Through Sunday, February 2, 2003, the top international dressage horses and riders will be competing at The 2003 Winter Equestrian Festival currently going on at The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington. The Festival, in its 31st years, showcases the best horse and rider teams in the equestrian disciplines of hunters, jumpers and dressage. This week, the second of The Wellington Series, jumpers and dressage horses are being featured.
Dressage is a discipline often compared to ballet or figure-skating, with the horses being the dancers and skaters. Taking place “on the flat” (that is, there is no jumping involved) in a ring of a specified dimension, a rider competes at varying levels depending upon the experience and ability of the horse, with more advanced movements being expected of the more experienced horse. The advanced–level performances, on display this week, will leave spectators in awe of the dressage horse’s beautiful range of gaits. One of the discipline’s most-watched levels is the “freestyle”, where horse and rider literally “dance” to music. Dressage is noted for the elegance of both horse and rider.
The international aspect of this week’s competition is exemplified by the competitors who have traveled to Wellington from Germany, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, to name but a few.
On a national level, this weekend’s competition includes qualifying classes for U.S. riders desiring to make the Pan Am Games Selection Trials, which will take place at The United States Equestrian Team’s headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey in June, 2003. After competing in Gladstone, riders who meet the rigorous criteria during those Selection Trials will become part of the dressage team representing the U.S. at the Pan Am Games, which will be held in the Dominican Republic during the first week of August, 2003.
Over the weekend, the levels in which U.S. Pan Am hopefuls must compete will be Prix St. Georges, Intermediare I and Intermediare I Freestyle.
The Pan Am Games are held in the year immediately preceding The Olympic Games and give team members the opportunity to compete with the best of the best just prior to The Olympic Selection Process. The 2004 Olympic Games will be held in Athens, Greece.