By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Oct. 11–Equestrian Sport Productions announced Tuesday one of the world’s largest international and national dressage winter circuits with five CDIs, including a 5* and the first non-championship CDIO Nations Cup in the Western Hemisphere, and 10 U.S. national events over 12 weeks for winter in 2012.
The newly created Global Dressage Festival will be staged from Jan. 24 to April 15 at a venue being constructed specially for dressage as part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Festival show grounds in Wellington, Florida.
Mark Bellissimo, chief executive of ESP that organizes the Palm Beach shows, announced the lineup of competitions with two World Cup qualifiers in February, a CDI3* and a CDI5* in March and a CDIO3* in April. Each of the CDIs will also offer national competitions. Five additional U.S. national competitions will be staged.
The schedule for 2012:
Jan. 24-25 – USEF/USDF
Feb. 2-5 – CDI-W, CDI3*, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY, USEF/USDF
Feb. 16-19 – CDI-W, CDI3*, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY, USEF/USDF
Feb. 21-22 – USEF/USDF
Mar. 6-7 – USEF/USDF
Mar. 15-18 – CDI3*, CDIJ, CDIU25, CDIY, USEF/USDF
Mar. 21-22 – USEF/USDF
Mar. 29-Apr. 1 – CDI5*, USEF/USDF
Apr. 3-5 – USEF/USDF
Apr. 11-15 – CDIJ, [CDIO3*], CDIU25, CDIY, USEF/USDF
An investment of $5 million to make the new GDF complex ready for the 2012 winter circuit includes construction of five outdoor arenas, a covered arena large enough for three full size dressage rings, an elevated VIP pavilion overlooking the facility and about 200 permanent stalls, making it one of the largest commitments to dressage anywhere in the world.
Future improvements include permanent covered spectator seating for the central outdoor arena, a permanent VIP pavilion and another 200 permanent stalls.
Some of the world’s leading brands have signed up as GDF sponsors and complete details will be announced shortly.
Details of prize money are also being finalized, but Bellissimo said he was confident that over the next three years it would become the richest dressage circuit in the world.
The GDF complex is being built on what used to be the Palm Beach Polo Club stadium.
It is the second phase of development of the Palm Beach show grounds in Wellington as the world’s premier equestrian lifestyle destination. Phase I was an investment of more than $25 million in reconstructing the main show grounds that host the world famous FTI Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters. At 12 weeks from January through March, it is the world’s longest horse show and the largest with 5,000 horses and 2,800 riders from 49 states and 30 countries competing for the richest equestrian prize money in the world at more than $6 million.
“Our mission is to create for dressage what we have achieved for jumpers and hunters,” he said. “That means the best facilities in the world dedicated to dressage, the highest prize money and a lifestyle attractive to riders, owners and fans from around the world.
“But we are doing it with a focus on the needs and desires of the dressage community for a circuit that sets a standard for the Americas, in addition to superb footing, top notch stabling and hospitality.
“A competition facility of this quality with a full range of hospitality and shopping amenities may also be attractive to riders in other disciplines who prefer the elegance of dressage.”
He said GDF is designed to complement other equestrian competitions in South Florida by expanding the number of participants and fans and scheduling events to dovetail with other horse events.
“We plan to hold the dressage Grand Prix Musical Freestyle on Friday or Sunday,” he said, “so as to allow both competitors and spectators to also enjoy the week’s main jumping event Saturday nights and polo on Sundays.”
Michael Stone, the President of ESP, said that the shows are being designed to appeal to as wide a range of competitors and spectators as possible–ponies, juniors, young riders, under-25s, adult amateurs and para-dressage as well as stars at Olympic level.
“These will be reflected in the prize lists we are preparing with Lloyd Landkamer, one of the most experienced show operators in the nation who managed dressage and para-dressage competitions at last year’s World Equestrian Games.
“The additional national shows we have been licensed for will allow us to gear competitions to enable amateurs and other divisions to compete at a world class facility in a friendly environment who otherwise not have that opportunity.”
Bellissimo said the covered arena–named the Van Kampen Arena after the late American financier and father of Kimberly Boyer who is an owner of PRE horses and avid supporter of dressage–will also allow summer competitions fully protected from the elements to fulfill the needs of the growing year round dressage community in Florida.
The arena will measure 210 by 360 feet (64 x 110m), sufficient to accommodate three 20 x 60-meter regulation-size arenas with enough room for judges boxes. The sides of the arena will be expanded for spectator seating.
Footing will be identical in all arenas, the iconic coral-colored surface installed by Equestrian Services, Inc., a joint venture with Belgium’s Bart Poels. The same footing was provided for the Olympic equestrian venue in Hong Kong, all 12 arenas at the main PBIEC show grounds, the Dixon Oval and Gold Ring at the Devon Horse Show, the Hampton Classic, Penn National in Harrisburg and arenas around the world.