West Palm Beach Hosts Most Successful Season Ever for International Dressage

(L) Noreen O'Sullivan, Steffen Peters, Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven , Tina Konyot, John Goodman. Photo Credit: Lynndee Kemmet

Thousands of horses and riders converged in West Palm Beach Florida from around the world to compete once again this winter, making this season the richest and most successful season ever for Dressage in Florida.  The ever-popular Wellington Classic Dressage (WCD) and Gold Coast Dressage Association (GCDA) shows at the beautiful Palm Beach County Jim Brandon Equestrian Center were joined this year by International Horse Sport Palm Beach (IHS) shows at the Equestrian Estates Horse Park.  Combined, these three Dressage organizations host more than 23 weeks of competitions year-round, including 6 International CDI competitions.

The premiere event of the winter season was clearly the World Dressage Masters CDI5* Series Presented by Axel Johnson Group.  The World Dressage Masters is one of the richest Dressage Series internationally, with only 4-6 shows hosted around the world, each boasting over 100,000 Euros in Prize Money (approximately $140,000).  The WDM CDI5*Palm Beach Show was hosted March 9-12, 2011 by Wellington Classic Dressage, with International Polo Club as Presenting Sponsor.  “We are honored to host this very prestigious show for 2011 and beyond, and to work with the WDM team and IPC to make this year’s event a resounding success,” stated John Flanagan, Managing Partner for Wellington Classic Dressage.  What an honor too, that America’s top rider, Steffen Peters on Ravel, owned by Akiko Yamazaki, took home the top prize by winning the WDM Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 84.53%, followed by Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven on Favourit with 77.90%, and US Rider Tina Konyot and Calecto V with 76.65%.  The 2012 WDM CDI5* Palm Beach is slated for January 26th-29th, 2012.

Wellington Classic Dressage’s eleven-show series kicked off high season with the Wellington Classic Holiday Challenge in December and wrapped up the winter season with the Wellington Classic Challenge III on the 1st of May.  The WCD series is held at the very popular Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, which boosts excellent footing and stabling, several competition rings, including a covered arena, riding trails and a Western Events area on over 111 acres.   Gold Coast Dressage Association, the local GMO hosted their centerpiece show also at Jim Brandon, the GCDA Opener CDIW.  International Horse Sport hosted Florida’s traditional favorite and longest-running CDI, the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDIW, as well as 4 other shows at the beautiful Horse Park at Equestrian Estates in nearby Loxahatchee, which this year underwent many upgrades and improvements.

The common denominator for these well-attended and successful high season shows is the top Show Manager Noreen O’Sullivan, Managing Partner with John Flanagan for Wellington Classic Dressage, and their great show staff team.  O’Sullivan is also President of Gold Coast Dressage Association (GCDA), a not-for-profit local riding club and Group Member Organization of the USDF.  GCDA has been actively involved in keeping Dressage in Palm Beach County for well over 30 years, and draws local as well as seasonal members to its 8 weeks of shows and educational events.  “Each year we try to raise the bar in offering the best opportunities and the best shows for all of our competitors, from the Junior/Young Riders and Adult Amateurs to the Professionals,” O’Sullivan said.  “Most of our staff are horse owners and riders as well, and we really love what we do.”  O’Sullivan and Flanagan also joined forces this year with Danish FEI rider and trainer, Lars Petersen, and FEI rider Ed Borresen to oversee and run the IHS Palm Beach 5-show series.  “We truly are a Dressage ‘community’, with a common goal and long-term commitment to promote the highest standard of sport in our local community,” stated O’Sullivan.

World-Class competition and show management, combined with top show venues, top prizes, great weather and great social events are what draw riders to Wellington Classic, GCDA and International Horse Sport hosted shows.  The popular Palm Beach winter series drew riders from over 14 international countries, including many of the world’s top-ranked riders and horse to Florida’s sunny climate. South Florida IS “Dressage Central” in the winter season.  The Florida season also provides U.S.-based riders with the unique opportunity of competing against the world’s best horse and rider athlete combinations.

(L) Noreen O'Sullivan, Bill McMullin, Andrew Parsons, Brent Harnish. Photo Credit: WCD Staff

The WCD and IHS series boast some of the best social events and show prizes of any U.S. dressage series. This year, the series give out nearly a quarter of a million dollars in cash and prizes. This year’s biggest prize was a 2011 Shadow Trailer donated by Del-Raton Trailer Sales and Shadow Trailer, Inc. The happy winner was FEI rider Bill McMullin.  McMullin said he felt like he was on The Price is Right television show as names were drawn. Since winners had to be present to win, the names drawn ahead of him were discarded. McMullin had raced back to the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center for the drawing.

“To win something like that was unbelievable,” said McMullin. All he can remember was jumping up and down in excitement. “It’s a great trailer – lots of bells and whistles including a wireless closed-circuit television for monitoring the horses.”  Modern technology deprived McMullin of surprising his students, clients and partner Bill Warren who was judging in Houston. He texted all of them to tell them he had won and they already knew. Others at the show grounds had contacted them while McMullin was jumping about.  “I couldn’t surprise anyone.”

Another top prize was sponsored by Schleese Saddlery at the CDI Prix St George level.  Lucky winners like Heather Blitz, Shawna Harding and others took home a custom Schleese Saddle at each of the 6 CDIs!  Back On Track Therapeutic Products were also featured awards this season.

Competition continues through this summer for Florida-based riders with the next scheduled event the Wellington Classic Dressage in the Tropics July 23-24, 2011.

For further information on upcoming shows, including 2012 season events, please call 561-227-1570 or visit the following websites:

Wellington Classic Dressage:                 www.wellingtonclassicdressage.com

Gold Coast Dressage Association:          www.gcdafl.org

International Horse Sport Palm Beach:   www.ihspb.com

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