Written by Senior Editor, Joscelyn Richards.
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 Legal 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tent stalls 1-10 and permanent barns in the background
The $20 Schooling Ring
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.
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.
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.