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Will Wellington's upcoming equestrian season have unbridled success?

Officials send 40-page plan to county
Posted at 3:50 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 18:33:28-05

WELLINGTON, Fla — The coronavirus pandemic is not stopping the upcoming winter equestrian season in Wellington, but there will be tight restrictions.

So, what's being done as people from across the globe come here to Palm Beach County?

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A dressage competition occurred this past weekend in Wellington, but no spectators could attend the events.

"We're optimistic that we can make this work, but you know at the end of the day it's going to be down to people abiding by the rules and not creating an outbreak," said Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sports Productions.

Michael Stone
Michael Stone of Equestrian Sports Productions says they will need cooperation from everybody to ensure safety during this year's season of events.

Stone has been planning for the upcoming season for months, submitting a 40-page plan of guidelines to Wellington and Palm Beach County officials.

"Unfortunately, we will not have spectators unless something changes in the system because we just can afford to take the risk of shutting the whole thing down," Stone said.

The plan's rules include masks for everyone except riders during competitions, distance rules for support staff and creating several so-called bubbles.

"We're trying to keep each barn in a group that they come in, in their bubble, and then everybody is 6 feet apart. The other advantage we have is we’re outdoors all the time," Stone said.

40-page equestrian plan
A 40-page plan of guidelines was submitted by equestrian officials to Wellington and Palm Beach County officials.

He said following the rules is vital to keep the competition going, some of which are connected to the Olympics next year.

But the rules are also important to ensuring health and safety in Wellington and across Palm Beach County, where thousands of people will come from around the world.

Stone said Europeans must get a waiver to enter the U.S.

"At the moment, Europeans can’t come into the U.S., but because of the waiver that we've worked on, they're going to get permission to come in now," he said.

Stone points out the sport doesn't rely on gate receipts from spectators, and they are working to livestream events on the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center website.

"So far, everyone I feel is being very conscientious and very careful wearing masks," said Amy Swerdlin, a dressage rider from Wellington. "Obviously, if you're making a mistake, someone is going to point it out to you right away because there is security everywhere."

It's estimated as many as 7,000 to 8,000 people a week are needed in Wellington for the competitions, which will reach their height of activity by early January.