Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 4, 2021 – In light of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) kicking off Wednesday, January 6, and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) opening up on Wednesday, January 13, a small panel of the industry’s top talent and the management team from WEF gathered virtually to address some of the questions and concerns regarding this year’s winter circuit in Wellington. The panel consisted of the following individuals:
Lucy Deslauriers – Show Jumper/ Pan American Games Bronze Medalist
Havens Schatt – Top Hunter Trainer
Steffen Peters – US Olympic Team Bronze Medalist
Thomas Bauer – Adequan Global Dressage Festival Director of Sport
Michael Stone – Equestrian Sport Production President
On her season ahead: “This season will be interesting for me for a lot of reasons. This is the first year I am staying down all winter because school is online again, so I am really looking forward to using the time to establish a better routine centered around riding in a way that I haven’t really been able to do before. I feel really fortunate that we are all in an industry that is still running right now and we are still able to do what we love and compete. That is sort of the basis for what the next few months look like because so much is unknown right now for everyone.”
On her string of horses: “I have three horses that I aim to compete at the FEI level. Hester will focus around the 4 and 5* weeks. I will sort of create a schedule for him that will hopefully enable him to peak at a few specific events. Then I have a newer horse, Enanda, she is a mare I got last year. It has been about a year now, but I still feel like I am getting to know her. I am looking forward to using this season for that. Another horse, Billy de Beufour, I will be using mainly for the U25 classes and ranking 1.45m classes. I am really looking forward to the season and feel fortunate that we are able to create a bit of a schedule and a plan in a world where not many people are able to do so.”
On adjusting her business based on COVID: “ I would say as far as businesses go and a public training operation, [Milestone, LLC] is pretty lucky. We have mostly older adult clients, so with respect to the Coronavirus, no matter what their views are on it, they are always very respectful of rules and regulations and other people’s concerns. We showed a little bit last summer. I feel like all of the horse shows and all of the horse show managers have done an amazing job trying to keep this going so that everybody can get back doing what everybody loves to do. Everything just goes so smoothly. The people that are asking you to socially distance are nice about it and complimentary when you are doing it right. It has been quite easy to get into the routine of our new lifestyle.”
On what she is looking forward to during WEF: “One thing is that we got new footing in the Grand and the Rost Hunter Rings and that seems to be amazing. I have shown quite a bit on it and it seems to be really nice. They have added a few derbies this year, which is also nice. It’s just nice to be in Florida where the weather is so nice, the facility is so nice and you can get into a consistent routine with all of your horses. We are a little different than Lucy in that we have young horses and adult hunters and derby horses, so there is a path for everybody here and it is really nice to have that.”
On his plans for travel to Florida: “The horses fly in on the 14th and I drive in on the 10th. I have never driven across the country, but it has been on my bucket list and at my age, you have to look a little closer to that bucket list! I decided to start driving on Sunday and meet the horses in Florida on the 14th. I will take four days, take it easy, and take a look at the country. Our first CDI will be in early February, the 5*, maybe another one in the middle of February, and then the last one is the 5* in early March. The goal is to requalify and hopefully get a spot on the team for the Olympics that hopefully will happen this year.”
On adjusting Suppenkasper’s work after the Olympics were canceled: “We took a little bit of a break after the Florida season. He did 13 starts there and did really well, so we took it really easy in April of last year. For me, it was really good because it was the first time in 26 years that we didn’t go to Europe and I enjoyed the heck out of the summer. There was actually time for some boating, biking, and that sort of thing. He had a pretty easy year and then we picked it up in October. Thanks to Thomas [Bauer] who put up two amazing CDI’s at Thermal in California, we had two fantastic shows out there and we look forward to maintaining that level in Florida.”
On how things will be different at WEF and AGDF this year: “ Well firstly, no spectators, which is going to be very different for everyone, especially the competitors as well. The atmosphere in the night classes is fantastic and unfortunately, we won’t be able to handle that. It is just too much of a risk and the last thing we want to be is responsible for a hotspot or an outbreak or a super spreader event. We are maintaining no spectators, even though Florida as a state does allow it. On the other hand, USEF doesn’t want any spectator events, so we are going to follow all of those rules. Anyone like Havens or Lucy who has been here already, know that it is quite strict when you come to the showgrounds. Everybody has been really cooperative and helpful and I just have to thank all of the riders and trainers and grooms. Of course, every now and then people slip, but in general it has been really good and we are looking forward to a great season despite all of the challenges that surround it.
On the competition highlights expected for the 2021 Winter Circuit: “The grass was such a success during the summertime that we have actually put the WEF 9 5* out there on the grass, which will be a first, and we have added a grass week for the jumpers in Week 2. The other 5* classes will be at night on the showgrounds, as well as the Great Charity Challenge, which we will continue to do even though we cannot have crowds. It is just such a major fundraiser for the community. There is a major problem nationwide on food shortages, so we are focusing on charities in that area and those who are suffering because of COVID. We had considered canceling it but then we decided that this would not be the year to cancel it. It would be the year to double down and try to raise even more money for people who are less fortunate.
The Hunter Spectacular will be at night and we are reverting for the Nations Cup back to a Friday night this year. We have such a huge demand for teams that want to show, so we will run half of them during the day and the rest at night to try to give everyone a chance to qualify for the Olympics. Especially South American teams who haven’t had the chance to show anywhere or get qualification. In dressage, we have seven CDIs and three World Cup Qualifiers. We have two night classes over there as well on Week 7 and 10. We also have the Young Horse Series in Week 3 and the Finals in Week 12. The International Youth Dressage Tournament is back and, probably the most exciting thing is that we have quite a number of overseas riders who have come because this is the only place that they can show. So the Japanese team is coming to prepare for the Olympics and we have a rider from the German Olympic Squad, Frederick Wandress, which is exciting to have a rider of his caliber to come and compete.”
On the Great Charity Challenge: “Over the past 11 years of the event being held at WEF, we have distributed $14.8 M dollars to 256 Palm Beach County non-profit organizations which is a pretty staggering number when you look at it all together on how much impact WEF, the riders, and sponsors have been able to make in our local community.”
Is there a chance that the shows might open to spectators later in the season if COVID is under control, or is that more of a USEF decision?
Michael Stone: “It is ultimately a USEF decision. If it is something they have miraculously got under control, we would certainly be open to it. We just want to take any risks into account. What people outside don’t really understand is that many people in the horse industry work on a day rate and they are independent contractors. So if the show doesn’t happen, they don’t get paid. That really is a significant factor in our decision making so that we don’t impact judges, stewards, jump crew, staff for the different barns. If they don’t show, they don’t get paid, so we are doing everything we can to keep going.”
Can you elaborate on the live stream plan for this season?
Michael Stone: “All the major classes will be live-streamed for free on the website. We are working with the Village of Wellington to broadcast some of the big classes on their channel recorded. We are trying to find a way to have a live stream for every ring, but it is a bit difficult and expensive to do because of the bandwidth needed to do it. We are trying to find a relatively inexpensive way of signing on and watching all of the classes. We will let people know that in the next few days. The ring broadcasts would be more of a basic live stream while the bigger classes would be more of an enhanced production. We are going to work with Steven Wilde to make it more of a presentation, more like a television show with interviews to make it more interesting.”
Can parents of competitors go and watch their children compete?
Michael Stone: “Each rider is entitled to have two guests. We are rolling out a registration system for people and that will be part of that registration system which should go live, I think, this evening. It is a pretty simple system, anyone who was in Tryon this season would have used it there and this is even a slightly simpler system. The only visitors will be the guests of the rider/horse or sponsors that might be counted as a visitor, but in general, there will be no visitors.”
How many horses are you bringing to Wellington this winter?
Steffen Peters: “We are bringing a total of three. Suppenkasper will come and then I have a horse that has done quite well on the Small Tour, his name is Boreas FRF who belongs to Four Ring Farms, which is the farm where we stay in Florida. And then we have one client who shows in the Prix St. Georges and she is inching closer and closer to my scores, and I keep telling her that if she beats her trainer, there has to be a serious bonus involved!”
Can you explain about the Young Horse series?
Thomas Bauer: “We have made a decision early on about the 2020 Final right when we had to stop in March. The 2020 final of the Prix St. Georges and the Grand Prix horses will take place in Week 1, and then we start with the 2021 season in Week 3 with the final will be in Week 12. The Young Horse Grand Prix will be Sponsored by Lövsta. We are very grateful for that.”
How will the VIP tents be structured this year?
Michael Stone: “Basically, what we have done is we more or less have the occupancy of the tent for owners and sponsors. The two tents in Global will be up, but a lot less people actually want to go into the tents because they are nervous. It will be very socially distanced. It is similar with WEF. The numbers have gone down quite a lot, so we just have the normal International Club that is spread out. Media will be in the Gallery at the nightclub. It is very spread out there and you have a lot of space and you have a great view.”
Will WEF and AGDF survive financially?
Michael Stone: “I hope so! We are fortunate that it is still successful. We still have vendors and sponsors. Will we make any money? Probably very little, but we will survive. We don’t charge for spectators. Most European shows need spectator revenue, so we are in the fortunate position to not need spectator revenue because we don’t get any.”