The History of the equestrian industry in Wellington began when polo arrived in 1977, with William “Bill” Ylvisaker acquiring several undeveloped parcels of land and founding Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. Within a decade, Wellington became an international equestrian destination, hosting the coveted Polo World Cup. Wellington soon attracted other disciplines and became home to the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and the Olympic Jumping Team Qualifying Trials. Today, there are more than 600 farms serving a variety of equestrian disciplines including polo, hunter/jumper, dressage, and recreational riding. Now there are nearly 10,000 horses competing throughout the season in these disciplines, with kids as young as two years old participating in the leadline, to professionals and amateurs over 70 years old participating in the jumpers, hunters, equitation, dressage, and polo.
The Winter Equestrian Festival horse show, the International Polo Club (IPC) tournament series, and the Global Dressage Festival take place every year from January to April and have been the longest equestrian events of their kind for several years running. On the line is over $13 million in prize money at WEF and Global alone, attracting riders from 35 countries and all 50 states. As the equestrian community has grown over the years, it has turned Wellington into a winter oasis for the those who come to compete, socialize, and bask in the warm weather of the Palm Beaches. But while the human amenities are nothing to scoff at, the real luxuries are reserved for the horses. Quest met with several families that compete at the highest levels and call Florida home.
Arriana Boardman is one of the leading adult amateur riders on the hunter/jumper circuit and her daughter, Olympia, a current fifth grader at Palm Beach Day Academy, has been rising in the ranks as a competitive pony rider at several shows throughout the country, including The Hampton Classic, Lake Placid, and the Winter Equestrian Festival.
Cara and Donald Cheska are professional riders and trainers with enormous success on both the national and international level. In addition, they have developed some of the best riders and horses in the industry and are widely known for their horsemanship skills in training, developing and selling. Major wins for Cara include a gold medal in the Prix de States, top five finishings in both the Maclay and USET Talent Search Finals, Two-time Circuit Champion at the Winter Equestrian Festival, and 2006 AGA Rookie of the Year. Donald holds over 50 career Grand Prix wins, including a gold medal in the Pan American Games, a second-place finish in the World Cup Finals, and is a member of the Million Dollar Club in career winnings. Their 14-year-old daughter, Chapin, has already had an illustrious career with a win in the Longines Global Championship, multiple championships in the children’s jumper, hunter, and equitation divisions and top results participating at the USEF Pony Finals.
Linda Soper grew up in a family involved with showing, foxhunting, polo, and racing and met Jared while he was playing polo in Wellington. Their daughter Annie is a successful junior rider in the hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions securing championships throughout Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, and New York while training full time with the Cheska family. Her twin, Harrison, enjoys being around the horses but prefers to ride western when spending summers in Montana.
Courtney Boyd began her riding career when she was just seven years old and has a historied career as a professional equestrian developing riders from lead-line to the National Grand Prix level. Courtney rode on the Intercollegiate Riding team for Skidmore College and as captain, led the team to multiple national championships. It was at Skidmore where she met her husband, Rob, and together they have enjoyed the creation of their farm Court Lin Frae Stables. Career highlights include three-time United States Equestrian Federation National Jumper Champion, competing in all major equitation finals, championships at the Devon Horse Show, Washington International Horse Show and the American Gold Cup, Team Gold Medal and Individual Bronze at the ’93 and ’92 Olympic Festivals, and numerous wins and placings at the National Grand Prix level and in the hunter divisions. Courtney and Rob have a daughter, Brooks, who is 10 years old and shows in the Large Pony Division on her mare, Blue A Kiss.
Annabelle Gundlach is the owner of Postage Stamp Farm and patron of one of the leading high goal polo teams in the country. This past year they won the coveted East Coast Open and have won numerous tournaments throughout the country as well as competing in several high goal tournaments, including the U.S. Open Polo Championships. Annabelle’s daughters (Stephanie Garrett pictured here) are successful riders in both the jumper and hunter divisions with multiple wins up and down the east coast. As a family, they split their time between New York and Florida and compete all year round in both disciplines.
Horses were a passion for Caroline Lloyd-Roman from the start and she has instilled the love of horses on to her children as they move up the ranks in the pony division. Aged 5 to 11, Caroline’s children—Isabella, Francesca, Victoria, and Ian—have had wonderful success showing from the leadline (Luca was champion at the Hampton Classic two years in a row!) through the Large Pony Hunter divisions with the hopes to show at this year’s renowned Devon Horse Show next month. After getting her children riding comfortably, Caroline is now back in the saddle and showing in the Amateur Owner Hunters and Adult Jumpers.