While doing a photo essay for LIFE magazine about Palm Beach in 1985, I was told about a nearby place called Wellington, with world-class polo fields and equestrian grounds, and that if I liked horses, this was the place to see.
My curiosity was peaked, as I thought there might be good photographs to be taken there. My colleague from LIFE—the accomplished writer Margot Dougherty—and I drove west, past cows grazing in huge fields, past a wooden shack on the side of the road where fresh-squeezed orange juice was being sold, until we came to a beautifully manicured, gated community called Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club. We entered the compound of winding roads and large houses, and decided to stay for a day or two.
True enough, there was a myriad of interesting people in Wellington. I photographed, among others, Zsa Zsa Gabor in a green faille ball gown atop a horse on the polo grounds. The horse was led by Ambassador Averell Harriman’s grandson.
Wellington, I have been told, was originally the world’s largest strawberry patch owned by Charles Wellington—but since I wasn’t there at the time, you’ll have to take this information as fairly accurate secondhand knowledge. I have also learned that about 30 years ago, Bill Ylvisaker, a visionary and fine polo player from Chicago who was then president of Gould Inc., thought Wellington would be a great place for polo. The weather was perfect, and there was plenty of flat land just 13 miles from Palm Beach. He bought the land and the “P.B. Polo Club” was born.
Today, the cows in the fields and the fresh-squeezed orange juice stand are gone, replaced by several large gated housing compounds and the Wellington Mall, complete with a Whole Foods store.
From January through March, there is no doubt that Wellington is the horse capital of the world for polo, dressage, and show jumping. The Winter Equestrian Festival draws top riders from all over the world to compete in world class competitions.
Yet, the most important part of the story from my perspective, from the wonderful difference in the weather to the two-hour flight from New York City, is that Gigi and I bought a house in the P.B. Polo Club which looks out over a wooded Florida State Bird Sanctuary. Today, 15 years later, we are more pleased than ever that we did.