Wellington’s Greatest Show

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Cultural Corner

Wellington’s Greatest Show

Angela Shaw

Every winter Wellington’s greatest show comes to town and stays till spring—a lot longer visit than Barnum’s used to last. Yet, many residents fail to drive the few extra miles to see this equestrian extravaganza. And before we know it, May is here, the arenas are empty, and we’ve missed the magic of this unique equine experience.

The show these days is not your father’s horse show.

At first, the lineup was simply horse and rider running the course in record time and tripping the fewest rails. Nowadays, actual circus-like side shows keep the little ones (and the adults with ADD) entertained while the horses move in and out of position—which for some is enough entertainment. Honestly, spectators like me can’t get enough of the beauty of a well-groomed thoroughbred’s glossy coat, braided mane and rippling muscles. But, for the aforementioned crowd with short attention spans, there is a veritable fair to be had.

Saturday nights starting at 6 pm, families can enjoy fire jugglers, face painting, petting zoos, carousels, bounce houses, live bands and casual bites like tacos and wood-fired pizza. A three-ring event, indeed.

Show jumper, Todd Minikus had this to say after the season’s opening show:

“Despite being the first week of the circuit,…the class ‘looked big.’ The fact of the matter is, I think this is some of the hardest jumping in the world really. We start right off here. You’ve got to have quality horses. They’ve got to be on the top of their game, and you’ve got to be on the top of your game no matter what class it is here. That’s just life in South Florida.” (Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Staff writer, http://pbiec.coth.com, Jan 13, 2018).

Photo credit toddminikusshowjumping.com

Wellington’s worldwide and world class equestrian festival began gaining popularity in the early 70s. It is now the longest running and largest equestrian festival in the country. Over 42 countries send riders of all ages and ranks with their 6000 ponies to compete for more than a half a billion dollars in prizes.

Sure, you could stay home and watch a few races on your hand-held device, or view it streamed on the web, but you would miss the energy that shared events bring; the sense of community and belonging that corporate enjoyment fosters.

During any live event, the unexpected is bound to happen. Once we saw a horse approach a 7-foot faux wall, and display rather human-like responses. Here’s how it went down:

The height of wall was raised to 7’2″. There went the horse. His rider urged him to the wall and the horse dug in to a dead stop in front of the wall. Visibly displeased, the master swung the animal around to make a second attempt.

Galloping fiercely toward the wall, the horse again slammed his hooves into the turf, and to the crowd’s astonishment distinctly shook his head from side to side as if to say, “NO! I am not jumping that wall!” I’d never seen anything like it!

The horse then veered sharply to the right avoiding the barricade, and flung the horseman off the saddle. As the rider dangled on the side of his mount, spectators audibly gasped fearing the unthinkable. To everyone’s relief the horseman recovered his stance with no apparent physical damages.

Besides keeping an eye out for unusual twists like the above, there are always favorite riders and rising stars to watch this year.

To get in a horsey mood and really immerse yourself in the season, visit the Polo Museum in Lake Worth Road. Or pick up a book like, The Great Hound Match of 1905 by Martha Wolfe, Tommy Hitchcock: An American Hero by Nelson Aldrich, Jr., or The Will to Win by Jane McIlvaine.

Whatever you do, don’t sit at home. Tallyho! and all that. See you at Wellington’s greatest show.

Photo Credit – Palm Beach Post