The equestrian community of Wellington, Florida, is leading a movement to unite all equestrians across the country in the mission to keep children safe in schools and remember the victims of school violence. Last month, 17 people were shot and killed, along with more than a dozen who were injured, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just less than an hour from Wellington.
Three-time Olympic show jumper Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, who is based in Wellington during the Winter Equestrian Festival, was deeply moved by the tragedy and is rallying the equestrian community to make a strong, unified statement to protect children in schools.
To showcase support for the initiative, Michaels-Beerbaum, her husband Markus and her daughter will ride into the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s International Ring followed by a procession of the sport’s most decorated riders, including Beezie Madden, Lauren Hough, Jennifer Gates, Danielle Torano and Jessica Springsteen, on Saturday, March 24, which is the same day as the #MarchForOurLives rally in Washington, D.C. Along with their respective children, the riders and horses will stand together in support of the mission to keep children safe in schools. While unable to attend in person, fellow riders Laura Kraut and Georgina Bloomberg are in support of the effort.
Joining the movement, The Chronicle of the Horse, the nation’s leading equestrian magazine, is inviting equestrians across the country to submit photos or videos of themselves and their horses, holding a #RideForOurLives sign. You can download a printable #RideForOurLives sign at this link.
Submitted photos and videos will be shown as the athletes ride into PBIEC on March 24. Photo and video submissions will be accepted from Monday, March 19, through Saturday, March 24, through the Chronicle’s Facebook or Instagram, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posters will be available for anyone who wants to join the ride and show their support. The ride at PBIEC on March 24 is open to the public to view and will begin at 6 p.m. Participants on horseback must arrive in the Rost Arena between 5:30 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. People wishing to participate on horseback must wear an ASTA-approved helmet and a WEF or AGDF back number assigned to the horse and rider. Horses must be stabled on show grounds or must “walk in.” Trailering of horses can not be accommodated. Individuals without a WEF or AGDF back number are welcome to march on foot. Registration is not required. For questions, please visit the PBIEC Horse Show Office.
“This is not about right or left; this is about protecting our children and standing up for them. We encourage the equestrian community to take a stand to show that we need to do something about gun violence in schools in the United States. We ride together today as a testament that it’s time to take action,” said Michaels-Beerbaum.
PBIEC is also hosting a memorial on Saturday, March 31, prior to the evening grand prix, where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School choir will sing, and 17 horses and riders will stand in memorial of the lives lost.
Katherine Bellissimo, Managing Partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners that owns and operations PBIEC, is committed to supporting the effort to keep children safe in school.
“We are committed to protecting and growing the future of our sport, and keeping our children safe is critical. The vision of our partnership is to unite equestrians in all layers of life, and this plays into that goal in an even more meaningful level. We are all equestrians, but we are also a community of parents who love our children and want to protect them,” said Bellissimo.
“We’re not standing for a specific rule change or a specific political party; this is a bipartisan effort to unite behind the fact that we don’t want our children killed in schools anymore,” said Michaels-Beerbaum.