Dressage At Diamante Farms

Dressage At Diamante Farms 
High-Level Facility Is Home To Terri Kane And Dressage Riders/Trainers Devon Kane And Kevin Kohmann

By Mike May

At Wellington’s Diamante Farms, the focus is on dressage all day, every day for the past 22 years and will be for the foreseeable future.

Today, the farm is home to Terri Kane, her daughter Devon Kane and Devon’s husband, Kevin Kohmann. Both Devon Kane and Kevin Kohmann are accomplished dressage riders and trainers.

Their equestrian-focused lifestyle in Wellington started more than 20 years ago, when Devon was still early in her quest to become a top dressage rider.

“It all started in 2002 when my husband Richard returned to our home in San Antonio, Texas, to inform us that he had purchased Diamante Farms in Wellington,” Terri recalled. “We started with one barn and one horse, which was a chestnut mare.”

Terri, Richard and Devon started traveling between their full-time Texas home and their second residence in Wellington, joined by son/brother Dalton, although Dalton was not an equestrian enthusiast. He spent more time in Texas, where he played soccer and tackle football in high school, followed by rugby in college.

Over the last 22 years, a great deal has changed with Diamante Farms and the Kane family. According to Terri, the original Diamante Farms was sold in 2022, and the current Diamante Farms was purchased in a different part of Wellington.

“When you sell a farm, you keep the name,” Terri said. “It’s your brand and logo.”

Another big change was losing Richard, who passed away in 2022.

“He was the reason that we came to Wellington, because he bought Diamante Farms,” Terri said.

From that first chestnut mare, the new Diamante Farms has grown to 34 horses, as well as three rabbits and two dogs.

“The three bunnies are rescue rabbits,” Terri said. “They are MooMoo, Roxie and Bimbo. The two dogs are Emmy, who is a German shepherd, and Harley, who is a Jack Russell. They are best friends.”

Of the 34 horses at Diamante Farms, nine of them are owned by the Kane family, including two that are retired.

“Douwe was one of Devon’s first dressage horses, and he’s now 34,” Terr said. “The other retired horse is Destiny. Devon’s two current Grand Prix horses are Giulietta and Vamos. She also rides Superstar. Kevin’s horse is Dünensee. We call him Denzel. The other horses are Scala, Ozzie and Lira, which is my horse.”

The other 25 horses living at Diamante Farms are owned by outside riders, ranging from amateurs to Grand Prix riders. All the horses receive daily care from Devon, Kevin, Katie Riley and six staffers. Terri has a role, too.

“I do a lot of the daily laundry,” Terri said. “I’m washing blankets, saddle pads and wraps.”

Devon is an experienced and accomplished dressage rider; a talented, successful dressage trainer; and a proven, respected dressage clinician. While she is firmly entrenched within the dressage discipline today, that wasn’t always the case.

“Growing up in San Antonio, I started my competitive career in hunters and jumpers and was surrounded by western riders,” Devon recalled. “I’ve always loved being around horses.”

But two fairly serious accidents led to a change in disciplines.

“Both my mom and I got thrown off horses,” Devon said. “Mom broke her arm, and I broke my jaw.”

The accidents didn’t negatively impact Devon’s passion or her mother’s interest in horses, but it changed their equestrian path.

“I still loved being around horses, so I had to get back in the saddle,” Devon said. “I decided that dressage was an easier way to transition back into riding horses. I found out that dressage fits my personality, and I quickly grew to love dressage.”

Devon has remained in the dressage arena ever since.

In addition to being a dressage rider, Devon looks after dressage horses, trains dressage horses and is a clinician for riders of all levels and abilities. She thrives in dressage because of her relationships with horses.

“I learn from the horses, and they learn from me,” she explained. “Each horse is different, and I try to understand them.”

Devon takes pride in being able to communicate with each horse at Diamante Farms. The relationship that she has with these majestic dressage horses starts soon after sunrise and continues late into the day.

“We’re at the barn by 7 a.m. to give the horses a morning ride,” Devon said. “After the horses have their morning ride, they return to the barn for a bath, have ice applied to their legs, get dried off, eat and have turn-out time outside in the meadow.”

Meals are very important for the horses at Diamante Farms.

“The horses eat three or four times a day,” Devon explained. “Each horse eats a bale of hay a day. We also feed them food from Purina, which is one of our sponsors. They also eat lots of oats every day. In all, each horse eats nine or ten pounds of food a day.”

While Devon is busy walking horses, training horses, coaching other riders and working on her own dressage skills, she still gets involved in the basic equestrian tasks such as cleaning the stalls, bathing the horses and feeding the horses.

“I try to get my hands on the horses and their legs at least every other day,” Devon said. “I’m checking on their tendons and muscles in their legs and the condition of their backs. Horses have big bodies, which are supported by small, thin legs. I’m always checking on them.”

The horses know it’s her when she touches them. That familiarity comes from years of interacting with them.

As an award-winning dressage rider and coach, Devon implements and shares what she has been taught by world-class and Olympic-caliber coaches such as former U.S. Olympic dressage rider Michelle Gibson, Danish Olympian Lars Petersen and German dressage icon Hubertus Schmidt.

While Devon has vast experience at national and international competitions, her husband, Kevin Kohmann, is also a talented dressage rider.

Originally from Germany, Kohmann now rides for the United States. He is expected to represent the U.S. at the World Cup in Saudi Arabia in April. If so, Devon will be there to support him. “I always go along and help groom his horses,” Devon said.

While Devon has strong aspirations as a dressage rider, she also takes great pride in seeing other riders that she coaches and horses that she trains do well in the ring.

When not spending time with horses in both Wellington and during visits to Europe each summer, Devon enjoys reading, going to the beach, traveling, watching movies and eating the delicious meals prepared by her husband, who she said is an amazing chef.

Learn more about Terri Kane, Devon Kane, Kevin Kohmann and the high-level dressage facilities at Diamante Farms at www.diamantefarms.com.

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Dancing Horses And Family Fun

Dancing Horses And Family Fun

Trot On Over To The Challenge Of The Americas And Help Fight Breast Cancer

Get ready to gallop into a night of pure entertainment, hoof-tapping music, family fun and heartwarming moments at the Friday, March 8 Challenge of the Americas (COTA), where the community comes together to give breast cancer the boot.

It’s a spectacular evening of horses and music, all to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through its partner, Play for P.I.N.K.

General admission ticket holders will have an ideal vantage point in the grandstands, and tickets are available at the gate the night of the event. The cost is $30 per adult, and children 12 and under are admitted free. Gates open at 5:45 p.m. at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival showgrounds at the corner of South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road in Wellington. Grandstand guests can grab food and beverages available for purchase and enjoy pre-show entertainment.

VIP tickets, available at www.challengeoftheamericas.com, provide the same top-notch entertainment with the bonus of enjoying the elegantly festive Challenge Gala featuring dinner and dancing under a tent at the showgrounds.

You won’t want to miss COTA’s newest event, the Disco Dressage Derby, where three teams of two horses and riders boogie on down to four minutes of choreographed disco music with a unique twist: the teams must continue dancing to surprise musical selections during the last minute of their performances.

The adorable jumping mini horses with their full-size friends, and a fun musical pas de trois set to Tina Turner tunes round out the entertainment before the headline event, the musical Grand Prix Quadrille Team Challenge.

Featuring five teams of six dancing horses and their skilled riders, each team maneuvers in precise patterns set to musical themes. Competitors pull out the stops with intricate choreography and colorful costumes to delight the crowd while raising funds for breast cancer research.

COTA has evolved since its origins in 2002. It was created by Mary Ross to honor her mother, who died of breast cancer.

The event grew from an afternoon luncheon featuring three horse-and-rider combinations to an international event with 44 Grand Prix riders and their mounts. Its success and continued growth are due not only to its partnership with the top-rated breast cancer research organization in the U.S., but also to its uniquely entertaining format.

The beneficiary of the event, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) through partner Play for P.I.N.K. (PFP), is the largest private funder of breast cancer research — and the largest private funder of metastatic research — in the world. Play for P.I.N.K. is a grassroots organization committed to raising funds for breast cancer research through sporting and lifestyle events. Since 1996, PFP has raised more than $80 million for breast cancer research and is currently supporting 20 research projects to bring about breakthroughs in detection, treatment, prevention and survivorship.

Let’s come together to #ChallengeBreastCancer and create a future where families can thrive without the fear of this disease. Spread the word, gather your crew, hoof on over to the dressage showgrounds on March 8 and enjoy an exciting evening of dancing horses and family fun to help find a cure for breast cancer.

Visit www.challengeoftheamericas.com to learn more.

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Wellington’s Leadership Team Is All In, All The Time

Wellington’s Leadership Team Is All In, All The Time

Meet the dynamic members who make up the leadership team at the Village of Wellington. With a wide variety of expertise and experience from both the public and private sectors, they provide the high-quality services that residents expect here in the Village of Wellington.

For several members of Wellington’s leadership team, the idea of having a career in public service originated before they arrived in the village, having served in other public agencies prior to joining the Village of Wellington. Many also bring experience from the private sector. That combination of public and private-sector experience is invaluable when delivering best-in-class services to residents.

Covering approximately 45 square miles with a year-round population of 63,000, the Village of Wellington is a full-service municipality operating under a council-manager form of government.

Under this format, the village manager is the chief executive and administrative officer, responsible for the implementation of the Wellington Village Council’s vision and day-to-day operations of the village. Leadership of our more than 340 team members is made possible by our leadership team, covering everything from engineering and accounting to customer service and recreation.

The leadership team we have assembled continues to make Wellington a community of choice. The positive attitudes and commitments that drive the individuals on the leadership team demonstrate that they are all in, all the time. What follows are snapshots of the individuals who make up this dynamic team, empowered by their passion for public service and community.

Ana Acevedo, Director of Administrative & Financial Services
2014-present

“For Wellington’s finance team, delivering high-quality services is not just a responsibility, but a cornerstone in building a resilient future for our residents and businesses,” Director of Administrative & Financial Services Ana Acevedo said. “Our dedication to responsive governance is evident in our meticulous evaluation of audit findings, thorough review of budget variances, the maintenance of a robust bond rating, and our commitment to the fiduciary responsibility of public finance. Together, we are charting a steady course for the long-term sustainability of Wellington.”

Acevedo is a certified public accountant with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in taxation. Originally from Cuba, she arrived in the United States in 1980. At the beginning of her accounting career, Acevedo traveled to and from Exuma, Bahamas, where she managed the accounting for a marina associated with the Four Seasons Resort, and she began her governmental career in 2006 with the City of Lake Worth.

Acevedo enjoys reading the Bible and indulging in mystery books, and she cherishes moments with her family, especially when she can watch her children play baseball and volleyball.

Chevelle Addie, Village Clerk 2017-present

“As the village clerk for the Village of Wellington, it is my privilege to work alongside a dedicated team committed to meeting our customers’ needs promptly and efficiently, in accordance with Wellington’s standards, council policies and state laws,” Chevelle Addie said. “Looking ahead, I am enthusiastic about navigating Wellington’s future and fostering a thriving and well-governed community.”

Addie started her career at the City of Delray Beach, working as the extended day coordinator, developing, implementing and managing aftercare programs for local students in partnership with nonprofit organizations, and became the village clerk in Wellington in 2017.

Addie is a certified master municipal clerk (MMC), has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and more than 20 years of governmental experience. She is an active member of the Florida Association of City Clerks (FACC) and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. She is a past president of FACC and the Palm Beach County Municipal Clerks Association.

In addition, Addie has been a member of the Florida League of Cities Municipal Administration Committee for the last nine years and has served as a conference/webinar speaker and trainer for the Florida Association of City Clerks, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Special Districts, the Florida Government Finance Officers’ Association and the Palm Beach County League of Cities. Addie is a 2017 and 2018 Florida League of Cities Home Rule Hero Award and Robert N. Clark Memorial Award recipient.

Robert Basehart, Director of Sustainability & Regulatory Affairs
2009-present

“Having seen Palm Beach County grow over many years, I am happy to be able to continue to share my experience by working on village programs and projects that will prepare Wellington for the future,” Director of Sustainability & Regulatory Affairs Robert Basehart said. “I worked in the western communities and Wellington in particular, before it was incorporated and hope that our efforts today continue to keep it a great hometown for many years to come.”

Basehart joined Wellington in 2009 serving as growth management director and assumed his role in sustainability and regulatory affairs in 2020. His experience spans the private and public sectors and includes extensive experience in Palm Beach County during periods of growth and development, where he saw the county’s population grow from several hundred thousand to more than 1.5 million residents.

Basehart has also been involved in the planning and development of residential and commercial projects locally and around the state and successfully entitled more than 2,000 projects. Recently, in Wellington, he has led the charge to update, rewrite and simplify the land development regulations and code of ordinances. He has undergraduate degrees in psychology and city planning and is a certified planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners. While a planner at heart, he quips that his psychology degree has come in handy many times in his line of work.

Nicole Coates, Emergency Management Director
2001-present

“As a 32-year resident of Wellington, my commitment is twofold: to safeguard the community I call home, and to enhance the overall well-being of Wellington residents,” Emergency Management Director Nicole Coates said. “The risk management team works diligently to prevent incidents and minimize the financial impact of losses to the village. It is not just a professional obligation, but a personal dedication to ensure Wellington remains a place where residents and employees alike thrive in safety and resilience.”

Coates began her career with Wellington in 2001 within the Parks & Recreation Department, where her roles encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, from customer service to finance and budget management, as well as special event coordination. She later filled various leadership positions, including assistant to the village manager, director of community services, and director of internal audit and compliance. In 2018, Coates assumed her current role as director of emergency management and public safety. Prior to her tenure with Wellington, Coates contributed her talents to First Wellington Inc., the village’s master homeowners’ association.

Coates earned her master’s degree in business administration from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing/advertising from Florida Atlantic University. She also has certifications as a certified emergency manager, a Florida professional emergency manager, and a certified parks and recreation professional.

Outside of her professional commitments, Coates is actively involved in community service, serving as a board member for the Safety Council of Palm Beach County and as the planning section chief for the Southeast Region 7 All Hazards Incident Management Team. She resides in Wellington with her husband, Colby, and their daughters Madison and Macie.

Ed De La Vega, Assistant Village Manager
2000-present

“I am fortunate to live, work and play in Wellington, and I take pride in the fact that I can help make our village a premier community not only in the county, but also the state and country,” Assistant Village Manager Ed De La Vega said. “This is evidenced by our regular high rankings regionally and nationally as truly a great hometown.”

De La Vega has been with the Village of Wellington since 2009, when he joined the staff as a senior project manager working on capital improvement projects. He went on to serve as director of purchasing and general services director in 2014, before being appointed to his current post in January 2021. In this role, De La Vega oversees a broad range of departments, including Parks & Recreation; Planning, Zoning & Building; Engineering; Purchasing; and Risk Management.

De La Vega and his family are proud to call Wellington home. His wife Edilia serves as the principal at Panther Run Elementary School. Their children, Alex and Amanda, grew up in the village and attended local schools. Prior to joining the Village of Wellington, De La Vega was employed by Lennar as director of purchasing. In his tenure there, he was involved in all aspects of home building, including contract administration, budgeting, permitting and design. De La Vega previously worked as a controller in the food service industry.

De La Vega earned a bachelor’s degree in business, majoring in finance, from Florida Atlantic University. He is a certified public procurement buyer and a member of the National Institute for Governmental Purchasing.

Paulette Edwards, Community Services Director
2017-present

“Our dedicated community services team works tirelessly to create a supportive environment that not only addresses immediate needs, but also invests in the long-term growth and prosperity of Wellington,” Community Services Director Paulette Edwards said. “Together, we are shaping a community where individuals, families and youth thrive, empowered by the transformative impact of our programs and services.”

Edwards has dedicated her career to the development, revitalization and sustainability of communities, as well as programs that support underserved families. She has served in a number of key leadership positions in other organizations.

Before joining Wellington, Edwards was appointed by the mayor of the City of Orlando as the assistant director for the Mayor’s Neighborhood Services Office. In that position, she was responsible for administering the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Community Block Grant programs. During her career, she has managed grant awards to numerous nonprofit organizations and helped individuals and families obtain affordable housing, education, recreation, homelessness prevention and economic development opportunities.

Edwards has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business administration from Grambling State University. She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Alpha Alpha Upsilon Omega Chapter Wellington.

Kimberly Gibbons, Human Resources Director/LGBTQ Liaison
2006-present

“As the human resources director, my foremost commitment is to the holistic success and well-being of our dedicated employees,” Kimberly Gibbons said. “With a dedication to nurturing a workplace culture where every individual thrives, our Human Resources Department is deeply invested in ensuring that every employee, along with our broader community, feels an integral part of the fabric of Wellington.”

Gibbons is a senior certified human resources professional with the Society of Human Resources Management, the Human Resources Certification Institute and the International Professional Management Association. She received her undergraduate degree in English language and literature from the University of Maryland, and her graduate degree in human resources development and administration from Barry University. She is also a certified neurodiversity professional and was certified as an adult mental health first aid instructor.

Previously from the private sector, where she worked at Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach, Gibbons came to Wellington as a contracted employee in 2005 and became a regular employee in 2006.

Chuck Gill, Tennis Director
2021-present

“Since joining Wellington in 2021, I’ve been privileged to work alongside a passionate group dedicated to making tennis accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages,” Tennis Director Chuck Gill said. “Our commitment goes beyond the courts; it’s about creating a vibrant tennis community that stands out throughout the county. Wellington’s Tennis Center has become a shining example, thanks to our team’s innovative approach to organizing unique and exciting tournaments and programs. We are proud to be part of the rich tennis tradition in Wellington, and we look forward to continuing to elevate the game, inspire players and foster a love for tennis in our community.”

Gill started working at the Wellington Tennis Center in 2021 after serving as the director of sports at the Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach and the director of tennis at the Boca Raton Resort and Club in Boca Raton.

Gill is a past president of the United States Professional Tennis Association and served on the USPTA Florida Division Board of Directors from 1995 to 2005 and as division president from 2002 to 2003. From 2009 to 2011 and from 2013 to January 2020, he was on the USPTA national board, where he served as president from 2015 to 2017. Gill is also active as a United States Tennis Association volunteer, where he has served on the board of the USTA Florida Section since 2014. He is USTA Florida president-elect this year.

Eric Juckett, Parks & Recreation Director
2003-present

“Parks and recreation are vital for our community,” Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett said. “Our team strives to provide excellent, unique and meaningful opportunities for recreation that enhance the vibrant culture of Wellington.”

Juckett has devoted two decades of his professional journey to the Village of Wellington. His career with Wellington started as a part-time lifeguard while he was a student at Florida Atlantic University, eventually transitioning to a full-time staff position in 2003.

Leading the Parks & Recreation Department family of 23 full-time staff, and during peak seasons, coordinating more than 100 vital part-time staff, he finds fulfillment in the collaborative spirit within his team.

As the director of the Parks & Recreation Department, Juckett witnesses the positive impact that his department has on people’s lives through various programs, including athletics, aquatics, concerts, events, community initiatives, rentals, weddings and senior programs. Juckett moved to Wellington in 2017, where he lives with his wife and young son.

Anjuli Panse, Utilities Director
2018-present

“Wellington’s Utilities Department staff takes great pride in the essential services they provide. Operating around the clock, our team ensures a reliable supply of superior quality drinking water and environmentally safe wastewater service for the well-being of more than 50,000 residents in the Wellington utility service area,” Utilities Director Anjuli Panse said. “We are committed to pursuing the most up-to-date technologies to improve and upgrade our facilities to not only keep Wellington on the cutting edge of the water industry but also guarantee that our customers receive the best product and service possible.”

Panse is a registered professional engineer and the director responsible for the management and oversight of water and wastewater services in Wellington. The Utility Department operates a water treatment plant rated for 12.3 million gallons per day, a wastewater plant rated for 6.5 million gallons per day, two potable water storage and repump stations, three surficial aquifer raw water wellfields, a water distribution system, a sanitary sewer collection system including 105 lift stations and a reclaimed water system.

Panse received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida and has held a professional engineering license in the State of Florida since 2010. She began her career in 2005 as an engineering consultant and has designed and managed engineering projects for Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and others.

Her areas of expertise include the design, permitting, assessment and construction of water systems, wastewater systems, roadways, utilities and municipal structures. In 2018, she joined Wellington’s Utilities Department and became the director in 2022.

Tanya Quickel, Deputy Village Manager
2013-present

“Supporting the Village of Wellington with a decade of accomplishments, projects and grants, my goal is to provide the tools with thoughtful and responsible fiscal planning for the residents, elected officials and staff to enjoy a sustainable, resilient and progressive great hometown,” Deputy Village Manager Tanya Quickel said.

Quickel leverages more than three decades of diverse experience in private and public administration and financial management in her role as deputy village manager. Since joining Wellington in 2013, she has been a driving force behind the village’s fiscal and operational strategies, aligning administrative functions to support its core missions effectively.

In her current capacity, Quickel oversees the village’s annual operating budget, ensuring its efficient management and allocation in alignment with community goals. She also collaborates closely with departments such as Public Works, Utilities, Community Services, the Clerk’s Office, Information Technology, Customer Service and Communications. Her leadership has been instrumental in driving the village’s progress and enhancing its service delivery.

Before her tenure in Wellington, Quickel held pivotal roles in organizations including the Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department, the Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District, the Indian Trail Improvement District, and Horry County in South Carolina. These experiences have deepened her insights into local government dynamics and best practices.

Quickel’s professional journey is marked by a dedication to continuous learning and excellence. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Georgia and has passed the certified public accountants (CPA) exam. Additionally, she holds the certified district manager designation from Barry University and the Florida Association of Special Districts, further demonstrating her commitment to professional growth and expertise in her field.

Jonathan Reinsvold, Village Engineer
2014-present

“As the village engineer, I stand at the intersection of innovation and community stewardship, leveraging my expertise to leave a positive mark on Wellington’s infrastructure to shape its landscape for future generations,” Jonathan Reinsvold said.

Reinsvold began his career in civil engineering in 2005 during his senior year of college, when he interned for IBI Group, a small engineering firm in Coral Springs. Being the youngest engineer in the office meant he had to endure his fair share of “grunt work,” including the time he was called into the owner’s office for a “very important and time-sensitive project” that translated into needing the restroom painted.

Reinsvold also worked for CMS Engineering, a company of Ansca homes, a private equity housing developer, before coming to Wellington, where he started as a senior engineer. Reinsvold was promoted to village engineer in January 2021.

William Silliman, Information Technology Director
2012-present

“In these times of rapid technological changes, the IT department is dedicated to ensuring reliable and efficient technology services, while improving operational efficiency and enhancing cybersecurity,” Information Technology Director William Silliman said. “We want to make interactions with our residents and customers accessible and convenient.”

Silliman has a unique background that blends both science and technology. He began his career studying sharks and stingrays at the University of Miami’s RSMAS Shark Lab in Bimini, Bahamas, where he utilized computers and geographic information systems in the early 2000s for data analysis and tracking. His work on sharks and stingrays contributed to research that was later published, as well as presented academically.

After his time tracking sharks and stingrays, Silliman transitioned to the technology sector where he worked for Gateway Computers and then for a small financial services firm in Boca Raton before coming to the Village of Wellington in 2012.

His leadership and skills in IT networking, cybersecurity and data analytics have been instrumental in driving digital transformations at the Village of Wellington, significantly boosting operational efficiency, cybersecurity and customer engagement.

Silliman holds a bachelor’s degree in biology, as well as a multitude of certifications.

Tim Stillings, Director of Planning, Zoning & Building
2019-present

“Prior to Wellington, my education and experience focused on urban and community planning and development,” Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings said. “Here, I have had to look at the same planning issues and challenges through a suburban lens, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to apply my expertise to enhance the growth and sustainability of the village.”

Stillings is a certified planner (AICP) with more than two decades of experience in both the public and private sectors. He has worked in various roles in public planning agencies, including West Palm Beach and Delray Beach, and has extensive knowledge in areas such as land entitlements, urban development/redevelopment, form-based codes, design guidelines, site planning, transportation planning, traffic calming, street design and bicycle/pedestrian planning.

Stillings holds a bachelor’s degree in urban affairs from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a master’s degree in community and regional planning from Iowa State University.

Although not a native of Florida, Stillings has lived in Palm Beach County for more than half of his life and considers it his hometown. Stillings dedicates much of his time to restoring a historic house built in 1922, showcasing his commitment to preserving the rich heritage of the region.

Bruce Wagner, Public Works Director
2005-present

“At the heart of the Public Works Department lies a guiding principle: to serve the community and positively shape Wellington’s future so that it remains a vibrant and thriving community for all,” Public Works Director Bruce Wagner said.

Wagner lives by the mantra that a team is paramount to success, a belief instilled in him from his upbringing on Long Island. Starting with a humble landscape company alongside his brothers, Wagner’s journey led him through roles as a head groundskeeper for a utility company, assistant supervisor at Old Westbury Gardens (the legendary Phipps Estate), the Home Depot and even a stint at Walt Disney World.

Though life’s twists and turns brought him back to Long Island in the wake of tragedy, Wagner’s resilience and dedication to his craft propelled him forward, leading him to manage large-scale properties at Seacrest Services as the regional landscape manager of their high-end properties, and eventually found his way to South Florida, where he began his career at Wellington as parks supervisor in 2005.

For Wagner, it’s not just about the work — it’s about the people. His journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and the belief that with the right team, anything is possible. In his role, he finds fulfillment in serving the community and shaping its future, making each day his “happily ever after.”

 

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High-Level Dressage Arrives In South Florida

High-Level Dressage Arrives In South Florida

The Founding Of The Palm Beach Dressage Derby Led To Today’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival

By Joshua Manning

Wellington The Magazine’s year-long Wellington History feature series includes the recollections of early pioneers who built the community we enjoy today. This month, we speak with Gisela Pferdekamper and Evelyn O’Sullivan on the start of the esteemed Palm Beach Dressage Derby, which put dressage on the map in South Florida and fueled the growth that eventually became today’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

Today, Wellington is known as the “equestrian capital of the world,” hosting the premier U.S. shows in the sports of polo, show jumping and dressage. However, back in the 1980s, while top polo and show jumping action had already gotten their start, high-level dressage did not yet have a home in the western communities.

That is, until the birth of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby in 1983 — an international-level dressage competition that drew dressage riders and trainers to the Wellington area and led to what has grown into the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

A high-level, international-style dressage show in South Florida was the dream of Palm Beach Dressage Derby founders Gisela and Howald Pferdekamper, who moved to the area in the 1970s from Germany. They brought with them their Hanoverian horses and a love of the unique equestrian sport of dressage.

While high-level dressage shows were common in Europe, the same could not be said of their new home in the United States.

“When we arrived here, we went to a dressage show in Melbourne, but it was not so good,” Gisela Pferdekamper recalled. “We decided we wanted to make a show as good as it was when we went to the shows in Germany. Dressage is an equestrian sport that belonged among all the others.”

So, Pferdekamper, along with her late husband, went about staging the first event, offering generous prize money, flying in professional international dressage judges from Germany and recruiting top dressage talent to ride in the inaugural show. These included well-known riders Robert Dover and Gunnar Ostergaard. “They were the first ones to come, and it was a success from the very beginning,” she said.

However, Pferdekamper did not know that it would continue to grow and still be thriving some 40 years later. “People had no idea what dressage was. We wanted to show what the sport was all about,” she said. “We also had prize money to attract good riders to come down to Florida.”

Through the years, the Pferdekampers had many people support them in organizing the derby. Among them is Janne Rumbough. Her passion for dressage drove Rumbough to find sponsors for the first show, including Hermés, which donated the trophies, ribbons and the $5,000 prize for the Grand Prix winner.

“We were one of the first dressage shows to offer money prizes,” said Rumbough when she was interviewed for a feature story on the derby’s 25th anniversary.

The derby was originally held at the Pferdekampers’ estate in Loxahatchee’s White Fences. Eventually, it moved to a larger dressage showgrounds created by Walter and Mary Anne McPhail, owners of White Fences Equestrian Estates. There it stayed until becoming part of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington in 2013.

“At the time the derby was created, there was basically no dressage in South Florida,” Evelyn O’Sullivan recalled. “There were just a few riders, but it was basically an unknown entity except for those few. Gisela was the first one to organize an international show in Florida. She imported judges from Europe, and Klaus Fraessdorf managed the shows for her until we took it over. Many of the older riders today had their start at the derby.”

Involved since the early years, O’Sullivan took over as show manager when the McPhails purchased the Palm Beach Dressage Derby from the Pferdekampers in the late 1990s.

“The next year, Walter McPhail established White Fences Equestrian Estates, and built a showgrounds just for the derby,” O’Sullivan said. “We held the shows there until Mary Anne and I decided to retire from actively running the shows and leased the derby license to Global.”

O’Sullivan stressed the importance of the derby to the growth of the sport.

“It single handedly put dressage in Florida on the map, and it ultimately became the one international show that all the judges wanted to be invited to,” she said. “It became the talk in Europe, as I had been told by one of our European judges. It became so popular with judges that we never had a problem filling the judging panels with the cream of the crop, and we became known for having the top judges at the time.”

The arrival of the derby was the start of the local dressage journey. “It was the pioneer that paved the way for what we have in Florida today,” O’Sullivan said.

Both Pferdekamper and O’Sullivan fondly remember the fun times and camaraderie of the derby’s early years.

“What I really liked most was the rider’s barn,” Pferdekamper said. “We had a tent and dinner with the riders and judges together. That is not done anymore, and I think that was a loss. That’s what they do in Germany, but it is not done here.”

She feels that allowed the riders a unique opportunity to learn more directly from the judges, stressing that the judges were always ready to impartially judge the ride, not the rider.

“Mostly I remember the fun we had in the early years,” O’Sullivan said. “And the growing pains of starting up a whole new showgrounds. It was all worth it though, as the derby thrived, and is still an important competition today. That’s staying power, and I am grateful to have had some part in that growth.”

While O’Sullivan has moved away from the Wellington area, Pferdekamper is still deeply involved with the local equestrian scene. Nowadays it’s not for the derby or the Hanoverian horses, but rather her unique horse-themed artwork. She will be presenting her annual show featuring her own work and that of Lisa Marie Bishop on Sunday, March 3 at her home studio in Loxahatchee Groves.

The Palm Beach Dressage Derby, meanwhile, will be held as part of this year’s AGDF at Equestrian Village from Feb. 28 through March 3. Now, as back in 1983, it continues to attract the top dressage talent from across the United States and around the world.

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An Elevated Italian Dining Experience

An Elevated Italian Dining Experience

Story and Photos by Melanie Kopacz

Bella Cucina restaurant exudes an essence all its own with a dining experience that will serenade your senses with impeccable Italian dishes, rich in flavor and artistry.

The new Italian restaurant Bella Cucina is an elevated experience that brings an exciting new dining addition to the western communities.

The reimagined space opened in October in the Village Royale plaza at the northwest corner of Royal Palm Beach and Okeechobee boulevards. Facing Royal Palm Beach Blvd., the space was formerly home to Mario Bros. Italian Restaurant.

Bella Cucina lives up to its name, meaning “beautiful kitchen,” as each plate of northern-style Italian cuisine is exquisitely crafted and prepared to delight.

“If you see something with your eyes, you’re going to like it. Everything comes from the eyes. Sometimes not by how much — it’s all about the quality,” chef and owner Edgar Perez said.

Quality, like the Linguine Frutti di Mare, a dish filled with favorites from the sea. Succulent shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and calamari are served with linguine in a white wine sauce.

Another delicacy is the Vitello alla Milanese, thinly breaded veal topped with arugula, tomato, shaved parmigiano and roasted potatoes.

“I always wanted to open a restaurant with Italian cuisine, because we love that food,” Perez said. “A restaurant with a nice menu, good quality food and service.”

His career has taken him on a 25-year culinary journey starting at age 14 when he arrived in the United States from Guatemala. He has since entrenched himself in every aspect of the business at several large restaurant franchises, to eventually opening up three of his own Sabor Latino restaurants throughout Palm Beach County.

In 2016, he met his wife, Gladys Suarez, shortly after she arrived from Venezuela. While working together, they realized they had much in common.

“We have almost the same taste in food, and we created many of the dishes together,” he said.

The two are now embarking on this newest culinary collaboration together, and each dish and guest is given special attention.

“We’re happy. She loves what she’s doing. She loves customer service. We strive to make guests happy with excellence in service,” Perez said.

From the thoughtful preparation to the moment the meal is plated, vibrant accents accompany the dish with flowers and fruit.

One of those masterpieces is Costata di Manzo, a grilled prime rib sizzling in flavor over a bed of lobster mashed potatoes. Alongside is an artistic take on a salad, with a stuffed tomato that has been boiled, peeled and filled with arugula, onions and dressing, like an edible treasure chest. Branzino alla Griglia also is popular. The grilled Mediterranean striped bass is topped with a lemon butter sauce and sautéed vegetables over mashed potatoes.

Smaller plates include grilled octopus with sautéed arugula, cherry tomatoes and onions, topped with chimichurri. This crispy calamari is served with both marinara and a spicy sauce. Other traditional favorites include savory lasagna, lobster ravioli, and chicken prepared several ways, such as Francese, Parmigiana and Marsala. A special menu for children offers Spaghetti Bolognese, Fettuccine Alfredo and more.

Lunchtime is a great way to try the soups, sandwiches and pizza, Monday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pizzas can also be created to taste, with many toppings to choose from.

“Our house pizza has fresh mozzarella with arugula, tomatoes, prosciutto and shaved parmesan,” Perez said. “We can add grilled chicken on top, too.”

The bright and cozy dining room seats 50 with a quaint elegance as jazz plays in the background. White quartz tabletops, contrasting black chairs and lounge-style couches are topped with gold accent pillows.

Cocktails are specially crafted with bright colors and elegant dried fruit. Tinto de Verano is a popular red wine with lime juice, Sprite and dried lemon to garnish. The Bella Pineapple Cocktail is a hit, made with coconut wine, sweet and dark wine, along with pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine, served in an ice-cold brass pineapple cocktail mug.

Limoncello liqueur is a great way to finish dinner. It also comes in a flight.

“The limoncello flight is my favorite,” Suarez said. “It’s a combination of two limoncello with two cream limoncello. A sampler, so if you don’t want to drink too much.”

For dessert, try the Limoncello Mascarpone Cake, a sponge cake dipped in lemon liqueur and layered with imported mascarpone. The Tiramisu also is layered with mascarpone after the sponge cake is soaked in espresso then sprinkled with cocoa.

Traditional coffees complete the experience, from a tasty espresso to a frothy cappuccino or latte, complete with biscotti.

“We welcome all for a great, delicious meal in a comfortable setting, and surprise you with nice food,” Perez explained.

The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Bella Cucina is located at 1193 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in the Village Royale plaza. For more information, call (561) 656-1990 or visit www.bellacucinaristorante.com.

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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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