Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Winter" Season in Florida

While many parts of the country are weathering spring storms and waiting for mud to vacate, the winter show circuits are in full swing in Florida. Well, winter according to the calendar anyways; you’ll be hard pressed to find a shaggy coat or heavy turnout anywhere in sight so I’ll use the term loosely. I was lucky enough to pack up the sunscreen, leave the snow behind myself and spend some time spectating and catching up with our national ambassadors.

First stop was Wellington and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Our show jumpers keep pretty full schedules throughout their stints there. I stopped by to watch the Thursday grand prix class and see Beezie Madden, Laura Kraut and Todd Minikus in action. It was a big class with 86 entries and a 28 pair jumpoff. There were dozens of international riders also in the class and several Olympians that competed in London last year; as usual the competition in Wellington never disappoints. The jumpoff was chalk full of talent and blistering paces and while we didn’t come away with a Team Purina win, Laura and Cedric held their own with a very respectable fifth place finish from a clear round in 31.468 seconds.

Following the Thursday class, we headed over to the International Polo Club grounds to watch a slightly different but nonetheless very demanding type of competition. The 26 goal semi final was my first polo match (ever) so I had a lot of questions and luckily our resident Sales Specialist, Shiela Conde was there to help me understand everything from the scoring and rules of the game to how the horses are prepped and changed out. It was amazing to watch these horses thunder down the field, stop, turn and take off again. We talk a lot about having enough fuel in the tank for performance horses and the polo fields are veritable proving grounds for a quality feed program.

Saturday I made a trip over to the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center to watch Chris on Douglas Hilltop win his Grand Prix class with a 68.298%. Chris and Witness Hilltop turn in a lovely 66.842% for a first place in the Intermediaire 2 class the day before. Silva Martin was also there in full force showing 4 horses and wrapped the day with two scores north of 73% and three top finishes.

We stuck around throughout the day to get set up for an evening of dressage for a cause. Purina was once again a very proud sponsor of the Challenge of the Americas benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The evening is comprised of silent and live auctions, two team quadrilles, two Pas de Deux exhibitions and an entertaining bridleless reining performance. All the performances were choreographed to custom music combinations and matching costumes. While Team Purina USA was edged out by an impressive International Team, everyone had a blast. We were even treated to a performance by Olympians Debbie McDonald and Mason Phelps – not something you get to see every day!

By Sunday morning I was a few hours north in Ocala for the $50,000 Purina Animal Nutrition Grand Prix. The weather was perfect and the competition solid yet again. We sampled our new Hydration Hay to some of the competitors there for the HITS series then took to the grand prix ring for the main event. Six from the class made it to the jumpoff but Lisa Goldman’s lone double clear effort earned her the first place finish on Centurion B.

It’s easy to see the appeal of competing in Florida for the winter and I am always impressed at the quality of competition and events throughout the season. Plus it’s a nice little retreat to the southern climates for us cold weather residents. Regardless, horse people don’t know an offseason, which means we at Purina don’t know an offseason. We’re proud to be a part of our customers’ and clients successes regardless of location, time of year, in the snow or in the sun.  
I’m back to my Colorado reality this week and back to muck boots and winter coats (human and equine) but it’s nice to get a little preview of what’s to come this spring and summer for the rest of us!

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