Plenty Of Smiles at Wellington Classic Dressage
Show manager Noreen O’Sullivan Flanagan pulled up in her golf cart next to the large covered arena at the Jim Brandon Palm Beach County Equestrian Center, and could only laugh. “I have nothing to do, no fires to put out, no issues to resolve, it’s all going so well, it’s just hard to believe!” And so it was that the inaugural show of the Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge Series had a near perfect weekend. Balmy temperatures in the upper 70’s with a soft tropical breeze, large permanent stabling, with plenty of warm up and arenas all within eyesight and a short walk, and happy competitors, judges, volunteers, and vendors. Great food, beautiful ribbons, and a saddle pad for all winners, were just some of the special touches provided by the year round Florida management team who discovered the Palm Beach facility as it was being developed two years ago and saw the possibilities.
PhelpsPhoto: Robin Jaccaci and Katrina in her new Wellington Classic Dressage saddle pad, Scribe Elena Olinkova and friend.
The change in atmosphere begins with the short drive east on Forest Hills Boulevard, out of the traffic and congestion, over the Florida turnpike, and along the palm lined road to the Okeeheelee Park, one of the most prominent parks in Palm Beach County. Fittingly given the Seminole name for quiet waters, it is a widely popular spot for freshwater fishing. Nature and sports lovers also come here for its tennis center, BMX track, 27-hole championship golf course, water skiing, athletic fields, running and bike trails, and a nature center. Across the street is the state of the art Equestrian Center, with permanent stabling, lighted covered arena, and plenty of riding room including over 8- miles of trails where the sights and sounds of the rapidly growing area in West Palm Beach is left behind.
With construction slowed in 2006 due to hurricane Wilma, and the cancellation of the Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I in January due to the EHVI virus the resilient south Floridians continued to persevere with their discovery of the county run facility with dressage rider and trainer Shelley Van den Neste as manager at the helm. O’Sullivan Flanagan proved all skeptics wrong, as issues such as footing were addressed with the cooperation and funding needed from the facility. The Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge III will be April 28-29, but dressage competitors can look forward to returning earlier, for the Gold Coast Grand Finale, April 14-15, upgraded to accommodate Pan Am qualifier classes. O’Sullivan-Flanagan, current president of the Gold Coast Dressage does double duty as manager of the Gold Coast events, now being held at the arena. Lucky for the dressage snowbirds they have the year round Gold Coast Dressage group who made this “discovery” securing dates for future dressage competitions.
PhelpsPhoto: Facility manager Shelley Van den Neste keeps an eye on things from horseback.