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October 25, 2013

Management Dispute Prompts Palm Beach Dressage Derby Cancelation

Tina Konyot and Calecto V competing at the 2011 Palm Beach Dressage Derby. Photo by Sara Lieser

The 2014 Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W, slated for Feb. 26-March 2 in Loxahatchee, Fla., has been canceled due to disputes within its management team.

Derby executive director Mary Anne McPhail, who hosts the competition annually at her White Fences Equestrian Estates, fired show managers International Horse Sport Palm Beach on Oct. 18. Both McPhail and the IHSPB team declined to answer questions but issued prepared statements.

“The lease for the Palm Beach Dressage Derby was canceled because of default on the financial obligations of the contract, which were not fulfilled,” McPhail said. “There was no follow-through on the commitment to maintain and keep in good repair the Derby facilities and the show grounds. Therefore, due to continued default, we have terminated the lease with International Horse Sport.”

IHSPB’s managing partners include show manager Noreen O’Sullivan, sponsorship coordinator John Flanagan, and dressage trainers Edward Borresen and Lars Petersen. McPhail, however, told Dressage News, which first broke the story earlier this week, that “Palm Beach Dressage Derby Inc. has every confidence in Lars Petersen and Ed Borresen… It is clear they had no part in the show management but worked hard to maintain the show standards, keep the facility in good condition and acquire sponsors in the spirit for which the Derby is renowned.”

The four IHSPB partners said jointly that they “were surprised and disappointed in the public manner and the negative intent with which this whole matter was released not only to us, but to the national and international dressage community.” 

IHSPB also said their organization “worked very hard and invested a tremendous amount of time and money to honor the tradition of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, including making substantial improvements to the show grounds at our own expense. Without our personal investment to replace the footing with GGT footing in all of the show arenas and upgrading the water and electric in the barn areas alone, the Derby would have not been approved to continue as a CDI-W at the Equestrian Estates venue the past three years.

“We feel that we did not receive proper legal notice and documentation of any supposed breach of contract, nor were we allowed to remedy the supposed breaches according to the terms of our lease agreement,” the statement continued. “The manner in which we were notified was unfair, has been harmful to our professional and personal reputations and also not in accordance with our lease agreement, and therefore [we] respectfully dispute the default demand. We hope to work this out amicably and in a manner that is fair to all parties involved.”

In addition to the CDI-W, IHSPB also managed competitions like Dressage at Equestrian Estates, the IHS Champions Cup and the IHS series in conjunction with Palm Beach Dressage Derby Inc. under a lease agreement at the Equestrian Estates. No announcement has been made about the future of these shows.

With the cancelation of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, the only CDIs taking place in the Wellington, Fla., area for 2014 will be at the Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Seven CDIs are provisionally scheduled there from January through April.

“Plans for 2014 are on hold at present, and we are considering options for 2015,” McPhail said. “But the Palm Beach Dressage Derby will be back!”

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