Photo Report: The Fun in Florida Continues

Wed, 02/21/2024 - 09:39
2024 CDN Wellington
Aaron Janicki on his next rising Grand Prix horse, Jinicole M (by Expression x Gribaldi) - one to watch ! :: Photos © Astrid Appels

--- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition)

As international dressage competition moved to the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida, last weekend for a CDI 3*, the national classes continued non-stop at the 2024 Global Dressage Festival in Wellington on 16 - 18 February 2024. 

Rivalry Between Florida Showgrounds 

I chose not to make the 4-hour drive up north to Ocala as the CDI field was tiny there, but the event did boast a big list of entries for their national level classes.

The already megalomaniac sized equestrian venue in Ocala has grown even more with a dedicated dressage area. They built new outdoor arenas, a huge air-conditioned indoor, as well as stabling, but construction has not yet finished. On Sunday evening social media was rife with a slew of negative reviews, complaining of no spectator seating, pop up tents as judges boxes, no easy access to food or shopping, narrow aisles in the stables, smaller stalls, brand new deep footing, walking for miles on asphalt or mud, etc etc.. The dressage zone was remote from the core of the venue and it probably would have been a better idea to host the CDI in the "old" part before relocating to the unfinished, new section. I'm sure that by April Ocala will have those problems solved...

Charlotte Jorst on Zhaplin Langholt
The mumbling and grumbling did prompt the Ocala show management to post a press release about their intentions and plans for dressage at WEC in the future, while a day later rivalling show grounds TerraNova (in Myakka City) proudly boasted that it has added a CDI to its calendar for 2 - 5 May 2025 enticing riders to consider their show over Ocala. The war of the show worlds.. 

The future of dressage in Wellington also hangs by a thread as the Global show grounds, known as Equestrian Village, will be converted into a residential area. Wellington Lifestyle Partners will have to build an expanded show grounds (on land just below where show jumping is now) by 2028, before they are allowed to start construction at Global. However it does not stipulate that WLP has to host dressage there. They could easily just increase the amount of money-making jumper and hunter classes in those new arenas instead of dressage, or even do nothing. Fortunately Wellington has plenty of show grounds available at White Fences and even the Jim Brandon equestrian centre to which dressage could move...

Oh well, lots going on in Florida


Meanwhile I decided to stay in Wellyland and have a chill weekend, catching up on work on the computer while also going to mornings to the national show in Wellington to photograph the small and big tour classes.

Catherine Malone, the 2004 North American
Young Riders Champion. Her last CDI
was in 2017. Here she is riding Lusitano
Johnny Walker CLB
There was much to be seen: interesting horses on the brink of breaking through at Grand Prix, some good riding, some work in progress, and, alas, also a moment of poor riding which made you wonder why no steward put a halt to it in the warm-up. My colleague and friend Petra Kerschbaum and I sat on the bleachers in front of the FEI level ring and like Statler and Waldorf we were witnessing and discussing what we saw. Many of the riders or horses in front of us, we had never heard of or seen before, so we approached them as a blank slate. We had a blast analysing the mixed bag of equitation that weekend, showing equestrian life as it is. 

In the current climate where there is much pressure on the sport for its social licence to operate it is important that riders come to a show with the mind-set of giving their horses a good experience and not "teaching them a lesson". When a movement doesn't go well in a test, one retries the exercise after the test and as soon as the horse does well, he gets patted and rewarded with a break, not an incessant 20-minute drill session where he is flown through the programme, yet again, and needs to piaffe over and over. What will he learn? Nothing but stress and a greater dislike for the movement, in my humble opinion. Horses are horses, they can be spooky, scared and tense in a show environment, but what matters is how the rider solves the issue. While some horses were uncooperative in a piaffe or pirouette, we saw several riders gracefully working through the problem in the test and build confidence. That's dressage.

Today the CDIO Wellington begins. Let's see what the new show week brings...

- Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED / NO SCREEN SHOTS for social media

If interested in photos, please send me an email. Florida rates apply for this horse show as our colleague Sue Stickle is the official photographer

Related Links
Photo Report: The Horse Power is There, the Experience and Miles Will Follow
Vilhelmson Draws on Experience and Name to Win GP Special at 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Photo Report: Chestnuts Hyatt and Fayvel Grab the Blue at 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Photo Report: Doom and Gloom on Sunny Horse Inspection Day at 2024 CDI-W Wellington