CN Winter Equestrian Festival Opens in Celebration of Color
RELEASE: January 17, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Brian Sosby
WELLINGTON, FL—The CN Winter Equestrian Festival opened a 12-week run Wednesday to accolades from riders over the rebuilt Palm Beach International Equestrian Center that was a celebration of color with thousands of flowers decorating the show grounds.
Labels of "world class," "unbelievable" and "amazing" were applied by exhibitors to the show grounds that were taken over by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC (ESP) just one month and one day before the start of WEF.
Opening day saw 929 horses entered in competitions in seven arenas at the show grounds and five rings at the South Grounds.
Five of the seven arenas at the show grounds, including the centerpiece International Arena, have received new bases and new footing in the past month.
Just hours before the start of WEF at 8 a.m., the last of eight concrete light poles that tower 90 feet over the International Arena was lifted into place.
The lights will enable night classes in the arena that boasts one of the finest all-weather rings in the world that was installed by Belgium's Bart Poels who is the footing specialist for this year's Olympic equestrian venue. Stadium style flip-up seats provide reserved and general admission seating for 2,500 spectators, with thousands more in the International Club and other VIP boxes and chalets around the arena.
Crews had worked almost non-stop since December 15. They actually got one day off—Christmas Day—when ESP took over as the management company for PBIEC. Work was still going on to provide the same base and footing to the Bertelan de Nemethy grand prix ring as is now in the International Arena and was expected to be completed within the next few days.
Before dawn, television crews from competing stations were providing live reports that extended past noon from inside the International Arena as the first classes were being held. Riders, grooms and ESP executives gave their take on PBIEC, some being interviewed to the accompaniment of horses being served breakfast before dawn and others hours later with horses jumping in the background.
Ireland's Shane Sweetnam who came out on top of the 55 entries in the $6,000 1.40-meter competition said of the PBIEC: "I think it looks great; it is running in the right direction. The surface is very good, and it looks like a top, top, top, top-class facility."
Hunter rider Amy Momrow smiled broadly and said how much she loved the mile of paved footpaths for pedestrians separated by black-painted knee-high fences from the bridle trails that are covered in rich gold cochina sand. Golf carts have been re-directed from the central areas of the show ground to newly built perimeter roadways.
"It's unbelievable what they have done with the show grounds," she said.
Canada's Eric Lamaze described the show grounds as "amazing" and the footing in the International Arena as "incredible."
"It is a real face lift," he said. "You get the sense that things are really changing for our sport."
Frankie Chesler-Ortiz, who also rides for Canada but was born in South Florida, said: "Any horseman would appreciate the effort, and hope it continues in the future. It looks fantastic. The new footing was necessary, and it will take the show to another level."
Laura Kraut, a veteran of U.S. teams with a string of wins at top European shows in 2007, said the show grounds were "fantastic" and "unbelievable." She rode only in the newly renovated Ring 6 and said the footing was great.
What added to the enjoyment of her day, she said, was going home when the show finished and filing her entries for the next day's competition via the Internet service showgroundslive.com.