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A City of Horses

Tigger Montague

From November until April, there is no other place in the world that has more horses per square inch than Wellington, Florida.

This year over 15,000 horses called Wellington their winter home. Show grounds stabling this year had 500 horses on a waitlist that couldn’t get stalls.  The revenue generated by the winter equestrian circuit is estimated to put over $220 million dollars into the town of Wellington and Palm Beach County.

Wellington, Florida: A City of Horses

Tent City

It’s not just show hunters, jumpers and dressage horses that make up the equine population in Wellington; polo ponies make up a large contingent of horses in this part of Florida with a circuit that includes the top polo players in the world.

There are two show grounds: WEF for the hunters and jumpers, and Global for the dressage horses.  Global has an outside course that is used for a jumper derby and for the newly created Eventing Showcase format which debuted this year to rave reviews.

Wellington, Florida: A City of Horses

Vendor’s Row

Wellington is a mecca for everything equine.

The show grounds support a colony of retailers near the rings at WEF and Global: tack stores, saddlers, photographers, clothing shops, embroiderers, horse supply mobile units stacked floor to ceiling in supplements and topicals.  WEF also boasts a laundry service on-site for horse laundry.  Off-site there are two large retailers, Tackeria and Dover, as well as three feed stores who deliver weekly and daily.

How about the manure?
Estimates are that 100,000 tons of manure are produced during the winter equestrian circuit. Wellington is very strict about disposal and placement of manure bins. This past fall, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates was fined $40,000 for putting his horse manure bin too close to a nearby pond on his Wellington property.

Pesticides and Herbicides:
Manure run-off into ponds and waterways is not the only problem that the town of Wellington has to deal with. Pesticides and Herbicides are routinely used on lawns, golf courses (there are 10 golf courses in and around Wellington), public spaces and barns. Fertilizers are heavily used on lawns. Sugar cane is grown primarily in Palm Beach County and requires several different herbicides to manage and control insects and endoparasites. Sugar cane harvest is from late October through mid-April. The fields are then burned. That smoke can flow by wind over Wellington and Loxahatchee.

Keeping horses healthy:
With an intense show circuit (shows every week, many of them starting on Tuesdays and ending on Sundays), an environment of little to no turnout, exposure to pesticides and herbicides… managing the health of the horses becomes a challenge.

Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists and Food:
Farriers and vets may seem to be the busiest bees in the Wellington hive, but make no mistake that the supportive therapies of massage, chiropractics and acupuncture play a huge role in keeping the horses healthy. Often horses are treated weekly in acupuncture and or massage. Legs are iced daily. In addition to regular exercise the top barns make sure horses get to walk either on the walker or be hand walked just to support good circulation. Walking horses on different surfaces (grass or asphalt) helps support connective tissue that is routinely trained on soft footing like sand or all weather footing that blends sand with felt and fibers.

Food plays a huge role in the management of stress in these horses. Good quality hay costs upwards of $45.00/bale, and with the lack of pasture or quality grass in paddocks, high quality hay is a necessity. Horses eating whole food in Wellington tend to have fewer GI tract issues or chronic ulcers. This is because whole food does not add more stress to the GI tract.

As one might imagine, there is constant stress in Wellington: environmental, competition, and human stressors; so feeding quality hay and feeding real food makes a huge difference in the overall health and reduced stress of the horses.

Foods for Stress:

  • Alfalfa pellets or cubes:  High calcium to neutralize stomach acid, which is particularly helpful to ulcer prone horses.
  • Chia seeds:  High in omega 3’s to help reduce inflammation.  A high mucilaginous seed, Chia works like psyllium to remove grit and sand from the GI tract.
  • Flax seeds:  High in omega 3’s to help reduce inflammation.
  • Coconut oil/Coconut meal:  Provides support of the immune system due to its high Lauric Acid content.

Other Supportive Foods:

  • Holy Basil:  Balances endocrine system, glandular system, and supports circulation.  Can reduce cortisol.
  • Ashwaganda:  Reduces cortisol, increases seratonin in the brain, helps balance endocrine, glandular and circulatory systems.
  • Probiotics:  Essential for the health of the GI tract and reduces potential imbalances of opportunistic pathogens like E.coli and Candida albicans.
  • Bovine Colostrum:  Supports and balances the immune system.
    Hemp seed Oil: provides GLA, which reduces inflammation in the GI tract.
  • Spirulina:  Provides GLA, supports the beneficial Lactobacillus and Bifidus intestinal micro organisms in the GI tract, supports the thymus gland the master of the immune system. In Russia spirulina is approved to treat radiation sickness.
  • Camelina Oil:  High in omega 3s for reduced inflammation, and high in vitamin E to reduce oxidative stress.

What Wellington teaches me:
Seeing more and more horses on whole food in Wellington and seeing how much better they feel and how much better they can cope with stress reminds me of how crucial real food is.  In some cases, there are profound differences in the horses once their diet is changed: in attitude and well-being, and in performance. There just isn’t a substitute for real food and the correlation with health.

[Featured Image: BioStar sponsored rider Jim Koford competes at Global in Wellington, on Amidala – owned by Gabrielle Hertje of Gordonsville VA]

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