Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone but the horse world does not stop for holidays! That includes the Wellington Equestrian Festival. Twelve weeks of non-stop horses and competition in the sunny state of Florida. Known as the largest hunter/jumper circuit in the world, WEF has been running since the 1970s and has 10,000 spectators visiting every week. If you are unfamiliar with the event or want to learn more in general here is a basic overview of the event known as WEF:
As you get closer and closer to the WEF show grounds, you will see the beautiful horses hacking up and down the roads and canals between the palm trees. Be mindful as you drive around because horses have the right-of-way! Instead of “Pedestrian X-ING” painted on the roads, there is “Horse X-ING” with flashing signs to alert the drivers. Another cultural phenomenon at WEF is the change of cadence in the week. A typical work week in the “real world” runs Monday through Friday. But being at WEF is the horse world and their weeks run a bit differently.
Their competition classes run Wednesday through Sunday, and most people take Monday off. Your Saturday/Sunday weekend is replaced with competing and Monday turns into a day of rest, recovery and cleaning the barn. The change of cadence is seen at local diners, restaurants, and stores as everyone takes advantage of the slower day.
Horses, Horses, and more Horses
WEF begins with the competition starting each day at 8am and closing around 5pm. Unless it is Saturday, where the top Grand Prix riders compete under the lights for over $100,000! Throughout the day, vendors and spectators mill the streets, creating a beehive of activity around the arenas. Speaking of arenas, there are around 12 rings stationed throughout the venue, with the famous International Arena stationed in the middle.
Lunch and Learn
Every Thursday, there is a lunch and learn for horse enthusiasts to brush up on their knowledge of all things horses. The term lunch and learn means exactly what you think it would: you’re served a lunch and sit through a lecture on an array of topics. At WEF the topics range from proper barn management and general care to new treatment methods from veterinarians. Admission for riders, trainers and owners are free, and for all others, there is a $25 charge. If you are looking for something to quench your thirst for knowledge and your appetite, then the Lunch and Learn is for you!
The Vendor Village is a true sight to see. Abundant with shops and entertainment many horse enthusiasts enjoy. When you walk around Vendor Village, you will be caught gazing at the light up shops and the view from the top of the bridge looking into the international arena. Whether your budget is large or small, there is a shop for you at WEF. The selection varies from the world renown Hermes to your cozy homemade trinket shops.
Great Charity Challenge
It is a crowd favorite throughout all of Wellington. Founded in 2010 by Mark Bellissimo and his daughter Paige, this event is a way for the equestrian community to give back to Palm Beach County. From 2010-2018, the Great Charity Challenge has raised over $10.8 million for local Palm Beach County Charities.
This relay-style competition pairs two junior/amateur riders with a world-ranked rider. The winning team is crowned to whoever completes the course with no faults and the fastest time. Each team represents a charity who contributes 75% of their funds in Palm Beach County, so the impact has been astronomical for those involved and the local community. On top of the positive energy this event brings, the costumes add a fun twist spectators look forward to! All of the riders dress up as if it were Halloween, based on the theme of the year. This year, the theme was “We Are The World” and riders dressed up to represent their favorite nation.
Regardless of where you are, a visit to the Wellington Equestrian Festival is an equestrian bucket list item. There is nothing like being in the heart of it all, surrounded by the best of the best riders around the world.
If you were riding in the Great Charity Challenge, who would you choose to be on your team? What nation would you dress up as? Create a dream team and comment below!