Faces of WEF 2023

Faces of WEF 2023

The 2023 edition of Wellington’s signature horse show series, the Winter Equestrian Festival, is underway at the newly rebranded Wellington International showgrounds. Since being acquired by Global Equestrian Group last year, there have been nearly $9 million in improvements to the facility, home to the richest and longest-running horse show series in the world. Horse and rider pairs will soar over fences, navigate complicated sequences and make hairpin turns — all to the delight of the crowds. Riders known around the world will join up-and-comers, youngsters and adult amateurs in the ring at WEF, which offers classes for every age and skill level. Over the next few pages, you’ll get a glimpse at just a handful of the riders competing this season at WEF, from current superstars to future stars, in our annual Faces of WEF feature section

Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher rides for Great Britain and has competed in four Olympic Games. He is currently ranked sixth in the Longines Rankings and 34th in the FEI Jumping World Cup Standings. With more than 145 wins under his belt, Maher is one talented rider to watch at the Winter Equestrian Festival this year.

Originally from Baltimore and now living in Wellington, John French is one of the top hunter riders to watch at WEF this year. French most recently won the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby at Wellington International during the ESP Holiday Series aboard Wyatt. A seasoned and decorated horseman, French is fantastic to watch in the show ring, where he brings decades of experience.

Conor Swail, a native of County Down, Ireland, is a frequent rider on the WEF circuit each winter. He is currently ranked No. 5 on the Longines Rankings and No. 2 in the FEI World Cup Standings. A crowd favorite, Swail will no doubt make many jump-offs exciting at this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival.

Coming from a family of equestrians, Luke Jensen is one of the most talented young riders to watch this year at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Last year, Jensen was the winner of the 2022 WEF Equitation Championship on Stephex Stable’s Jamaica. Originally from Denton, Texas, he is a bright, rising star.

One of the most decorated American riders, New York native McLain Ward is a perennial fan favorite. A five-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ward started WEF 2023 on a high note when he won the $75,000 Prestige Italia Grand Prix during Premiere Week at Wellington International aboard Catoki, owned by Marilla van Beuren and Bob Russell.

Natalie Dean is one of today’s most talented young riders. A California native, Dean is currently ranked No. 5 in the Longines Jumping FEI World Cup Standings and No. 7 in the FEI Jumping Under 25 rankings. She was chosen by the United States Equestrian Federation to represent the U.S. at the $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO4* last season at WEF.

One of America’s leading hunter riders, Scott Stewart has been a staple in Wellington International’s hunter rings for decades. Stewart, who grew up in Connecticut, has won all of the nation’s top hunter awards, including the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular in Wellington. Stewart was victorious during WEF’s Premiere Week in the Equine Tack and Nutritionals 3’9” Green Hunter Division aboard Jordan.

Victoria “Tori” Colvin is one of the nation’s most successful young riders. She has been consistently in the ribbons for both hunters and jumpers since she began showing ponies as a child. Her accolades include being named the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame Rider of the Year in 2020. In 2022, she was the Winter Equestrian Festival’s Overall Hunter Rider Circuit Champion.

Wellington native Zayna Rizvi is a talented junior rider who won the coveted 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship. Her aptitude in equitation, hunters and jumpers knows no bounds. She competed at the 2022 FEI Jumping Nations Cup Youth Final. Last summer, Rizvi won the $37,000 North Face Farm Welcome Stake CSI 2* at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival aboard her mount Excellent, owned by Peacock Ridge.

Conter, a top Under 25 rider, is no stranger to success. From an equestrian family, she is the daughter of Stephan Conter of Stephex Stables. Last year, during the second week of WEF, Conter won the Martha W. Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award. She also placed sixth in the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* during Week 12. She enters 2023 with an eye toward more impressive victories.