By Chris Gould / CWHBA
Photos: Victoria Denmore
During the harshest part of the winter, many Canadian equestrians travel south of the border to Florida, California, and Arizona for the winter circuits. This is of course normal for our elite athletes who must stay on top of their game year round, but it is also an option chosen by many amateur competitors and their coaches.
Canadian breeders and Canadian-bred horses are no exception. Whether it’s hunters and jumpers, dressage, or three-day eventing, there are venues catering to all disciplines.
Florida has three major venues: World Equestrian Festival (WEF) at Wellington, HITS at Ocala and the newly opened World Equestrian Center (WEC). The Arizona Winter Circuit in Tuscon, and the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, California, round out the major facilities that run shows from as early as December all the way to late March. Eventers congregate in Florida as well; where weekly events are offered at various locations such as the Florida Horse Park. Although the mainstay is jumpers and hunters, most of the facilities also accommodate a series of dressage shows.
Aside from escaping the coldest part of the Canadian winter, these shows provide ideal conditions for developing young horses and riders. As eventing coach and former Olympian, Sandra Donnelly commented, “If you want to be good, you have to go where the competition is.” She should know having spent many winters in Florida preparing her Olympic mount Buenos Airies (Bajazzo x Arkansas) for the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong.
This year she focused on coaching and with 17 horses and several clients she was kept busy from early January until mid April. One such horse was Imastar (Irco Mena x Gervantis II), owned and bred by Sandra and ridden by Becky Staden.
This winter, Beda Wachter and Lynne Stephenson of Wachter horses also made the trek to WEC at Ocala, Florida with their horses and clients. CWHBA stallion WH Luciano (Leader x Corrado II) had a very successful season in the Grand Prix ring with consistent placings in the top ten, while his daughter WH Lovebug (WH Luciano x Avanti III) excelled in the five-year-old jumper division. They also campaigned Janine Olsen's licensed stallion TW Voltage (Centim x Metall) in the hunter ring where he garnered several placings.
In Tucson, at the Arizona Winter Circuit, Lorrie Jamieson, always fast, bested the field in the $24,500 Grand Prix on her own Canadian Warmblood, Hooz Da Kat (Zeno x Tempranillo), bred by Klondike Victory Farm. She and her clients on Canadian Warmboods were dominant in many classes. Hiroko (Tacorde x Burggraaf), under Taylor Vick, took two firsts in 1m10 and 1m30 classes.
These are just a few of the many people and horses that migrate south for part of the winter. These shows have become a mainstay for the industry, attracting top international riders from all parts of the world and are providing a real showcase opportunity for Canadian Warmbloods.