Center of equestrian America

Just west of West Palm Beach, Florida, is a village that is not technically a village at all but an area that is the center of the American equestrian world.

Wellington — named for aviator Charles Oliver Wellington, who founded it after purchasing 18,000 of its swampy, strawberry-dotted acres in the 1950s — was a traditional suburb for much of its life. Since the 1970s, however, it has become the place to be for equestrian sports in the United States, particularly in the winter.

“It’s the epicenter for polo in the U.S.,” says Mariana Castro, marketing director for Greenwich Polo Club. From January to April, the White Birch team, whose patrón is Greenwich Polo Club founder Peter Brant, plays at the International Polo Club Palm Beach against other high-goal teams with equally vivid names like Mōdere, Postage Stamp, Tonkawa, Travieso and Valiente. (Their Sunday matches are open to the public, but if you haven’t had a chance to get down there this season, some of the same teams and players will be in action this spring and summer at Greenwich Polo. See related story.)

Players and patróns own or rent lavish properties on hundreds of fields of flatlands in Wellington, Castro says. Properties like Windsome Farms on Indian Mound Road, whose $25 million price tag buys 80 acres of lush landscaping and placid lakes along with an H-shaped “barn” that has everything from 26 stalls to owners’ and players’ lounges to two apartments with balcony views.

But Wellington is about more than polo. “It’s the winter equestrian capital of the U.S., yes, but really of the world,” says Olympic silver medalist Lucy Davis, the new trainer at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, home of the Spring Horse Shows and September’s American Gold Cup. (See related story.) “Every year (Wellington) gets bigger and better,” she says, referring not only to the Winter Equestrian Festival, a 12-week event that is billed as the largest, longest-running equestrian competition in the world with dozens of horse shows and competitions at the 160-acre Palm Beach International Equestrian Center; but also to the two-year-old Palm Beach Masters series of competitions at Deeridge Farms. For Davis — who took silver in the team jumping competition at the Summer Games in Rio de Janiero — Wellington is a time to “compete in international classes with young horses. 

“It’s also a nice opportunity to stay in one place for as many as three months as we’re always moving around,” she adds.

And that means lots of socializing. Brunches, cocktail parties and corporate events often benefit local and international charities. Among them is the annual Sunset Polo & White Party, hosted at The Wanderers Club last month by polo star Nic Roldan, WAG’s January 2017 cover guy. Last year, the event drew more than 1,000 guests and raised more than $500,000 to benefit Brooke USA, which helps working equines and the people who rely on them in disadvantaged countries. Meanwhile, a benefit for the Equus Foundation — which serves more than 1,000 equine charities and works to strengthen the bond between horses and people with special needs — drew the likes of equestrians Georgina Bloomberg (former WAG cover subject) and Jessica Springsteen as well as TV “Bachelors” Prince Lorenzo Borghese and Ryan Beckett to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in February for a night of cocktails, buffet, a silent auction and a grand prix competition.

But then, Wellington is the kind of feel-good place that let’s you do good as well.

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