Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 5
The $75,000 Asheville Regional Airport Wellington Eventing Showcase boasts a myriad of changes in its second year—a $25,000 purse boost, a special $10,000 groom’s award and an increase in international entries, among others—but the biggest change comes on the cross country course.
“It feels bigger this year,” Buck Davison said. “It feels better this year.”
Course designer Mark Philips, who has put together tracks at the Burghley CCI**** (England), the European Championships and the Pan American Games, among numerous other events, installed a new and intriguing element to the route riders will take Saturday afternoon at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium. The competitors will ride through the facility’s VIP tent and navigate a drop from the derby field to the sand arena typically used for dressage competition, getting up close and personal with fans along the way.
“It’s cool for the spectators to see the horses up close, especially at the end of the course, to see the power and the breathing, the sweat and the excitement of it,” Davidson said.
“Hopefully they won’t get too much sweat or dirt on them,” Phillip Dutton added.
Phillips designed a gap in the tent, and the chute-like pathway is lined with sand footing, brush and fencing to create some separation, but fans can get within feet of the riders on both sides of the barriers as the competitors gallop through the pavilion.
“I think it’s a great addition for the crowd to be able to feel like they’re right there,” Lynn Symansky said. “For the sport, I think it’s perfect, but for some of our horses, it might not be the easiest thing to do. But being right at the end, I don’t think it’s going to be too damaging to anybody.”
“My horses should be good,” said Dutton, who is competing both Fernhill Cubalawn and Fernhill Fugitive, his 2015 Pan American Games (Toronto) team gold medal partner. “They’re both experienced now. It’s their first run of the year, but they should be able to handle it okay.”
Davidson will also have to navigate the obstacle twice. He brought long-time partner Ballynoe Castle RM (“Reggie”) as well as the 10-year-old Carlevo, who jumped his first CIC* in 2015, to the event.
“I don’t know how my horses will handle it,” Davidson said. “Carlevo is pretty green, but Reggie has been around forever, and he’s never been through a tent. I don’t think they’re going to take much notice of it. It’s all an unknown for all of us, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
The obstacle should provide combinations with a challenging and largely unfamiliar element in many of their first outings of the year, but it should serve them well as they prepare for CCI*** and CCI**** competition later this spring.
“That’s why I came here,” said Symansky, who brought her World Equestrian Games partner Donner from her base in Middleburg (Va.) to compete. “I think it’s a great way for our sport to be seen and to grow, and personally it’s great for my horse to get in this kind of atmosphere, a kind that we’re hopefully going to be seeing a lot more of as the year goes on and everyone gears toward the Olympics. It’s a great way to set the tone early in the season.”
You can find all the information you need about the $75,000 Asheville Regional Airport Wellington Eventing Showcase—including links to the live streaming—here. On Feb. 6, show jumping starts at 10:30 a.m., and cross-country starts at 1:00 p.m.
Here’s the map of the whole cross-country course: