Names such as Ariana Rockefeller and Jessica Springsteen descended last week on Wellington, Fla., a small community of about 60,000, west of Palm Beach, that’s transformed into a playground for the rich every year when the horsey set arrives to compete in the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival.
Hermès, the new title sponsor of the Under 25 Grand Prix Series 2018, a bridge between junior- and professional-level equestrians, attracted equestrian star power with U25 participants Caitlyn Connors, Chloe Reid and Paige Bellissimo, and brand partners such as Nick Dello Joio, Ben Asselin and Daniel Bluman.
Riders weren’t deterred from their morning warm-ups at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on Jan. 9 despite ominous clouds that stretched from the ocean to the Everglades. Nor was the weather a match for Hermès, which in addition to sponsoring the Under 25 Series, opened a cozy lounge for the nearly 75 young riders and unveiled a pop-up shop at the center.
“I’m going right into competition with a bang,” said Connors, as her Belgian horse, Blue, who was exhausted, surrendered to an Hermès saddle-fitting demo. “He just finished a three-day clinic.”
Connors, a 17-year-old Pennsylvania native, became the youngest Under 25 rider when she joined the group two years ago. Unlike most of her competition, which learned to walk in Wellington and shows up every season with as much personal staff as the entourage for their horses, she said she comes from a humble background and gets her hands dirty in the barn.