Olympic Medalist Ashley Holzer To Perform a Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage Demonstration Sunday

2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival About to Begin - Under New Management

Excitement is in the air as the 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival prepares to open its gates on Wednesday at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The long-running equestrian sporting event opens under new management, with Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC (ESP) taking over the reins. The change of ownership has seen extensive renovations to the show grounds, located on Pierson Road, in an effort to make the 12 weeks of international sport as comfortable as possible for spectators, competitors and horses.

One of ESP's main objectives is to make equestrian sport more spectator friendly, and they will be adding an element of entertainment to the events in order to make it more enjoyable. On Sunday, Olympic medalist Ashley Holzer will perform a Grand Prix Freestyle dressage demonstration, which can be described as 'horse dancing' as the horse and rider perform highly technical movements in time with the music. This will expose audiences to other types of horse sport while Sunday's show jumping will also undergo a make-over. Instead of the typical Grand Prix event, Sunday will feature a $25,000 Six Bar competition as well as a $25,000 Speed Derby beginning at 1 p.m.

"The opportunity that exists here is unique in the world." said Mark Bellissimo, Managing Partner of ESP. "We are embarking on three great challenges-organizing the facility and building the facility, which are both reaching completion and the next challenge is to get the spectators here. We think it will be the finest facility in the U.S."

The changes taking place met with approval from Eugene Mische whose Stadium Jumping Inc. developed the Winter Equestrian Festival to its current status as one of the most prestigious horse show circuits in North America.

"It is great to pass the torch to Mark."Mische said. "You can see his enthusiasm, and it is amazing what he has got done in such a short time. It takes wanting to do it and it takes the people behind it who have the initiative and yes, the financial resources, too. He's done a great job, it is a great thing for the sport, and I look forward to being here and giving whatever help I can give to the new organization."

Hunter Harrison, President and Chief Executive Officer of CN that is the title sponsor of WEF, said: "Part of CN's internal strategy has been trying to grow like this sport has been trying to grow. Now CN has expanded around the world, and we want to help the sport expand around the world. The difference we've been lacking is the spectators for the sport. This is a hell of an effort this team is making."

Photo: The first riders in the rebuilt International Arena were Grand Prix rider Jimmy Torano and Brittany Raflowitz being watched by Brett Raflowitz and Bart Poels who mixed and installed the all-weather surface. Behind them is the redesigned famous bridge over the ingate. Photo: Ken Braddick-HorseSport USA

International Field of Competitors