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MIAMI + PALM BEACH

Welcome to the World of Wellington, the home of the Winter Equestrian Festival, or WEF. During the winter season, individual riders from all fifty states, not to mention Olympic and national teams from countless countries convene to chart their animals over jumps, guide them in the distinguished ballet of dressage, or pit them against other champion polo teams. We arrive at the barn each morning in the early hours. The darkness surrounds us, and a cloudy fog hovers low, brushing over the fields and rings. It’s quite cool most mornings, and we don jackets and sweaters to ward off the chill. Well before the sun rises, the adjacent practice rings and muddy pathways are already abuzz, even frenzied, with activity. In the distance, a trainer lunges a horse on a long lead line, guiding him to canter in a circle. His animal’s abundant energy must be warmed up before stepping into a show ring for competition. Inside the stables, horses’ faces peek out of their stalls, waiting to play, train and compete. Grooms first take them out and ready them, bridles, saddles and halters hanging

nearby. They love these animals as we all do, and know their different personalities as well as anyone. Grooms work their own intense schedules, arriving before anyone to feed the animals, and leaving last at the end of the day after turning them out to play in pasture. When the competition nears, riders first zip up their tight boots, put their hair neatly in nets, then helmets, and button their collars. Now, as the sun shines through, heating the fog and then dispersing it, we all shed a few layers. Outside, someone is washing a horse down, a simple task that each time draws me to stare and marvel. The sun’s rays cause subtle rainbows in the water’s mist that spray over his back like a halo. I watch the beautiful beast, his muscles more clearly outlined now, wet and shining in the morning light. Riders saddle their horses, adjusting their girths to the proper tension, pulling their stirrups to just the right length. Finally, they set their knee into a groom’s clasped hands and are launched up and into the saddle. First, they ride their horse over a few jumps to make sure they are in sync, 144

© Elena Lusenti for Wellington: The World of Horses, Assouline, assouline.com

British show jumper Ben Maher

Profile for The Purist

The Purist Spring 2019 Issue