Andres Rodriguez and Caballito.
Wellington, FL – May 18, 2013 – The morning fog cleared from an open grass field on that beautiful March morning to reveal one of the most breathtaking show jumping competitions to grace the Wellington equestrian scene – $24,750 Ridge at Wellington Invitational Grand Prix Finale. Although the Wellington equestrian community has a plethora of breathtaking grass fields, March 23, 2013 was a day that earmarked a page of history, as riders were welcomed to the field of the prestigious Deeridge Farm facility for the concluding event of the $175,000 Ridge at Wellington Invitational Grand Prix Series.
For 10 weeks, the $175,000 Ridge at Wellington Invitational Grand Prix series found a home at differing venues throughout Wellington. The brainchild of Olympic veteran Nona Garson and her business partner George D’Ambrosio, the Friday Grand Prix Invitational Series filled a niche in the equestrian populated community, welcoming riders to compete in an out-of-the-box manner, literally. With the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival running nearby, The Ridge Grand Prix allowed horses to experience new venues, and not grow complacent in the same setting as they competed week after week.
For years, Garson, who operates The Ridge at Wellington, located in Palm Beach Pointe, has put on lower level schooling shows, locally deemed “Nona Shows,” to help young horses and riders grow. This year, the shows took a step in a new direction, offering a weekly 1.40m Grand Prix series to be held over the time period of 10 weeks, concluding with a $24,750 finale. It was met with a positive response as riders made the mile hack to the property to tackle the course.
“Really what we are doing is a need. Our focus is to develop our riders and develop our horses. It’s an investment on our end to do that, and that’s something we’re willing to do,” D’Ambrosio explained. “Our goal is to have better riders, better horses, better conditions, better everything. We’re just trying to set some nice standards – a European standard of what show jumping really is.”
The opportunity to compete under conditions similar to top national and international events has attracted riders who have their sights set on those shows. The series drew out such top names as McLain Ward, Peter Wylde, Laura Kraut, and Candice King. Andres Rodriguez emerged as the circuit high score winner, with Sarah Segal earning the runner up position. Rodriguez not only earned the bragging rights as the leading rider, but Morristown Mini Cooper, a division of the Open Road, owned by the Ryan family of Edison, NJ, presented the Leading Rider with a 2014 Mini Cooper. Segal was awarded for her efforts with a beautiful watch, presented by Van Dell Jewelers of Wellington, FL. It was Jose Rios who captured the coveted Groom’s Award sponsored by GGT Footing. Rios has been taking care of Sill, ridden by Geoff Case, owned by Group C LLC, for over seven years.
Riders were able to enjoy the exceptional course design, first-rate footing and generous prizes that have become the hallmarks of The Ridge’s Grand Prix series. Top course designers such as David Ballard, Conrad Homsfeld, Pierre Jolicoeur and Eric Hasbrouck created fair courses that provided a good challenge. The pilot series hosted large numbers of entries each week, boasted low entry fees, high prize money and top-of-the-line courses for participating riders. After 10 weeks of competition, the series has found its niche in Wellington, accompanying the Winter Equestrian Festival, and the show managers guarantee its return for the 2014 season.
“We’re really excited and proud of how the series went,” Garson explained. “The riders have all seemed to really enjoy it, as well as warm up to the system. Everyone liked our idea of an open in gate, so they could show and do everything they had to. We thought it was a nice civilized way to horseshow. We wanted everyone to come and relax and take an hour out of his or her day and get away from the grind. It is great for the horses to be ridden on some different footing, and this series was about having fun, as well as developing young riders and horses.”
Garson concluded, “Everyone seemed to love it, and it seemed to be great as the top riders went very fast and tested the footing nicely. I’ve had people calling to congratulate us; the whole buzz has been really great and upbeat. We’re going to try to hone our ideas and bring in some more venues and keep it fun, civilized horse showing. I think it’s a series for horse people; it’s not about how many times you can go around the ring, or how fast. It gets you to take a little breath and concentrate on what you’re doing and getting back to a little more natural horse training.”
A Letter from The Ridge at Wellington:
Dear exhibitors, owners and supporters of the 2013 Inaugural Ridge at Wellington Grand Prix Series,
George and I, including our management team at The Ridge Farm, would like to say “Thank you, thank you, and thank you again, for participating in our inaugural Grand Prix Series in Wellington, FL.”
We would like to thank you for your efforts to attend and compete on our estate turf venues, while fulfilling our goals of initiating a series that offered variety and excitement for many professionals and their owners. We believe that our series complements not competes against our WEF circuit and makes Wellington, FL, the premiere show experience in the world.
George and I have been involved in show jumping for over 40 years, and have watched horse shows evolve from mere concepts, and develop into what they are today. We have seen them become commercialized and many of them cater to the majority of competitors competing at levels of one meter and plus heights. We see that professionals are pressured to teach, and their own needs are sacrificed in the professional rings. After all, horse shows have to make money.
Our thought was to create a series where the importance of the horse and its development come first – not putting it on the back burner, so to speak, as we see so often done today. We believe these should be the priority of all good professional horsemen and show management teams everywhere.
Our solution to this was to create a couple of days a week – the opportunity for our friends, world-class horseman from around the globe, and a day to enjoy designed around their needs and desires. We offered the finest grass fields in Wellington, an inexpensive entry fee, estate settings, state-of-the-art show jumps, and world-class course designers. Our series offered food and drinks served on linen tables and were offered free throughout the day. As many said, our show provided hospitality at its finest. The efforts to do this were put forth to fulfill all the requests for our peers and their sponsors, along with their newly developed organizations. We, here at the Ridge, want you to know good horsemen are listening and above all, are doing something about it.
We are looking forward to next year’s series and have some exciting ideas and events to add to our schedule for 2014. We hope to see even more of our friends next season.
We would also like to say thank you specifically to Victoria McCullough for her use of Topps Field at her amazing facility, Mida Farm. We would also like to personally thank the Jacobs family for their generosity in supporting the $24,750 Ridge at Riverview Grand Prix Series Finale, which they hosted at their very own Deeridge Farm in Wellington, FL. None of this would have been possible without their support, and those who will provide their support in the future for the love of the horses and this amazing sport.
Our Summer and Fall Horse Shows in Asbury, New Jersey, offer Olympic quality facility with numerous turf and sand arenas. Check out our web site www.theridgefarm.com and follow your adventure in our sport with us. Here we know what you need; we know what you want – our goal is to continue to provide you with all that and more.
For more information on the Ridge at Wellington, please visit www.theridgefarm.com.
Kendall Bierer for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International