WELLINGTON, Fla.--Global Equestrian Group (GEG) bought the Winter Equestrian Festival and its venue, Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, previously owned by Mark Bellissimo's Equestrian Sports Production, last July, and improvements have already been made, but there will be no changes made to the horse show's format..
A lot has happened since the conclusion of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival.
Dressage is not moving to the main grounds of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
Dressage competition as part of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival will stay at Equestrian Village as it has in past years.
Jumpers will still compete on the Derby Field or in the International Ring at Equestrian Village during designated weeks.
The daily workings of the horse show will not change and exhibitors can still expect the WEF they know.
The new owners from GEG are implementing changes that will enhance current offerings, improve the facility, and simplify things across the board for everyone, but there will not be major changes to the structure of the horse show.
THE MAJORITY of the seasonal and full-time staff that exhibitors interact with will remain the same.
So far, ring improvements will mostly be noticed by the jumpers, but the hunter rings are on the priority list as some of the next major projects to undertake.
Since GEG joined the team in July, arenas that have been redone include the Mogavero Ring, Rings 9 and 10, and Ring 6, which is split between hunter and jumper use.
Rings 7, 8, 11, 12, and the South Ring are high on the to-do list ahead of future WEF seasons.
Since the ownership change in July, the facilities at PBIEC have undergone significant improvements in order to benefit exhibitors.
With limited time to make those changes, the more important issues were placed at the top of the priority list.
Michael Stone spoke at a press conference with information regarding updates to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center since Global Equestrian Group (GEG) took ownership of the facility in July 2021.
In addition to footing improvements, there were other aspects that centered around making it safer for horses and riders on the property.
“We made improvements for parts of the facility that affect horses," said Stone. "People will notice that we have redone the railings around most of the rings. There used to be a lot of small railings and now they all have higher, safer railing. Thanks to GEG’s investment, they were able to buy two more lots on Gene Mische Road, so we’ve extended stabling tents and parking to that part of the property. With a shuttle system and a new, big parking area, we are hopeful that we will fix a lot of those issues. There has been a lot of work done underground for drainage that people won’t necessarily notice. While Florida rain can be torrential, everything is draining very fast. Bearing in mind GEG got involved in July, it’s amazing how much has been achieved in a short period of time. The concentration has been on horses and the athlete experience. We have big plans for more.”
Global Equestrian Group CEO Andreas Helgstrand also at the press conference about the impetus leading to the purchase of PBIEC and the mindset behind owning events that will be unique in equestrian sport.
Helgstrand Dressage and Beerbaum Stables, along with the Kingsland Equestrian apparel and accessories company, are also part of the Global Equestrian Group.
“We wanted to have events in both dressage and jumping," said Helgstrand. "If we don’t create events, we won’t create sport or sales of horses or equipment. We really believe in events. That is why I fought for this acquisition of WEF and PBIEC. I was very happy and lucky that we could buy it. We are there to create something even more unique than what it is already. We want to take care of it and have Wellington stay as the best place on Earth for horse people. What I like is that this is run by passionate people and people with knowledge. Hopefully very soon we can also take over the dressage and go full power on that side as well."
"We are there to create something, not just there to make big business. We really want to invest in Wellington,” said Helgstrand.
GEG Commercial Director Anders Bjørnstrup said: “We started out by doing a survey in August last year and this provided us with loads of feedback on how riders and spectators see it. We drew up a huge list of things we want to change, and we started prioritizing what is most important and working on it in the coming years. Currently we are working on a five-year plan on development of the whole facility. We can’t change everything in six months, not even in 18 months. We listen to the riders, spectators, community – everybody who is involved – and all of the feedback provides us with input for the future plan. We want to enhance WEF and maintain our position as the main event in this sport.”
Thomas Baur explained the addition of four-star classes to the AGDF schedule and why they are a useful addition for riders.
“The main reason for adding the four-star competitions to the schedule was that we can spread the prize money over the shows more equally, which we couldn’t do when we only had three-star shows. It is beneficial for riders as well; they can gain more world ranking list points at four-star events. It is also an opportunity for riders who don’t do the World Cup classes to compete in a freestyle without having to do the new grand prix short test. AGDF will now have five four-star shows during this season.”