This weekend Axel and I were at one of the most hospitable shows in the country, the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. Hosted by MaryAnn and Walter McPhail, we eat well, socialize continually, and oh by the way, we get to see a great selection of some of the top horses and riders on the east coast.
The social aspects of our trip began the first night, when our dining group included all four of our US “O” (now 5*****) judges and our favorite FEI rep, Eva Salomon. I’d tell you what we all spoke of, but then I’d have to kill you. I can say that we had fabulous food, stimulating conversation and some lovely wine. There was a well attended party and fundraiser hosted by Markel Insurance for the Equestrian Aid Foundation, and I know there were some terrific items in their silent auction. Friday night was the competitors’ party, with lots of great food, drink and music. Everybody was there — Shawna Harding even brought Come On III over for some small talk. He was seen looking longingly into the icy tank containing the bottles of beer, but Shawna reminded him of the FEI’s zero tolerance policy.
Saturday night, the judges, officials and sponsors were treated to an evening at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach by Janne and Stan Rumbough. The Everglades Club is elegant, the level of service is simply unsurpassed, and Janne and Stan’s hospitality is legendary. Did I mention that the martinis were wonderful? Thank you, Janne and Stan, for a wonderful evening.
The theme of the weekend’s competition was “up-and-coming”. There were a number of hugely talented horses that have just moved up a level, whether to the Small Tour or from there to the Grand Prix, or from open competition to the CDI ring. While there might have been “green” mistakes here and there, it was exciting to see those flashes of brilliance that herald bright futures.
As an aside, Axel was deeply touched by the outpouring of support from many of the riders urging him to apply for the US dressage coach position…. You heard it here first!
Now, I was toting my usual huge 300mm 2.8 lens around the Derby most of the weekend, but I was also carrying my watercolors. Okay, so maybe the big lens was a bit of overkill for sketching on paper, or maybe it was just for ballast when the wind would kick up. Regardless, I was enjoying taking a few pictures, then sitting down and exploring clouds, palms striped tents and dressage in paint.
Photo-wise, I was joined at the Derby by Official Photographer Susan Stickle, plusMary Cornelius and Marie Cobb… as well as what seemed to be photographers lurking behind every palm tree. The weather was great, except for Sunday, when we dodged the bullet of that big cold front that dumped snow, ice, rain, etc all over the east coast, but only brought stiff winds to Loxahatchee. I think Michael Barisone and Neruda got the worst of the wind. As Neruda entered for the Grand Prix Freestyle, I watched his tail first swirl in an eddy, then start pointing straight out to leeward in a 30 mph guest: dressage horse as weathervane!
Here are the watercolor sketches that I did on location this weekend. Some of them were sold before the paint even dried, so if you’re interested in purchasing any of these little gems (they’re each about 6″x9″) tell me quickly! They’re $100.00 a piece, with free shipping.