WELLINGTON, FL. This small city in Palm Beach County has long been associated with the equestrian lifestyle and equestrian sports like hunting/jumping, dressage, and polo. 2012 is the 33rd year for Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival.

In 2006, businessmen Mark Bellissimo, Dennis Dammerman and Roger Smith—and their wives—formed a partnership to transform Wellington into the premier equestrian community in the world, where both horse owners and spectators can enjoy equine sports. Later, the partnership was expanded to include 20 families, who so far have invested more than $200 million. (An antigrowth group has emerged to oppose this ambitious vision.)

Outside the 500-acre showgrounds, the Wellington community is dotted with small horse farms and impressive-looking residential areas. The International Polo Club is nearby, where polo matches are held from early January through late April.

The Breeders’ Cup can only wish that it could attract the international participation that the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington does. The three-month event—January through March–typically draws more than 5,000 horses and 2,800 riders from 49 states and 30 countries. When one walks around the well-kept grounds, you can hear a potpourri of languages and see the flags of diverse nations on display in the multiple show arenas and at the barns.

Vendors in tents and buildings offer a variety of clothing, food, and horse accessories.

Another area in which the Wellington events excel is in attracting corporate sponsors, with a vast number and array of companies represented.

Horse-racing leaders like Will Farish and the aforementioned Dammerman are involved with the Wellington equestrian scene. Moreover, some of the most prominent trainers in Thoroughbred racing got their start with horses and events like those on display in Wellington. For example, Roger Attfield, James Day, Rodney Jenkins, and Michael Matz were once exceptional riders of jumpers and C. V. Whitney and Farish were accomplished polo players.

If you are in South Florida, a trip to Wellington is well worth the trip. Consult these websites for the calendar of events and information for visitors: Equestrian Sports Productions and International Polo Club Palm Beach.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business