It’s Showtime!  Seven CDI competitions in twelve weeks and prize money over $700,000! The Adequan Global Dressage Festival opened the dressage winter season on January 14 with a CDI-W that included 43 horses from 15 countries in the Grand Prix.  Combinations from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Philippines Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden and the USA. The biggest contingents were from the USA and Canada.  This is an Olympic qualification season and riders are here to get qualifying scores and exposure to the best judges from Europe and the Americas as well as exposing their horses to the atmosphere in the stadium at Global.

Ellesse Tzinberg, from the Philippines is here with her horse Pavarotti. “My goal is to get Olympic qualifying points for my region”.  Luis Reteguiz Denizard is also competing for points to qualify as an individual for Puerto Rico which is in Region E.  Canadian riders are competing for the one individual rider spot in Rio. Curiously Equine Canada has not publicly announced the criteria for qualification. Apparently it will be an average from scores gained between Jan 1 and July 3 in CDI 3* or higher competitions. There are no other details available to the press or the public at this time.

The opening CDI –W is the first of seven CDIs to be offered this season at Global.  There will also be a CDI 5*, CDI 3*, CDI 4* and a Nations Cup CDIO. The total prize money…..$750,000!  In the discipline of dressage this is huge and this number of CDI competitions spanning a 12 week period is also unequaled anywhere in the world.

During the lunch hour break for the Grand Prix there was a Q and A for the media. Thomas Baur, the managing organizer for the AGDF and Mark Bellissimo, the CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions (they also run the Winter Equestrian Festival 12 week hunter jumper show) were present to answer questions. One very interesting question to Thomas Baur raised the issue of the Spanish Dressage Federation refusing to accept any scores earned by Spanish riders in Florida competitions. There are two Spanish riders competing in the CDI-W including the young Juan Matute Jr. who is widely seen as the rising Spanish star of dressage.  This is a tough blow for the Spanish riders and Thomas Baur said he was upset with the decision. “The scores are more of less the same as in Europe. This is really a disadvantage for the two Spanish riders and I will touch base with the technical director of the Spanish federation and try to sort it out.” He also pointed out that all of the other European federations are accepting the scores and that many of the judges at AGDF are European. “It shows a lack of respect to them” (the European judges) Baur said. For Baur it is imperative to address this as he would not want any other European federations to follow the Spanish lead in future years.

Mark Bellissimo told the media he feels that the AGDF has “brought a breath of fresh air into dressage in the US.”  I think that most people, riders, sponsors, owners and dressage supporters would agree with him.  The AGDF has really put dressage on the map in North America.

Bellissimo said that $150 million has been invested to develop the show grounds for the AGDF. There are plans to expand further and certainly more permanent stabling is much needed as the numbers of competitors continues to grow each year. Bellissimo said that further investment and expansion is on hold until the local government is more supportive. He hopes that the next elections will bring new leadership and a better climate for investment. This is all part of a long history of fractiousness that nearly stopped the AGDF showground development before it was started five years ago.  But that is too long a story to go into now.

Freestyle Friday Nights under the lights are a highlight of the AGDF competition but this weekend the weather was not very co-operative with torrential rain falling most of the day and classes delayed and moved into the covered arena. So for this Friday the freestyle was moved to Saturday evening. But in better and more normal Florida weather this is a pleasant way to spend an evening seeing the freestyle competitions and perhaps sipping a glass of wine with friends in the stands.

The AGDF sponsors for the first CDI W Fritz and Claudine Kundrun of AMCI Group dedicated the CDI to support for the Brooke USA. Brooke USA is the American affiliate of the Brook, the world’s largest international equine welfare charity. The Brooke works in the poorest countries of the world with mobile vet teams, field clinics and community animal health workers. In these countries one working horse, donkey or mule may be supporting a family of six. This past year the Brook reached 1.8 million working equines and they hope to reach 2 million in 2016. That support helps to support possibly 12 million people who rely on their equines for a living.  In the Wellington horse community where it is often a “lifestyles of the rich and famous” place it is good to know that these sponsors are supporting such a valuable organization as the Brooke. For more information you can visit

So the show season for dressage is off and running. Competition will be in intense and of a very high level; the best horses and the best riders will be taking part. The Olympics is on the horizon. The next CDI will have 55 entries in the Grand Prix!  Showtime!

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