Evolution Of A Horse Show SeriesÂ
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 horseâ€™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 riderâ€™s preferences into the mix, and you merge that perfect horseâ€™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 donâ€™t break the bank.
Believe it or not, the horse and riderâ€™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 organizationâ€™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 Ridgeâ€™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 Dâ€™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 seasonâ€™s most prestigious and highly decorated equestrian events.
Garson and Dâ€™Ambrosioâ€™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, â€œWhere Horses Matter.â€
Weekly USEF â€œBâ€ 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.
â€œWe created our show series, and all of our events, with the horse as the first and foremost consideration,â€ said Garson, who rode her spectacular Budyonny gelding Rhythmical for the United States at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. â€œRiders should be able to show without stress, without massive expense and in an environment that is conducive to their partnership with the horse. Horses shouldnâ€™t feel cramped, rushed or stressed when showing; it should be a positive experience for everyone.â€
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, itâ€™s hard to compete with The Ridgeâ€™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.
â€œWeâ€™ve really gone above and beyond to make this an incredible experience for competitors,â€ Dâ€™Ambrosio said. â€œOur 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.â€
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.