WELLINGTON, Fla. — The village of Wellington is saddling up for an extended equestrian season with another competition set to take place before the Olympics.
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The United States dressage team will now ride through South Florida's summer heat and humidity in June, similar to what riders will see in Tokyo during the Olympics. The team has decided to stay in Wellington instead of a tour in Europe before the games.
"To take the risk of sending the horses and riders all the way over there with the risk somebody gets sick or something goes wrong, that was the first factor, and then there's been an awful outbreak of equine disease over there as well," said Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions.
Now, the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center will host a head-to-head nighttime competition in early June after months of uncertainty, which will extend the season in the village.
"It means that the riders who would normally go north in this time of year almost will now stay in Wellington right through the end of June," Stone said.
The competition will also provide an extra boost to the local economy as businesses try to rebound.
"To have summer equestrian activities it's going to help those local businesses in a big way," said Kevin Shapiro, president of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce.
Shapiro says stores, local restaurants and hotels will benefit and even some rentals have been extended.
"As we start to have more equestrian activities into the summer, it's no longer the winter equestrian capital. It would be great if it were the equestrian capital of the world," Shapiro said.
The United States Equestrian Federation is expected to change its protocols in May, which means the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center will likely be able to have spectators.
The competition is set for June 8-12.