Take a tour of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

Written by Senior Editor, Joscelyn Richards.

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Joscelyn posing under the PBIEC sign

 

Wellington, Florida, is the home of the Winter Equestrian Festival, a horse show that runs for 12 weeks every year. The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) is one of the go-to winter horse shows for most barns because of its beautiful facilities, warm weather, and high-class competition. Unfortunately, not every equestrian has the privilege of showing or even going to WEF. For the past month I have been photographing the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) show grounds, where WEF is held, in order to give The LIMG_9772egal Equestrian readers an exclusive virtual tour of the WEF show grounds.

Our virtual tour starts off with the drive into the main entrance of the show grounds, where people who don’t have a parking pass can pay for valet or park themselves. The drive onto the grounds is lined with picturesque palm trees and spotless roadways.
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After parking or valeting your car, spectators walk through will call and towards the International Ring. Along the way spectators walk past a gorgeous carousel and statues of horses designed by local schoos. During Saturday Night Lights there is even a petting zoo and pony rides in this area!

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After walking through the courtyard of entertainment (as I like to call it), spectators can walk down to the International Ring public seating or alongside the entrances to the Wellington Club, Central Park, and the Gallery. The free seating for the International Ring surrounds about half of the ring and is comprised of blue, plastic individual fold down chairs that are all attached to each other. They’re more comfortable than you would think!
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V.I.P Seating ft. The International Club Seating in the Background

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Tito’s Tacos

If you don’t want to sit on the blue chairs there are some more options for you. The Wellington Club is a closed tent with glass walls that overlooks the International Ring; it usually hosts private parties and events. Central Park is an open tent with a huge bar in the middle and faux grass for flooring and also overlooks the International Ring. The Gallery is most often open to the public but seating is first come first serve. It also has an open bar and overlooks the International ring. To the right of the Wellington Club, Central Park, and the Gallery, there are several individual food vendors that sell everything from cotton candy to fried clams. If you’re in the mood for an inexpensive, yet tasty sit down meal try Tito’s Tacos or the Tiki Hut! There is also VIP seating which faces away from the PBIEC arch, but has a great up close and personal view. Another place to sit, eat and watch is the International Club, however you must purchase tickets for a seat or a table in order to sit and eat here. To find out more information about The International Club check out the PBIEC website here.

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The Tiki Hut

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The International Ring

The International Ring is the main attraction of the show grounds with all the other rings located around it. The E.R Mische Grand Hunter ring is adjacent to the Gallery, Central Park, and Wellington Club. Next to the E. R. Mische Grand Hunter ring is the Rost Arena. The area facing the Grand Hunter ring and the Rost Arena is called Hunter Hill. Up there vendors sell merchandise and food. Next to the Rost Arena is the International Ring schooling area, followed by the Mogavero ring, and finally the DeNemethy Ring. Both the Mogavero and DeNemethy ring hold jumper classes most often, but feature the occasional Big Eq class.

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The E.R Mische Grand Hunter Ring

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The Rost Arena

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The International Ring Schooling Area

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The Mogavero Arena

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The DeNemethy Ring

As we venture away from what I call the “Ring of Madness” spectators can either go to Ring 6, which holds everything from cross-rails to jumpers, Vendor Village (more on this later), or to Ring 7, 8, 9, or 10. Ring 7 and Ring 8 are parallel to each other and most often hold the smaller height hunter and equitation classes. Ring 9 and Ring 10 usually have jumper and equitation classes and also have their own row of vendors.

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Ring 6

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Ring 7 with Ring 8 in the background

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Ring 10 Schooling Area

Once spectators have passed Ring 10 they can turn left to go to the $20 Ring for schooling or turn right to get to the tent stalls. There a total of 10 giant tents that have rows and rows of temporary stalls in them. In between the tent stalls there are wash racks and enclosed manure piles. In addition to the tent stalls, there are also four permanent barns with stalls that are bigger but also more expensive with extremely limited availability. The lunging arena is located next to Barn 1 and 2 for use by whomever needs it. Parking is also available adjacent to the barns but you must buy a parking pass from show management in order to park here.

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Tent stalls 1-10 and permanent barns in the background 

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The $20 Schooling Ring 

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The Lunging Area 

As we near the end of our WEF tour let’s go to Vendor Row! Vendor Row features dozens of popular brands such as Beval, Hadfield’s, Le Fash, Der Dau, and many more. Many of the vendors in the village are only at WEF for a certain number of weeks, so if you see something cute you better buy it while you can! Neighboring Vendor Village is the Horse Show Office, Administrative Office, and Exhibitor Services.

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Vendor Row 

Now, I almost forgot the most fun (and possibly cutest) rings of all: Rings 11 and 12. These rings are more commonly referred to as “Pony Island.” You can find pony moms and garters a plenty up here. The ponies are adorable enough to distract you from the occasional crying child or pony mom freak out.

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Ring 11 and Ring 12 in the Background

WEF is probably the most tiring and crazy twelve weeks of my year. However, I wouldn’t trade the friends, memories and experiences I have had here for anything in the world.

All photos featured in this article belong to Joscelyn Richards (@jlrequinephotography). Please do not use without permission. 

Heels Down U25 Equestrian Creativity Awards

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As y’all may know, I am a writer for Heels Down Magazine. Recently, Heels Down Media launched a contest for those under 25 who are involved in equestrian creativity activities.

The categories include:

  • Photography
  • Blogging
  • Video Production
  • Art & Design
  • Entrepreneurship

Entries are judged by an expert panel, which counts for 75 percent, and public vote, which counts for 25 percent. Full Disclosure: I am on the blogging expert panel.

If you would like to enter, please go here. Please remember you must be under 25 years of age. The deadline is June 25, 2016, at 11:39 PM EST.

Good luck!

Looking for TWO guest writers

Hey everyone!

We are looking for two guest writers to join our team. You can do any discipline (showing not required) and be any age. The only requirements are a love for horses, a passion for writing, grammar, and spelling, professionalism, absolutely no bullying or drama on social media, and the ability to write blog posts at least 2x a month (and if you want to write more, you certainly can).

If you are interested, please email a writing sample to thelegalequestrian@gmail.com by Tuesday, May 31 at 11:59 pm.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Mental Health Awareness Month: My story

So, I’ve been a bit absent lately – on social media, on the blog, everywhere really.

To be completely, 100 percent honest and raw with you, I relapsed.

I’ve been suffering from depression on and off since I was 16 years old. It runs in my family, unfortunately, along with a few other mental disorders. Along with depression, I suffer from severe anxiety, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. (Editor’s Note: I can’t believe I am actually going to publish this).

I am pretty aware of my body and how I am feeling at all times, and I’ve noticed over the past few months I’ve lost joy in a lot of things that I once used to love. Obviously my other health issues (severe migraines) haven’t helped that at all. Having a severe migraine for two weeks out of a month is no way to live. Being bedridden for that period of time is no way to live.

Recently, I noticed myself going in a downward spiral – crying all the time, feeling terrible about myself, not knowing what to do, where to turn, or how to get myself out of this all too familiar funk. I hadn’t felt this way since my last relapse in college. Yet, I would still have random bursts of energy where I felt amazing (cue mood cycling).

I was in so much agony and pain that I finally decided to go see someone. Ever since my last episode that severely affected my ability to function, which was years ago, I’ve been adamant about not seeing doctors and not being on medication. But, here’s the thing, sometimes that is what we need to do, and if we really are feeling that awful about ourselves and feeling that down where we just cannot shake it, we need to seek help.

I know there’s a huge stigma around mental health, and it’s very hard for me to write this post because of that stigma. I know I will get judged. I know that I will be understood. It depends who you are, what you’ve been through, and what your viewpoints on mental health are.

I am happy to say that I did see a doctor, and after receiving the same diagnoses I’ve been receiving my entire life, I have been placed on medication to help “normalize” me again. I am beginning to feel better, and I hope to return to blogging full-time again because I miss it.

My point in writing this is that a lot of us suffer from mental illness, but it’s hidden. Just like the points I’ve made in our other mental health awareness posts: oftentimes, we know someone with a particular disorder, we just don’t know it.

Aside from one tweet I’ve made, or if you know me well outside of this platform, I bet you guys had no idea I was suffering. And, if you did, we should be friends because I need people in my life who will notice little details like that.

Don’t be afraid to get help. It is out there. Talk to a friend. Talk to me. See a doctor. There is nothing wrong with medication, if you need it. Call one of the helplines listed in Erin Post’s most recent blog. There is help out there, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel – no matter how dim, dark, and hopeless things may seem.

Bree Steffen: A dressage rider on a mission to stay authentic, improve her riding, and finish her university degree

Bryelle Steffen, or Bree, is a well known name on “eq anon island.” She is a dressage rider that hails from Canada, owns a super cute Trakehner/Quarter Horse named Phantom, and has a strong personality that sometimes rubs people the wrong way. Despite that, she has made a name for herself online, and she stays true to herself and her riding no matter what people say.

Bree & Phantom. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree & Phantom. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Now 21 years old, Bree started riding when she was 4 years old, but has been around horses since before that!

“My mom rode before I was born and continued until her horse passed away when I was 8 or 9. She has been taking me to the barn since weeks after I was born and would set me in my stroller by the ring while she rode. I have been extremely lucky to have been around horses since I was a baby,” she said.

Although she is a dressage rider now, she did dabble in the jumpers when she was younger. She said dressage keeps her focus and “every rider is something different.”

“Dressage comes down to every little detail and I love that. I love having something to always reach towards and knowing I will never be done trying to make myself better,” she said. “Dressage also provides you an opportunity to be so connected with your horse. There are moments when you ride a horse that is so responsive to the slightest aids and it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Bree is also an avid show rider, who trains with a local trainer from her town, Kingston. She also has another trainer she utilizes while she is away at school. She has shown every single summer since she was 7 – although she has taken one or two summers off. She also said she is currently on a break from showing because she is in university (something we totally support!) However, once done with school, she wants to get back into shape and ride second or third level dressage shows.

Bree & Phantom at a show. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree & Phantom at a show. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree feels that showing in dressage is less stressful than when she was doing another discipline. What is a typical dressage show day like?

“Your day layout would be the same, you have your time you’re showing and go in the ring at your allotted time, which is very specific down to the minute. You do your test for the judge and then exit the ring and wait for everyone else in your class to finish riding the same test, then you get your results and pick up ribbons if you won any. You receive your test back from the judge with number scores next to each movement followed by rider marks and any comments they have for you,” she explained.

Bree personally loves showing locally.

“…[E]veryone knows each other[,] and there are people who have been around and showing with me since I was little and showing my first pony.”

Bree & Phantom at a show. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree & Phantom at a show. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

However, she also likes showing out of her general location.

“…[I]t’s also fun to go out of area to show because it’s more competitive,” she said.

So what about her horse Phantom, who arguably is also eq anon island famous?

“Phantom is an 11 year old Trakehner/QH gelding I’ve owned for almost 5 years. He’s my second ‘one in a million.’ He has dabbled in a little bit of everything[.] [H]e can jump a 4 foot course when in shape[;] he loves dressage because he loves to please[;] and he also has the greatest personality. Everyone who has spent time with him loves him because he’s so sweet, like a giant dog really,” Bree said.

Phantom loves bananas and watermelon, as well as spending time with people.

Bree & Phantom. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree & Phantom. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

“Some of my favourite times with him have been just having him graze around me while I sit on the hill at my home barn and read a book. He’s very sane and level-headed but also has a sassy side that makes riding him really interesting and great for dressage because he has this presence in the ring that makes people want to sit and watch him.”

Bree said Phantom is very comfortable. His walk usually gets 9s from judges. Despite his comfort, Bree said it took two years for her to learn to ride his canter properly, and “some days I still can’t get it.”

She said she could talk about him all day, and in one sentence, she would describe him as an “amazing, kind soul that I consider myself extremely lucky to have.”

One thing I asked Bree about was the importance of dressage. Many hunter/jumper riders will agree that a dressage background, even if just lower level, does wonders for a horse.

“Your horse needs to have a solid foundation built on the flat before you can do anything else. The best way I’ve had it described to me is similar to the foundation of a house. Your flatwork is the foundation, and jumping or anything else are just the extra stories you build on top. A house with shaky foundation has a hard time staying steady, but also will have problems in the future,” she said. “A horse with solid dressage basics is the golden ticket for most other disciplines. Almost everything in dressage can be applied to hunter/jumpers; Collection, extension, stretchy work, being able to ride from your seat, and the list goes on.”

Bree said her favorite things about her discipline are that you never stop learning, though she acknowledged this is true for all disciplines. She also said she loves reading judges’ comments after she shows, and she also loves how dressage helps every single horse.

Additionally, she “love[s] the connection that’s required between a good horse/rider pair and I love to watch (and hope I can be) one of those pairs where you just sit there in awe and wonder how they do it. There are these moments during collection work and beyond where you feel your entire horse right beneath you and every movement they do is controlled by your body, to be able to feel that level of connection is unreal.”

Many of you are aware of the “in” items for the hunter/jumper world. I asked for her insight into what’s “in” for the dressage world right now.

“One of the great things of dressage (at least what I’ve observed) is there’s less pressure put on people to have certain things. Dressage is simplistic in the sense that if you have a saddle, bridle and boots [or] polos, you’re good. Some of my favourite things I have … include my saddle and bridle, which are both Schleese, and Ogilvy dressage pads. I also hoard DSB boots … As for rider, a lot of dressage riders have taken to the look of the Samshield helmets[,] and I see a lot more of those, I want one really bad actually,” she said.

According to Bree, a good dressage horse has a natural ability to move through their body, over their back, and has “semi-good” conformation in order to be able to sit and collect. She said being able to move, for a good dressage horse, is like being an “elastic band.” She also said “willing to be worked” and being pushed out of the horse’s comfort zone is a plus, personality-wise.

As for a good dressage rider? Bree said “a lot of patience.” She also said a good dressage rider can move their entire body separately and together, which took her about 10 years to figure out. Timing was another trait she cited as well.

Bree riding when she was younger. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree riding when she was younger. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

We asked Bree who she would clinic with, if possible. She said: Anky Van Grunsven, Charlotte Dujardin, Kristina Bröring-Sprehe, Andrea Bresee, and Belinda Trussell.

Her favorite dressage horses are Desperados, ridden by Kristina Bröring-Sprehe; Salinero, ridden by Anky Van Grunsven; Blue Hors Matine and Anton, ridden by Belinda Trussell; and of course, Valegro, ridden by Charlotte Dujardin.

One thing Bree experiences a lot of is hate on social media. While this may come with her popularity (there are always the haters when you’re super well-known and popular online), she also acknowledges it could be due to her “strong personality.” She’s experienced hate due to her eyebrows, weight, economic status, and her riding.

How does Bree deal with the hate? One thing is putting things into perspective.

“I ask[] myself, really.. does it matter that these people hate me? How does it effect [sic] my life? When I thought about it I realized it really doesn’t effect [sic] me at all. These people don’t know me nor do they know what I’m capable of. They’ve never met me nor have ridden my horse, so their opinions of me shouldn’t cloud my view of myself. You can’t make people like you, you just learn to swing with the fact that people dislike you and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Some people are bitter with their own lives and project their dislike on other people, that looks worse on them than it does on me!”

Though she stays authentic online and tries to give people something good to talk about, she also tries not to fuel any fires and tries to follow the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” rule. However, she said she does not put on a “fake front” because she wants to be a rider that is genuinely looked up to by others.

Finally, we asked her what one thing she thinks needs to change about the equestrian community is.

Bree & Phantom. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

Bree & Phantom. Photo Courtesy of Bryelle Steffen.

“I think there needs to be a major attitude change. There are so many people who are so hostile and judgemental [sic] based on such trivial things. People are judged on what they have in terms of money and material things instead of focusing on what they have to offer like talent or hard work. I think as riders we need to work on encouraging each other and building each other up instead of constantly tearing each other down.”

“Another thing that I personally feel is really important is body positivity in this sport. As someone who has been ridiculed since I was young about my weight, I was always under the impression that I was less of a rider because of it. My coach always reminded me that it’s not about your body but it’s about how you use it and I always like to remember that and try to pass on that message. It makes me really upset to see riders evaluated on how they look instead of the talent they have and I think that is something huge that needs to be changed. If I myself can spread that message and can inspire other people to believe in themselves I will feel like I’ve done something positive so other people can feel confident in themselves too.”

Overall, Bree is on a mission to become the best dressage rider she can. She also feels there’s only one her in the world, and she wants to be liked for her – not being someone she isn’t.