Friday, Apr. 12, 2024

The Winter Circuits Offer Something For Everyone

In Megan Martin’s article, “From Panthers To Ponies—The Evolution Of The Winter Equestrian Festival” (p. 12), she details the evolution of the country’s largest and oldest winter circuit.  I’m sure that when Gene Mische and William Ylvisaker looked out over that vacant field in Wellington, Fla., in 1978, they had no inkling what winter would be like for horse shows 30 years later.
   

PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

In Megan Martin’s article, “From Panthers To Ponies—The Evolution Of The Winter Equestrian Festival” (p. 12), she details the evolution of the country’s largest and oldest winter circuit.  I’m sure that when Gene Mische and William Ylvisaker looked out over that vacant field in Wellington, Fla., in 1978, they had no inkling what winter would be like for horse shows 30 years later.
   
In three decades, not only has the WEF grown exponentially, but five other thriving winter circuit locations have also joined the mix. Horse Shows In The Sun Inc., runs the Ocala Winter Circuit (Fla.), the Arizona Winter Circuit and the Thermal Desert Circuit (Calif.). Classic Company oversees the Jacksonville Winter (Fla.) series and Gulfport Winter (Miss.) circuit. Each winter, thousands of horses and people migrate to warmer climes to show at these venues.
   
The winter shows have become such an integral part of the year’s schedule that it’s easy to forget how recent their inception was. Just 35 years ago, a rare few ventured south to Florida for a few shows in the dead of winter. Now, the mass migration begins in November and frequently lasts until March. I’d venture to guess that many horses on the show circuit today have never seen snow.
   
Each circuit has it’s own style and flavor. Geographic location certainly is a priority when choosing a winter circuit destination, but budget, divisions offered, and show atmosphere also play a part.
   
Do you want the hustle and bustle of WEF’s 13 rings over two show grounds? Or perhaps the more laid-back schedule of Gulfport? Some winter circuit perennials occasionally decide to make a change and travel to a new venue for the year. HITS Thermal Desert Circuit regular Peter Pletcher is showing at WEF this year, while McLain Ward, a familiar face at WEF for decades, has claimed he will travel to Thermal for a few weeks this season.
   
Each of the six winter circuits in sunnier, warmer zones has much to offer riders. Whether you’re a grand prix rider looking to earn World Cup-qualifying points, a hunter professional with exciting prospects to sell, an equitation rider starting your last junior year, or a pony rider getting a start on qualifying for Pony Finals and indoors, in the sun is where you want to be, even if it’s just for a week or two.
   
Since all of the circuits run for multiple weeks—in some cases, months—many participants treat them as homes away from home. Whether they buy farms in the area surrounding their preferred shows, rent houses, or set up shop in a mobile home, they settle in for the long haul. In the process, they provide a welcome boost to the local economies, from hotels and restaurants to dry cleaners and grocery stores. Show grounds themselves have become busy little mini-cities, with shops, food vendors, and even laundry services.
   
If you’re lucky enough to be able to shed your gloves and down jacket and head for a winter circuit, take a quick moment to think about how it all began—with some scrub land and a vision.
   
Molly Sorge, Assistant Editor

ADVERTISEMENT

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse