The most telling indicator of a healthy, booming economy can be summed up in one word: competition.

Competition begets free choice. Competition opens the door for incentives and quality improvements, and gives consumers the power to support the product that works best for them.

No, this isn’t Economics 101. What we’re actually talking about here are horse shows in Wellington, FL. Earlier this week at the North American Riders Group annual meeting, it was revealed that NARG, which has been lobbying USEF for changes to the mileage rule for the last five years, has finally made some headway. NARG isn’t the only group that wishes to eliminate the mileage rule, which limits one A-rated show per 250-mile area, but it’s one of the most vocal, and most credible.

In a room packed with the big names and big decision makers in the sport, it was announced that USEF is voting to allow an exception from the mileage rule, in which the seventh week of a multi-week show will lose its date protection for a seven-day period.

That, in addition to a new rule that gives a five star rated show an exception from the mileage rule, would bring big change to Wellington, where the biggest show in town is the number-one beneficiary of the mileage rule.

Let’s back up a little. The mileage rule was initially established by USEF based on a national average of 400 horses that an A-rated horse show attracts. That’s taking into account all A-rated horse shows around the country, big and small. In a 250-mile radius area with only 400 competing horses, the benefits of the mileage rule can be strongly argued for.

This Is Now
But that was then. Not even USEF anticipated the behemoth that would grow to become the Winter Equestrian Festival at WEF. On any given week during WEF’s 12-week long marathon show circuit, over 4,000 horses compete in that A-rated horse show. That’s 10 times the number upon which the mileage rule was built upon.

It doesn’t take much to see that this “seventh week” rule, as we’ll call it, is squarely aimed at the Winter Equestrian Festival and Equestrian Sport Productions, the operator of WEF. There is no other multi-week show series in the United States (or North America, or world, when you think about it), which attracts such an intense pilgrimage of horses and riders to one area for so many months per year. The population of competing horses located within or near the village of Wellington, in far less than a 250-mile radius, has grown to the point of over saturation.

WEFThere is only one WEF

Is this a bad thing? Well no, not when those competing horses and riders are given a choice in where to compete. And not when there are so many horses and riders that demand is enough to support a second show.

Enter The Ridge
For the last several years, The Ridge at Wellington has quietly been providing its own horse show product. A clause in the mileage rule allows for exemption of Jumper Level II horse shows offering under $25,000 in prize money, which allows the USEF-sanctioned Ridge Turf Tour 1.45m Grand Prix Series to operate right in Wellington. By initially only holding Level II jumpers, and adding a second, developing-horse ring this year, The Turf Series has shown that it’s capable of growing more and becoming that second FEI show in Wellington. Currently, it’s filling the demand for a show that is less expensive, less crowded, and more relaxed than WEF.

George D’Ambrosio, co-founder of The Ridge Turf Tour, makes no bones about his intent to step right through the open door that the seventh week rule would create if it were passed by USEF. Check back with us on Monday for an exclusive interview with D’Ambrosio about what the positive growth in the winter equestrian capital of the world means for riders in Wellington, and how the seventh week rule could change the hunter/jumper industry in South Florida.

Comment here or email USEF President Chrystine Tauber ([email protected]) with your thoughts on the seventh week rule. USEF hasn’t yet voted on this new rule – your opinion could make a difference.