The 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival


Photos and Story by Lois Spatz

The 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival Brings the Best in the World and the 10th Anniversary of the Great Charity Challenge to Wellington

Every year for the past 40 years, from January to April , Wellington transforms into an elite equestrian playground during the Winter Equestrian Festival.

The 2019 WEF press conference held at the Palm Beach International Center show grounds on January 8, featured organizers and riders who spoke of a promising season slated to be one of the best ever. 

2019 WEF brings the best hunter jumpers, dressage riders, derby and eventing competitors from all over the world, a feat Equestrian Sport Productions CEO Mark Bellissimo takes very seriously. 

Bellissimo boasted that WEF is now the world’s largest equestrian festival and continued success in North Carolina and Colorado add to the exposure of all equestrian sports in the United States. “I believe the unprecedented audience and success at WEG ( FEI World Equestrian Games) will benefit us locally as more attention has been brought to the United States equestrian world.”

ESP President Michael Stone spoke of new technology used for the ground that the equestrians compete on, called footing. Stone added that world experts from Belgium and Sweden were consulted to help create a surface that provides the best performance conditions for riders of all disciplines. “If you stand still your dead,” Stone said. “We analyze every year and address innovation.” Stone also noted that the 2019 WEF season will feature changing formats and more of a variety of competitions. 

And then there is the highly anticipated Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments which will be February 2 this year, during Week 4 of WEF.

In its tenth year, GCC Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin explained how the equestrian community continues to contribute to the successful philanthropic outreach where riders and their horses are dressed in costumes and compete representing the different charities. Valtin added “We are the World” will be the GCC theme this year, embracing diversity and unity to create harmony and success. So far to date, GCC has dispersed over 12 million dollars to 230 Palm Beach County and local Wellington non-profit organizations. 

Whether it’s Friday Night Stars featuring gorgeous horses moving to music during the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (across for PBIEC), Saturday Night Lights where jumpers compete for top money prizes at PBIEC or Sunday Funday at the International Polo Club, equestrian enthusiasts, competitors and spectators will be happy for this ultimate horse haven here in Wellington and the most beautiful weather in the country.

For more information on Great Charity Challenge, the 2019 WEF and Polo seasons, visit

Bottom photo (L to R): GCC Executive Director Anne Caroline Valtin,  Seven time Swedish Dressage Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven, ESP President Michael Stone, ESP CEO Mark Bellissimo, 2018 WEG US team Gold Medalist Adrienne Sternlicht, Three time Hunter Derby Finals Winner Liza Boyd, and US Show Jumping Olympian Margie Engle at the 2019 WEF press conference.