By Alicia McLaughlin
The equestrian world is abuzz with anticipation for the grandeur that awaits at the 2024 Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF). From Jan. 10 to March 27, 2024, the AGDF will unfurl a tapestry of events, competitions and showcases that celebrate the remarkable bond between horses and riders, the intricacy of the sport and the passion that fuels it.
Dressage, often described as the ballet of equestrian sports, requires an intricate dance of power, precision and elegance between horse and rider. The AGDF festival has carved its niche as one of the premier platforms for dressage. It’s not merely a competition; it’s a congregation of international talent, a fusion of styles and a testament to the global love for dressage.
The most glittering jewel in the AGDF crown is Friday Night Stars. As night descends and the stars twinkle overhead, riders and their magnificent steeds take center stage, performing breathtaking routines set to handpicked music. From classical symphonies to modern chartbusters, the diversity adds layers to the spectacle. Each performance underlines the essence of dressage — a dance of power, precision and harmony. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 7 p.m.
Another feather in the AGDF cap is the dressage showcase at Wellington International’s International Arena. Set between March 13 and March 17, this week promises international flair and finesse, making it a must-watch for all dressage lovers.
The AGDF isn’t just about established names. It’s also about nurturing the future. The Robert Dover USEF Horsemastership Clinic Week, Jan. 3-7, is a testament to this commitment.
Featuring a select group of young and promising athletes, this event is a window into the future of the sport. From medalists of various championships to fresh faces showing great potential, it’s a week of learning, competition and growth.
Several other events promise to make AGDF 2024 memorable, such as the U25 dressage classes, sponsored by Diamante Farms. This showcase for emerging talents offers glimpses of future dressage superstars. Transitioning from youth classes to the Grand Prix level can be a daunting leap. Recognizing this challenge, the U25 (Under 25) dressage classes were introduced to provide a smoother transition. By offering a platform that caters specifically to this need, the sport ensures a steady stream of talent, ready and equipped to dazzle at the Grand Prix level. For young riders with dreams of reaching the pinnacle of dressage, U25 classes are an invaluable steppingstone.
The CDIO3* Nations Cup is also popular. Following Germany’s 2023 victory, this event is tinged with anticipation. Who will claim the coveted title this year? The primary aim of the Nations Cup in dressage is to promote team competition. While individual achievements are still celebrated, the emphasis shifts to combined team scores.
A standard dressage Nations Cup team consists of three or four horse-and-rider pairs. All team members’ scores contribute to the total, but in cases where there are four combinations, usually the lowest score is dropped. In the Nations Cup format, the team’s combined score determines rankings. By adding individual members’ percentages from both days of competition, the teams are ranked. The Nations Cup dressage format is a refreshing take on traditional dressage competitions, emphasizing teamwork and strategy. It provides a platform for nations to showcase their depth of talent and offers audiences a thrilling team-based competition.
Meanwhile, para dressage competition at the AGDF will show the grace, grit and inclusivity of the sport. Dressage, the artful ballet of equestrian sports, is not limited to just the able-bodied. Para dressage allows riders with disabilities to showcase their skill, connection with their horse and competitive spirit. It’s a testament to the human spirit and the bond between horse and rider that transcends physical limitations. Para dressage is the only equestrian discipline included in the Paralympic Games.
In the world of American dressage, few events hold the historic significance of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, which stands out as a staple competition, drawing top riders, fans and equestrian enthusiasts from all over the globe. The Palm Beach Dressage Derby, which returns Feb. 28 through March 3, was first established in 1983. It was one of the pioneering dressage competitions in the U.S. during a time when dressage was still finding its foothold in America. Since its inception, the derby has consistently grown in stature and significance, both nationally and internationally.
Also among the roster of prestigious events, the Challenge of the Americas (COTA) stands out not just for its competition but also for its philanthropic heart. The core equestrian spectacle of COTA is the performance of “quadrilles” — a choreographed routine where teams of horses and riders perform synchronized movements to music. These performances are a delightful display of precision, harmony and artistry. But COTA isn’t restricted to dressage. The event often melds dressage with other equestrian disciplines.
At its core, COTA is a charitable event. It was established to contribute to breast cancer research. The event raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and related initiatives. Over the years, it has mobilized the equestrian community to contribute generously to this cause. Don’t miss out on the COTA event happening Friday, March 4.
Also part of the AGDF are the Helgstrand Dressage horse presentations. Helgstrand Dressage is one of the world’s most decorated and successful stables for the training and selling of dressage horses. With top European stallion stations in Germany and Denmark, they secure the best possible bloodlines in the world. Their top-notch facilities have training stables for elite dressage horses and accommodation for up to 450 horses at locations worldwide: Helgstrand Dressage, Helgstrand Academy, Ny Ravnstrup, Helgstrand Dressage USA and Helgstrand Germany.
The US PRE Week at the AGDF is more than just a dressage competition. It’s a celebration of the rich heritage of Pure Spanish Horses or Pura Raza Española (PRE). The week showcases these magnificent horses competing in dressage events, demonstrating their prowess in a discipline for which they are so naturally suited. One of the primary objectives of the week is to raise awareness about the breed and recognize its contributions to equestrian sports.
At Equestrian Village, attendees can indulge in more than just world-class dressage events. They are also treated to an array of diverse culinary experiences and retail therapy. Prominent retail brands like Vanner House and ShowChic present an exquisite collection of equestrian-inspired merchandise, ensuring that visitors take home more than just memories from their day.
The AGDF isn’t just an event; it’s a journey. It takes attendees through the rich history of dressage, showcases the current maestros of the sport and offers a glimpse into its promising future. Whether a seasoned equestrian, a budding enthusiast or someone curious about dressage, the festival promises a roller-coaster of emotions, awe-inspiring performances and unforgettable memories.
For AGDF updates and sponsorship opportunities, visit https://gdf.coth.com.