Ellie Rawle and Waldaire, her American Warmblood stallion traveled to Florida for Ocala Dressage at the Florida Horse Park, giving themselves plenty of time to settle in before the show. Camped in her horse trailer, Ellie didn’t flinch when a cold front came through, as she has had plenty of experience spending cold nights in her down sleeping bag in Pennsylvania winters during foaling season at her Watermark Farm, which Ellie operates with her parents Bill and Anne.
Being in Ocala with just one horse, her first time in Florida was a new experience. And for Waldaire, the handsome chestnut stallion the Rawle family has bred to some of their finest broodmares, it was a homecoming of sorts. Dana Fiore who sold Waldaire to the Rawles, made a special trip from West Palm Beach with her new young horse Redford to Ocala Dressage, to ride in a couple of classes, but mostly to visit her old friend “Wally”.
It was Ellie Rawle and Waldaire who made history at The Florida Horse Park, being the first horse and rider to enter the arena and ride on the CushionTrack® supplied by Equestrian Surfaces USA LLC, installed as promised the day before the show. “This is the best footing I have ridden on anywhere.” exclaimed Rawle who has a long history of competing throughout her life. The footing is a patented combination of synthetic fibers comprising elastic, polyester and polypropylene carefully graded and mixed with a high performance multi washed silica sand, all blended with a special wax coating.
David Frye of Field Specialties, who was in part responsible for getting the job done, stepped into the ring to get Ellie’s comments, and the synergy of the moment was not lost on anyone. “I used to ride and compete with Ellie’s Dad, Bill Rawle many years ago.” said Frye a former event rider. “So this is really a special moment for me to watch his daughter be the first rider in this ring.”
The arena which is large enough for three full size dressage rings, was prepared and installed by David Frye of Field Specialties, and Jeff Spielman of Advance Pastures, who along with a full crew of workers at the Florida Horse Park worked tirelessly for over six weeks to get the job done in time for the show. Valued at over $850,000 the arena was the first priority for the organization behind the state owned land.
“The permanent stabling, the covered arena, and main offices and building will come later.” said Olympian Darren Chiacchia, who is one of several top horsemen behind the development of the Florida Horse Park. “But what good is any of that, if there is not the best footing to start with?” Equestrian Surfaces USA LLC, a company originating in the UK, now has their US offices in Orlando, and will be adding an office on site at the Florida Horse Park in the near future.
Ellie Rawle was proud of her stallion who did a Grand Prix test each day, getting her qualifying score under Sue Madden Mandas. "I have thoroughly enjoyed myself here." said the exuberant Rawle. "Everyone here is so friendly and helpful, and the Florida Horse Park is perfect for my horses."
Rawle, who had just planned on this one trip to Florida, has vowed to return for the Ocala Dressage March 11-12, with even more horses. She tracked down event director Shelley Lambert to give a donation to the Florida Horse Park before heading home. And next time she can safely leave the down sleeping bag in the foaling barn.