Thursday, February 2, 2012

Palm Beach Social Diary

Wellington's prolific 12-week equestrian showcase — the world's largest and lengthiest competition — has ramped up as seen in this thrilling flyover during the Suncast Jumper Classic.
Horse Play: 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Wellington

By Augustus Mayhew

Wellington's much anticipated equestrian season is underway with the pizzazz inside the show rings sparking as much interest as the horse show's producers request for zoning and land-use changes necessary to accommodate a nearby 59-acre Equestrian Village with intensive commercial-retail venues. Wellington Equestrian Partners LLC envisions a destination for the World Equestrian Games in 2018. In opposition to the plan's commercial aspects, some village residents, who have not fled to Ocala or Aiken, have formed the Wellington Preservation Alliance, favoring the status quo and the pleasures found in their "rural lifestyle," albeit a shade gilded.
Several hundred for-and-against activists packed Tuesday night's Village of Wellington council meeting where the Wellington Equestrian Partners, their consultants, attorneys, and supporters were pitted against the equally deep-pocketed "NO! Equestrian Village" contingent and their team. Each determined to uncover some form of hairsplitting kryptonite to sink the other's argument.
However much villagers, as the 55,000 residents refer to themselves, welcome WEP's Winter Equestrian Festival featuring 5,000 horses, 3,800 riders from 30 countries, and Saturday night events attracting more than 4,000 spectators, a well-organized bloc have balked at permitting a 66-foot-high hotel, 45,000 square feet of retail/restaurants, and 30,000 square feet of offices despite the fact that the end result would concentrate amenities now randomly scattered over a 5-10 mile area.

With two advisory boards voting near unanimous support for the plan, the Village of Wellington's Council appears primed to approve some version of WEP's master plan, designed to accelerate the equestrian industry's ascension onto a more prestigious broader world stage while at the same time subjecting locals to just a few more inconvenient traffic snags.
After four hours of heated debate, mostly by pedantic experts who too often have lost touch with common sense, the meeting was adjourned to begin again Wednesday morning.
The Winter Equestrian Festival is staged by Equestrian Sport Productions, a subsidiary of Wellington Equestrian Partners. WEP’s founding partners were Far Niente Stables owners Mark and Katherine Bellissimo, along with Dennis and Marsha Dammerman and Roger and Jennifer Smith. When the Winter Equestrian Festival and other show horse events were acquired in September 2007 for $55 million, the partnership expanded to include: Dave Burton Sr., Ginny Burton, Dave Burton Jr., Julie Burton, Craig and Frances Lindner, Andy and Carlene Ziegler, Tim and Nancy Hooker, Charles and Candace Phillips, Stuart and Susan Goldstein, Bruce Duchossois, Bill and Kelley Farish, Caroline Moran, Frederic and Kimberly Boyer, Jean and Toni Goutal, Howard and Gwen Dvorkin, Justin and Lee Kellogg Sandrian, Carol and Ludwig Sollak, and Lisa & Robert Lourie.

More recently, WEP acquired the northeast corner of Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard for the proposed controversial Equestrian Village complex. Along with the nearby 80-acre existing show ground, WEP’s aim is to create “ a top international world-class equestrian competition destination” along with “ a complete range of jumping, children's, juniors and young rider classes, and show hunters competitions for both professionals and amateurs in several arenas.”
WEP founders Katherine and Mark Bellissimo, pictured above during last Saturday night's event, and their development partners are in the local political spotlight over their plans for broadening the commercial scope and extent of Wellington's equestrian activities.
Clearly, the cattle ranches, pony trails, flower farms, and rock pits that made-up yesterday’s Wellington no longer exists, supplanted by today’s network of assorted suburban townhouse-to-McMansion subdivisions encircled by surrounding more picturesque low-key horse farms and polo fields. And despite a tentative real estate market, Wellington’s signature luxe horse farms have shown a continuing demand among the well-hooved who appreciate the sporting life as much as the industry’s favorable tax advantages.

While uber-software tech Bill Gates has reportedly leased a seasonal enclave, this past week Gates was rumored, again just another rumor, to be the $6.1 million Colorado-based LLC buyer of 2981 Hurlingham Drive, sold by Amanda Widener Wetherill Holmes, as a representative for the Estate of the late Peter Widener Wetherill. Bill and Melinda Gates join a group of bold-faced stellar parents whose children have become commonplace Wellingtonians.
An aerial view of 2981 Hurlingham Drive.
During this past week I attended three separate events including Saturday night’s popular Battle of the Sexes. At first, I was distracted by the carnival atmosphere, although I realize it has been some time since horse show attendance assured entry into the Social Register. By the end of the evening, I realized it was actually satisfying family entertainment, if not, just plain fun. The horse show’s something-for-everyone appeal is a reminder that there are few multi-generational venues available, however enchanting the Taubman Company’s sublime The Mall at Wellington Green And, now having been enthralled with the intricacies of stadium jumping, I admit to having mistakenly expected the competitive events to be on par with the finer points of  ice skating, curling and dog shows.

Here are some of my impressions from the Collegiate Prep Invitational, the Suncast Jumper Classic, and Saturday Night under the Lights at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival with a passing perspective from the 1912 Horse Show in Washington, DC.
The WEF's January 12-April 3 season is operated at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, a subsidiary of Wellington Equestrian Partners. Pictured above, a footbridge extends over the rider's portal leading into center stadium.
Grandstands, box seats, gazebos, private "chalets" and all-weather hospitality pavilions surround the International Arena.
An equestrian landscape panorama, one of the many rings within the elaborate complex.
Along with the show stadium, there are sometimes as many as ten rings of competition happening simultaneously, daunting for an outsider to navigate the WEF's various activities.
The International Arena has undergone considerable refurbishment as part of a three-year $20 million program that added new all-weather footing, additional spectator seating, and floodlights designed to showcase high-performance dressage and show jumping.
Located about one-half mile east of the current show grounds, a dressage arena and 100-stall stables are under construction as part of the controversial Equestrian Village development. The dressage grounds were the site of the original Wellington polo fields. Subject to ongoing approvals, WEP 's master plan anticipates a multi-story hotel-condo and a mix of retail and service venues at the site.
The new state-of-the-art Van Kampen Dressage Arena nears completion at the northeast corner of Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard. Named for the late investor-philanthropist Robert Van Kampen, the 200-ft by 350-ft arena will accommodate three dressage rings and host the 2012 Global Dressage Festival.
Among the jumpers and jodhpurs
Kristen Luntz. A hunter makes a clean jump over a horizontal obstacle ...
… and moves on to the next challenge.
Mrs. Allen Potts. Washington, DC Horse Show, c. 1912. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Kristen Lutz. A rider guides her mount over a decorative wall-and-rail obstacle.
Kristen Lutz.
Hugh Dollard riding McKinley in the $100 Antares Large Junior Hunter competition.
Hugh Dollard.
Hugh Dollard.
A rider clears a low-rail obstacle.
In a nearby ring, Tinita Hughes completes a double combination.
Even farther outside the stadium ring, the junior set's jumps may not be as high but the challenges remain the same.
Beyond the junior ring, the stable barns make for a rural skyline.
Inside the International Arena
Alise Oken rides Canecko Z owned by Hi Hopes Farm. Oken's 10 faults resulted in an 18th place finish.
Rider Jessica Springsteen preps for a jump. Springsteen is the featured personality on the most recent cover of Florida Design's Palm Beach The Island magazine.
Springsteen tackles the triple combination.
Jessica Springsteen rides Cincinnati La Silla to 22nd place in the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Reed Kessler won the event and the $7,500 prize.
Having sailed over the first obstacle, Nick Skelton, the competition's favored rider, approaches the second set of rails.
Nick Skelton riding Unique takes a tumble on the second of a triple-combination rail jump.
Mr. Skelton was on the ground for what felt like several minutes causing audible gasps from the crowd.
Nick Skelton and his horse left the course unaided.
Deborah Stephens guides Swagger over the triple combination. Stephens placed 9th, winning $750.
Deborah Stephens' horse Swagger is owned by Centennial Farm.
From their reserved vantage point, the riders and trainers keep their eyes on the competition.
The Wellington Look

Whether rider or spectator, either for the College Prep Invitational, the Olympic Trials or the Grand Prix Classic, here are a few fashionable expressions geared up for the Wellington Look.
Surrounding the rings, there is an array of New York-Paris-Milan clothiers offering the Wellington Look.
Alessandro Albanese, Turin & New York, offers "refined elegance," clothes that are " … the expression of manners. And manners are the mirrors of ideas."
Janet Allen and Ellen Buchanan. Washington, DC Horse Show, c. 1912. Courtesy Library of Congress. Carrie Louise Gurnee Armour Munn and her husband Charles A. Munn. Washington, DC Horse Show, c. 1912. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Daniel Bluman. Video cameras make for ideal helmet accessories.
Circling within the world of gallops, canters, trots, and ambles.
Perfecting equitation form takes practice.
The fashion sense between trainers/grooms/handlers and riders is apparent. The stylish young rider on the far right appears unable to stifle a yawn.
Alessandro Benincasa catches a few mid-afternoon winks as the late January temperature reached 80F.
Horse tack: Saddles, stirrups, straps and accoutrements
The Vendor's Village offers an array of choices.
Charles Ancona, New York. "Made in New York, fast." Alessandro Albanese, Turin & New York. Microfiber and leather easy-ride boot. $840.
Pieter-Jan Geysen, a sport saddle expert, at the CWD Sellier boutique.
At Beval Saddlery Ltd., the center premium Butet Saumur saddle is $5,250; standard Butet models are $4,650.
Antarés Sellier France. The Antarés workshop in Saintes is comprised of "35 craftsmen specializing in bridlery, harness making and saddlery, producing 3,000 saddles each year."
Structural ceiling beams provide space for endorsement ads.
Equestrian and Realtor Marley Goodman, whose father Murray Goodman built 150 Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, opts to advertise as an artful obstacle in the stadium's center ring. Currently, she represents the family's $47.6 million oceanfront villa at 911 North Ocean Boulevard, built following the demolition of Mizner's Playa Riente. The 12-bedroom 18-bath 2.5 acre enclave features Playa Riente's original grand double-stairway leading into the ocean.
Nespresso $55,000 Battle of the Sexes
Wellington Equestrian Festival
International Arena 28 January 2012

Here is a glimpse of the “Battle of the Sexes” staged in the International Arena along with snaps of Saturday night’s spectators at the club and various surrounding venues. The women's team was captained by Katie Prudent and included riders Tatiana Dzavik, Margie Engle, Brianne Goutal, Maggie Jayne, Reed Kessler, Candice King, Laura Kraut, Marilyn Little Meredith, Catherine Pasmore and Jessica Springsteen. Henri Prudent led the men's team, including riders Daniel Bluman, Steven Bluman, Charlie Jayne, Ben Meredith, Todd Minikus, Richie Moloney, Michael Murphy, Andres Rodriguez, Nick Skelton and Shane Sweetnam. After engaging in three different rodeo-style, albeit a bit more refined, competitions, the women’s team won their 4th consecutive victory at this popular event that attracted an intimate crowd of more than 4,000 onlookers. 
The rider's staging area before entering the stadium.
Cliff Haines, the WEF ringmaster.
L. to r., Reed Kessler, Catherine Pasmore, Brianne Goutal, and Michael Murphy. The riders walked the course before the evening's first event.
Clearing the rails during Saturday night's center stadium event.
Tony Whall brought Flora to Saturday night's event. Heather Worman.
Carolina Ruhrl, Robin Delmer, Sara Barrett, Zac Potter, and Kimberly Lessard.
Matt Varney and Brooke Crozier. Sara Williamson and Kristy Parsons.
Mark McKone and Jaimie Speicher.
If the club's buffet is not in the budget, the stadium arena offers several thematic dining alternatives including this grill improvisé.
A distance from the stadium, the Oasis Café is located between the competition rings and Vendor's Village leading to the stables. It appears to be a favorite among the riders and their families.
Brianne Goutal. Patrick Bracco with Maggie Jayne.
Ben and Marilyn Meredith.
Shane Sweetnam.
Daniel Bluman completes his recorded ride.
Maggie Jayne.
Andres Rodriguez and Charlie Jayne. Ben Meredith.
Andres Rodriguez.
Jessica Springsteen rode Wotsamillion for the speed event.
Michael Murphy.
Saturday night's sensational event attracted an SRO crowd.
Photographs by Augustus Mayhew.
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