Wellington, Florida - Winter Equestrian Festival
Wellington does not disappoint as three worlds collide in this town every winter. Show jumping, dressage and polo all take place every week for 12 weeks. It doesn’t matter when you go because you can count on plenty happening at any time. It isn’t called the Winter Equestrian Capital of the World for nothing.
What to expect
When you go to Wellington you will see amazing horses and a whole lot of money. Granted the money will come in forms of farms, cars and horses but it is everywhere. Depending on your rental car you will fit in or look like a tourist. Nobody cares though because horses and horse lovers are the main driving force in Wellington during the winter months.
The venues for show jumping, dressage and polo are close to one another and watching all three disciplines in one day isn’t out of the questions. Each venue is designed to make sure spectators have the best possible experience. Palm trees, fancy cars and famous horses and riders are a staple at each facility.
Best time to go
The best time to go to Wellington is between mid January and the end of March. There are 12 weeks of show jumping, dressage and polo running Wednesdays to Sundays.
Adequan Global Dressage Festival:
January 4 to April 3 – 2018
Grand Champions Polo Club:
January 3 to April 21 – 2018
International Polo Club:
January 10 to April 1 – 2018
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center:
December 28 to April 22 – 2018
Palm Beach Masters Series:
February 1-4, 2018 – Palm Beach Masters
February 28-April 4, 2018 – Deeridge Derby
March 22-25, 2018 – Palm Beach Open
Gladiator Polo: This is professional arena polo and is, as you would expect, a fast game. Admission and parking is free with an option for VIP. Click here to find out more.
Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame: A 15 minute drive from Wellington. Learn about polo and its history, as well as hall of fame horses and riders. There are traveling exhibits that pass through the museum such as The Day in the Life of a Polo Pony, Mallets and Women in Polo. For more information click here. The museum is open Monday – Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. during the season (January – April) Summer hours may differ.
A1A: “Beachfront ave…” A pretty spectacular drive. Money everywhere.
Beaches: You have 29 beaches and 47 miles of coast line to chose from. Here is a link to a great beach guide.
Craft Beer: There appears to be a whole lot of craft beer in Wellington. Here is a large list.
Golf: It is no surprise to learn there is a lot of golf in the area. Click here for more info.
Wineries: Wineries don’t appear to be huge in Wellington but here is one Sons and Daughters Farm and Winery,
A little about the venues
Adequan Global Dressage Festival
A well-organized and clean venue accented with flowers and palm trees.
Most of the dressage rings are contained within a very large ring which makes it easy for a spectator to watch. You can admire the riders from the promenade which looks over the dressage rings or you stand along the rail for a closer look. The warm-up rings are right beside the dressage rings and you will have plenty to watch at all times.
The AGDF is also home to one of the largest covered arenas in the world. It is huge.
There are also a few different food vendors on site so you don’t need to worry about that.
Everything is located close by and you won’t ever have to walk far.
AGDF host seven CDI events which include:
There are also two weeks of CPEDI and during the few weeks without CDIs there is a National Show. Throughout the 12 weeks of competition $600,000 worth of prize money is handed out.
On Friday nights during CDI weeks the AGDF hosts “Friday Night Stars,” which is an evening featuring a FEI musical freestyle class.
Confused about all the above-mentioned letters? Go to HSD’s Quick Guides to learn what they mean.
Grand Champions Polo Club
A low key venue to watch some high end polo.
When you follow your GPS directions you will be sent into a gated community with signs stating, unless you live here you should leave. You will panic, make a U-turn, recalibrate your GPS and find yourself back in the gated community. GPS isn’t always wrong and that sign is just confusing. Drive in and go straight ahead and you will see the polo field. There will be signs telling you where to go to watch the game.
You can also pretend you didn’t see the polo field and take a drive around this gated community. It is equestrian posh and you will be thankful you turned left instead of going straight. Once you’ve taken a drive around head back to watch the polo. Back your car up to the white line and enjoy the fast action. Do not stand in front of the white line as often the ball and players will leave the field and head very quickly in your direction.
There are no food vendors, so pack a lunch. You will not regret spending your time watching polo.
This site should help you find game times.
Click here for FAQ about polo – HSD’s Quick Guides
International Polo Club
The IPC is home to high-goal polo. Covering 250 acres with seven tournament fields the IPC is the largest polo facility in the USA. The main polo field is vast, flat and flanked by the grandstand and the pavilion.
This place is grand. At the far end of the field you will see horse trailers and a whole bunch of polo ponies tied up. Grooms will lay out all the tack close to where the horses are in preparation for the game. There is so much tack you will be grateful you don’t have to clean it.
A few small tents are set up for the players to get ready in and to keep their gear. They will have dozens of polo mallets laid out on the grass. Just beyond where the ponies wait there is a huge pond with a fountain in the middle. You will shake you head in disbelief at how fabulous the venue is.
The 3:00 game on Sunday is the game of the week. If you are the dressing up type you are in luck. You can dress as stylish or as casual as you like. Sunday games are high-goal matches and the players go shockingly fast and lean further over the side of their horse than you will think wise. During half time you are welcome to join the divot stomp and champagne pour or you can take a stroll to see the polo ponies up close.
Bring the kids or head out alone, either way you will not be disappointed with your afternoon spent at IPC.
On Sunday before the 3 p.m. match there is a game at 10 a.m. and another at 12 p.m. The two earlier games are free to watch and tailgate which is a fantastic way to watch. Simply follow the signs to the field of play. Please note the white line. Park behind it and do not stand in front of it. The ball and players move fast and sometimes end up leaving the field and heading towards you.
Want to try your hand at polo? IPC has a polo school on site with school polo ponies willing to let you swing a mallet around their head. Give it a try. Intro lesson – $75 and a single lesson – $150.
Clicker here for HSD’s Quick Guides for FAQ polo questions.
Sunday 3:00 game Admission
Self-parking – $5
Valet parking – $10
Stadium seating – $30
Box seats – $150
VIP – The Pavilion Champagne Brunch. Here is a link.
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center
The PBIEC is lovely and clearly created with spectators in mind. The show grounds are decorated with flowers, palm trees, statues and fountains. Everything is so well laid out making it is easy to find your way around. There are even separate walking paths, one for horses and the other for people. You can easily spend several hours meandering, watching one of the 12 rings and the many different levels of competition.
Riders compete for $10 million in prize money, which is handed out over the 12 week season. Big name riders flock to PBIEC each year. 2018 saw Beezie Madden, Quentin Judge, Markus and Meredith-Michaels Beerbaum along with Ian Millar, McLain Ward and Eric Lamaze as well as a host of others from around the world. As is par for the course in the horse world you can stand within arms length of these famous riders and it is quite something to see all of them sharing the warm-up ring. You won’t know which way to look.
There are classes Wednesdays to Sundays and if you attend early in the week the crowds are light and you definitely have a front row seat to everything. There are hundreds of vendors selling everything from saddles to fine art and jewelry to breeches. There are several different places to find food so no need to pack a lunch. Even though PBIEC is fancy it is also casual. There is no need to dress up, unless that is something you want to do. Either way you will fit right in.
PBIEC hosts “Saturday Night Lights,” each Saturday of the 12 week tournament. Center stage is Grand Prix show jumping, with plenty of other activities happening such as live music, pony rides and a petting zoo.
PBIEC week days
Admission – free
Self-parking – free during day-time shows
Valet parking – $10
Saturday Night Lights
Admission – free
Self-parking – $20/car
Valet parking – $30/car
Free parking across the street at AGDF
Reserved and VIP seating link.
Palm Beach Masters Series
The PBMS takes place at the stunning 300 acre Deeridge Farm and is host to the Longines FEI World Cup™ which takes place during the first of their three show weeks.
Check here for updates on the price of admission and parking,
If you feel like going VIP then you are in for a treat. Click here to learn more.
Home to the Pegasus World Cup; the richest horse race in the world. The 2018 purse was a staggering $16 million for one race. The race runs January 26 2019. If you attend you might as well dress to impress.
On non $16 million days, Gulfstream park is free to enter and simple to navigate. There are picnic tables, benches and grandstand seating or you can stand along the rail and be close to the action.
If waking with the sun is something you enjoy or even if you don’t everyone is welcome to watch morning workouts. This is a great experience as you can see first hand how thoroughbreds are readied for race days with the rising sun as a backdrop.
Saturday mornings from early December to late March you can have Breakfast at Gulfstream. Watch morning workouts and bring the kids, as there is always someone special for them to meet.
If waking at 5 a.m. doesn’t interest you then maybe an afternoon at the races does. Gulfstream Park has a beautiful walking ring behind the clubhouse where the horses emerge from seemingly nowhere. There are huge palm trees and a fountain in the center to add to the glamour. The club house extends and surrounds the walking ring giving multiple levels and vantage points from which to watch.
In front of the club house is the track that runs many dirt and turf races during the day. There is tons of room to stand along the rail ensuring you won’t miss any action. There is also a casino in the grandstand should you have a notion to try your luck with the old one-armed bandit.
A lovely outdoor shopping area sits behind the walking ring that has several restaurants and many retail stores.
As with many places in Florida there are palm trees, statues, fountains and flowers. Don’t forget to take a gander at the second largest statue in the US. The Pegasus and Dragon which stands at 100 feet high. You can’t miss it.
Gulfsteam is an hour drive from Wellington but well worth it. The track is in Hallandale Beach, which is minutes from Fort Lauderdale. You will be close to beaches and shops… plus you can drive down the A1A and think about Vanilla Ice.
Click here to check for race days.
*** The Wellington post was written for the interest of horse sports and I was not compensated for my ability to write stuff ***
All photographs are the work of Horse Sport Destinations