selling polo equipment at Oak Brook Polo near Chicago.

The collection of signatures from nearly every top player in the 1970s is probably his most cherished memory. However, the keepsake was lost and never recovered. It is one of Coppola’s biggest regrets.

“Juan Carlos Harriott [arguably the greatest player ever], all the polo players, [Hall of Famers] Tommy Wayman, Bart Evans, Joe Barry, all the great Argentines, I had this great book, but somewhere along the line, it got lost. That would be a great memory to have,” he said.

Coppola is a Wellington pioneer, and he was in the right place at the right time with the right people to see it all unfold before him.

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Wellington The Magazine Celebrates Two Decades

Wellington The Magazine Celebrates Two Decades
Kicking Off Our Year-Long Anniversary As We Reflect On The Past 20 Years

In the quiet embrace of Wellington, a publication emerged two decades ago that would weave the stories of the village into a colorful tapestry. Wellington The Magazine, from its humble inception, has grown to become a testament to the richness of community spirit and the power of storytelling. As we commemorate our 20th anniversary, it’s an opportune moment to look back on the journey, celebrate the milestones, and cast a hopeful gaze into the future.

As we take a walk down memory lane, we reminisce about when Wellington The Magazine was born in January 2004 with a vision to capture the essence of this vibrant community, launching with a feature on Wellington’s unique Aero Club neighborhood and an array of stories on shopping, eating and living in Wellington. The magazine became a unique voice for the community, chronicling local events, profiling noteworthy personalities and celebrating the achievements that made Wellington a fascinating and tight-knit community.

Thumbing through hundreds of pages and skimming through story after story gives us such a sense of pride in the team that brought this publication to life, anchored in the idea that Wellington needed a monthly lifestyle magazine of its own. Even until today, planning and visualizing all the content, layout and design elements still exhilarate the team each and every issue. Although many of the features have since taken on a life of their own, across many plot twists and turns, the stories of businesses and individuals will live on in our archive of magazines forever. On 20 years of magazine pages, we see familiar faces, some who have moved away and some who are no longer with us. Yet their stories and legacies live on.

Over the past 20 years, Wellington The Magazine has achieved many milestones. In our first issue, we laid out an array of content categories and departments, refining each periodically to make sure we were providing the local stories that our local readers want. This has included features on local businesses, community events, personality profiles and human-interest pieces that have resonated with readers, creating a bond that goes beyond the ink and paper. We have profiled local entrepreneurs, sampled the fare at countless area restaurants and brought readers into many of the most amazing homes in Wellington. We have profiled world-renowned equestrians, along with the stars of our own community — artists, business leaders, health professionals, educators and more.

As the community evolved, so did the magazine. It adapted to the changing times, embracing digital platforms and multimedia storytelling while staying true to its roots. This evolution mirrored the transformation of Wellington itself, becoming not just a magazine but a living, breathing part of the village’s journey.

Two decades later, Wellington The Magazine stands as a testament to the power of local journalism, and its impact isn’t confined to its pages. Through events, partnerships and community engagement initiatives, it has fostered a sense of belonging among residents. It has become a platform for dialogue, a catalyst for positive change and a unifying force that goes beyond the boundaries of neighborhoods. One of the magazine’s most significant achievements has been amplifying the voices of the community. Through interviews, profiles and photography, it has given a platform to residents, business owners and community leaders, creating a vibrant mosaic of perspectives that define Wellington.

Although it is fun to look back, we must never lose sight of envisioning our next 20 years. As we stand on the cusp of a new era, Wellington The Magazine is poised to embrace technological advancements that will redefine storytelling. From virtual reality experiences to interactive features, the magazine will continue to evolve, ensuring that it remains a relevant and engaging source of information for the community. The next two decades hold the promise of further expanding the magazine’s scope. As the community grows, so will the stories to be told. We explore new avenues, delve into untold narratives and continue to be the bridge connecting residents with the heartbeat of Wellington.

In an era of constant change, the magazine will not only adapt, but lead the way in fostering innovation. From community-driven initiatives to collaborations with local artists and businesses, Wellington The Magazine will be at the forefront of initiatives that shape our community’s future.

Wellington The Magazine’s 20th anniversary is not just a celebration of the past, but a gaze into the future. As we applaud the journey so far, we are equally excited about the untold stories, uncharted territories and unimagined possibilities that the future holds. Together, as a community, we look forward to the continued growth, evolution and impact that this magazine will have on the lives of residents and the vibrant Village of Wellington. Here’s to two decades of storytelling — and to many more chapters yet to be written.

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Wellington’s Winter Wonderland

Wellington’s Winter Wonderland The USPA’s National Polo Center Offers World-Class Polo And So Much More This Season

Situated in the heart of Wellington’s legendary horse country, the National Polo Center-Wellington (NPC) is the perpetual home for polo in the United States and enables the United States Polo Association to showcase the finest that the sport has to offer. The 2024 winter season at NPC is now underway, showcasing many of the finest teams and players in the sport.

The entrance to the stunning property takes you down a palm tree-lined drive that leads past tennis courts toward the pavilion and adjacent stadium. The natural Florida terrain is augmented by a large lake, lush tropical landscaping and some of the most carefully manicured polo fields in the world. Spectating from the stadium, private boxes, fieldside tailgates and special hospitality tents, all overlooking the prestigious U.S. Polo Assn. Field One, is an unparalleled experience.

The 161-acre venue hosts some of the sport’s premier events and tournaments, including the Gauntlet of Polo, which takes places from February to April every winter featuring the world’s preeminent teams, professional athletes and finest horses. They come together for three months to battle head-to-head for the coveted trophies of the C.V. Whitney Cup (Feb. 9 to Feb. 25), the USPA Gold Cup (Feb. 23 to March 24) and the U.S. Open Polo Championship (March 22 to April 21).

In addition to the Gauntlet of Polo, NPC offers the NPC 16-Goal Championship, which is comprised of four USPA tournaments, including the Joe Barry Memorial (Jan. 11 to Jan. 28), the Ylvisaker Cup (Jan. 26 to Feb. 24), the Iglehart Cup and the Outback Cup.

The debut of the National President’s Cup (April 12 to April 21), at the NPC venue and under a new format, unites some of the most talented 8-goal teams in the nation. Another marquee event, the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship (Feb. 3 to Feb. 18), brings together the world’s most talented female players to compete in the final round of the most prestigious women’s tournaments in North America.

The first-rate facilities at NPC include much more than its eight beautifully maintained polo fields and world-class competition. NPC boasts a stadium, restaurants, social club, spa, pool, gym and tennis courts. With more than 7,000 square feet of indoor event space, the Wellington venue is capable of hosting hundreds of guests and many special events.

The tennis program at NPC has grown tremendously in the last year with the addition of tennis instructor Scott Williams, who has coached a number of professional tennis players ranked on the ATP World Tour, such as Tommy Haas (Germany), Anna Kournikova (Russia), Max Mirnyi (Belarus) and more. The 2024 tennis season looks to bring on more competitive teams, tournaments and classes for NPC members. Other NPC fitness facilities include a gym, yoga and Pilates classes. The spa services at NPC have also been upgraded and now offer specialized massages, facials, chiropractic services, waxing and acupuncture.

The venue encompasses multiple restaurants and event spaces, making it the perfect place to spend a night out or to host an event. Sunday brunch at the Pavilion features an ever-changing array of delicious items spread out over various stations that open to a spacious outdoor terrace. With a fun atmosphere and a fieldside view of the nation’s best polo, the Pavilion is a prime ticket to the action. The Pavilion Café, which offers a delectable selection of salads and handhelds, is set to open to the public on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Located in the center stadium, the 7th Chukker offers delicious dining and is now open to the general public. The lounge overlooking U.S. Polo Assn. Field One is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Dinner service is by reservation only. The 7th Chukker offers an a la carte dinner service, an extensive wine list, and space that can accommodate 50 seated guests or 100 attendees for cocktail-style events.

The Polo Club at NPC offers a variety of membership opportunities, including social, junior and equestrian packages. Membership benefits include access to social facilities and participation in exclusive events held throughout the week, including poolside movie nights, lobster dinners, lecture series, chef’s tasting dinners and holiday brunches.

Events held in 2023 included wine dinners showcasing Orin Swift, Il Borro by Salvatore Ferragamo and Folded Hills & Vezer Family Winery. Last year, the center hosted 10-goal polo player and Argentine horse breeder extraordinaire Adolfo Cambiaso as part of its popular speaker series. The event featured cocktails and light bites in addition to Cambiaso’s presentation. 2023 holiday events included an Easter egg hunt, Holly Jolly Brunch and a New Year’s dinner. Other member-only events held in 2023 included Komos Tequila Night, a Mardi Gras celebration, a casino night, and Kentucky Derby and Preakness watch parties.

Throughout the week, Tuesdays will serve as game nights with a variety of entertaining card games available to play. Wednesdays will host the popular NPC Speaker Series, movie nights and the occasional wine or chef’s dinner. Twice a month, the Women’s Collective will gather on Thursday. To kick off the weekend in style, Fridays will offer a lush lobster dinner and live entertainment. Stop by the club on Saturday to watch a horse show via streaming and get excited for Sunday’s big match.

Enjoy live entertainment after every Sunday game at the Mallet Grille, which offers outdoor patio dining and poolside seating in addition to its indoor space. The patio provides spectacular views of the stadium and polo fields, while the indoor restaurant features exquisite cuisine in an intimate setting. The Mallet Grille serves seasonal menus with a variety of fresh seafood, grilled steaks and cocktails, making it an ideal setting for all types of events.

NPC stands as a crown jewel, offering an unparalleled experience for polo enthusiasts and a diverse array of amenities for its members and Wellington locals. The venue’s state-of-the-art facilities make it a hub not only for premier polo events, but for a wide variety of recreational activities. The diverse dining options provide fine culinary delights with fieldside views.

With a variety of membership opportunities and a calendar brimming with exclusive events, NPC not only celebrates the essence of polo but also fosters a vibrant community, making it a world-class destination for unforgettable moments.

The National Polo Center-Wellington is located at 3667 120th Avenue South in Wellington. Learn more about the 2024 season at www.nationalpolocenter.com.

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