What are they up to now, those crazy show organizers? Thursday I received a press release announcing that stalls at the new Global Dressage Festival facility will be available to rent through the off season. I haven’t yet heard if that’s even legal, since I was under the impression the permit for the new show digs was applied for as just that, not a long term boarding facility. Not that any arguments about heavy traffic would have a leg to stand on, since Wellington is a relative ghost town during heat and hurricane season. Interesting to note that the press release came not from the same source as the GDF press releases, but from ESP’s main PR engine – almost as if someone didn’t want to draw attention from unwanted quarters (such as residents on the west side of Polo Island). You know, this gang has far too many acronyms: WEF, WEP, ESP, PBIEC, GDF. They’re a bit like aliases, aren’t they? Equestrian Village won’t get its initials until it exists, I suppose.
It’s obvious even to an Airedale that the purpose of renting the stalls at the GDF venue is to pay some of the bills of constructing and maintaining the place, especially now that the Welly town council is populated with a majority that is not keen on the hotel and retail side of the development. Whether you think those council members are genuinely concerned citizens who believe the commercial development threatens Wellington as an equestrian haven, or whether you believe they are just mouth pieces – puppets if you will – for the personal interests of one very rich Pierson Rd family, this much is true: the commercial development, which was intended to pay for the show grounds, is now in serious jeopardy. At $1000 per month for a dry stall (I know this is the going rate during circuit in Welly, but the price tag comes close to that of renting the same sized space in a Tokyo apartment building), ESP or whichever acronym applies when they go to the bank stands to earn $100,000 per month if they can manage to fill all 100 stalls. The press release makes the place sound like a summer paradise but as a horse owner I would not fancy the prospect of months with no turn out of any kind. I also recently visited the private farm of a year round resident in Loxahatchee who has completely mosquito screened her barn because the mosquitoes are so bad in the summer months. I suppose it’s possible they spray for them more aggressively in Welly than in the ‘sticks’ of Loxahatchee. But holing up long term in a place laid out for competitions would truly seem like a show season that never ends.
And on the topic of endless show circuits, I received another press release this morning that excitedly announces a five week WEF extension to begin as soon as the main 12 week circuit ends next week. I can’t give you a link to that press release because it is not yet on ESP’s site. Two weeks ago I attended a rather quiet and lacking-in-controversy meeting of the USEF and USHJA. For lack of more juicy material, it turned into a bit of a WEF bashing. George Morris condemned today’s hunter divisions as breeding grounds for mediocrity, and David O’Connor, who chaired the meeting, confessed that while the international ring at WEF was first rate, he could not bring himself to venture back to the many other rings because he couldn’t stand to witness what was going on in them. Missy Clark then jumped in with a complaint about the relentlessness of the 12 week WEF circuit. “Nobody can live with this frantic pace day after day, week after week, this chaos” she said. Missy recommended that the circuit put in a week break after each three weeks of shows. “It’s out of control,” she said before adding that if people had a little time off now and again they would be more inclined to “forgive little details” from the show management. Michael Stone was the voice of WEF at the meeting and he had two things to say in response: he encouraged people to bring up their concerns with Mark Bellissimo, and he confessed that he too would love a week off. It doesn’t look like many people complained to Mark. Michael not only won’t get that week off, the circuit just got five weeks longer – though it would be negligent of me to fail to mention that there is one small mercy in the form of a week’s break slotted in between the third and fourth weeks of this latest WEF appendage. The new series does not technically qualify as a ‘winter’ circuit because the only place it’s still winter in April is the Arctic, so I would like to propose a new acronym for it: IYADYC (the ‘if you aren’t dead yet circuit’).