By Jennifer Wood Media
Wellington, FL – January 4, 2022 – The opening press conference for the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) was held virtually on January 4, 2022, and included management and riders as panelists to discuss plans for this year’s circuits. The 2022 WEF begins on Wednesday, January 5, with Premiere week, while AGDF begins on January 12 with CDI-W and CDI4* competition. Both horse show circuits continue through April 3. The panelists included:
- Equestrian Sport Productions President Michael Stone
- Global Equestrian Group CEO Andreas Helgstrand
- Global Equestrian Group Commercial Director Anders Bjørnstrup
- AGDF Director of Sport Thomas Baur
- 2021 U.S. Show Jumping FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final team member Lillie Keenan
- Top hunter, jumper, and equitation rider and trainer Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm
Michael Stone began the 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.
Michael Stone: “We made improvements for parts of the facility that affect horses. 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.”
GEG CEO Andreas Helgstrand spoke 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.
Andreas Helgstrand: “We wanted to have events in both dressage and jumping. 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.”
GEG Commercial Director Anders Bjørnstrup added: “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.”
Top show jumper Lillie Keenan explained her history with WEF and how it helps her pursue riding and business goals.
Lillie Keenan: “Wellington has been a place that I’ve been coming to since I was seven years old, and I’m 25 now. It’s really become our home. We are so privileged because we have a stable here. It’s the one place we can compete and work at home. It’s a unique advantage. WEF gives opportunities for a young professional like myself; I can teach younger riders in the other rings and still be showing in a five star in the same week. It’s a wealth of opportunity. It’s really a hub and pushing everyone to be the best. You want to compete against the best because it makes you better.”
Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm helps oversee one of the largest operations competing at WEF. She rides herself, and Heritage Farm clients compete in the hunter, jumper, and equitation rings at all levels.
Patricia Griffith: “WEF is a great place to bring our riders and horses because we feel like we’re constantly honing our skills against the best. There is fantastic footing, course designers, jumps, and the rings have really been sustaining well with any kind of weather. We have to keep raising our bar because we’re constantly surrounded by a high level of riders, whether that’s First Year Green Hunters, U25 grand prix, even the Medal/Maclay. For our business, it’s a place we can bring all of our clients. You can bring a Low Adult Hunter rider, who can be a fantastic owner in the sport, and they have a chance to show as well. I think it’s important for the new, up-and-coming ‘Lillie Keenans’ to see Olympic-level combinations live and in color. It’s not often you get to see that, even for myself. It’s exciting for them to watch and there’s so much to learn even if you’re not in the classes. It’s just a great place to come and show.”
While unable to join the virtual press conference, U.S. Olympic team silver medalist Sabine Schut-Kery commented on what she looks forward to at this year’s AGDF.
Sabine Schut-Kery: “It’s going to be a great environment to show my international horse Sanceo at the fabulous show grounds at AGDF, but it’s also a great show circuit to compete my string of young horses. I really love the option of so many CDIs and national shows in one place close by, so showing becomes less stressful for the horses. AGDF is very special in that I can show in front of a large audience with a more electric atmosphere. I look forward to being part of the equestrian community with my clients and supporters.”