Where do competitive equestrians train in winter?
While many horsey types and their horses struggle through an east-coast winter—with frozen water buckets and icy footing—some Bedford riders seek warmer climes. How wise. Hunter/jumpers who want to compete year-round pack up their tack trunks and trailer down to Florida, to the small village of Wellington, west of Palm Beach. They leave as early as October and come back “up north” as late as April.
Cynthia Williams, founder of New England Farm, spends the summers in Bedford and has been showing in Wellington since the early 1980s. She has been a trainer for 42 years and has judged hunter and equitation riders at a national level. Each year she takes between six and 20 horses and clients with her to Wellington. There are competitions—show jumping, dressage, and polo—almost every week all winter long, she explains. The “show stopper” of shows, though, is the Winter Equestrian Festival, which begins in January and ends in April. That is when Wellington reaches peak horsey capacity.
“It is the one place in the world at that time of year where the top international and American equestrians congregate,” says Williams. The scene is very social, with cocktail parties and charity fundraisers on the show grounds most nights and “Saturday Night Lights” during the festival, which has an almost carnival-style atmosphere. Here, because of the close quarters, you might see world-renowned showjumpers such as Kent Farrington or McLain Ward compete in the Grand Prix, or says Williams, just as easily “bump into them in the supermarket.”