WELLINGTON, FL (WFLX) - The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival is in full swing with the kickoff of Saturday Night Lights with the Nespresso Battle of the Sexes.
More than 3,500 fans made their way to Wellington's Palm Beach International Equestrian Center to see if the women could hold off the men for the fifth year in a row.
The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center has been in Wellington for years and attracting athletes from around the globe since its establishment.
Now, thanks to Equestrian Sport Productions' CEO Mark Bellissimo, the entire community is participating. "It's a reasonably priced event. For $20, you get parking, and you get to come in and enjoy everything we have to offer with street performers, live band, the carnival rides."
Bellissimo, with some help from his own family, created Saturday Night Lights to break the status quo that this isn't just for equestrians. "A lot of people in Wellington and in this community have never even known where the horse show was. It's been going on for 35 years, and it's never been at this level as it's grown ever year," said Bellissimo's wife, Katherine. "But it's something that's a jewel, and something that makes Wellington special and Palm Beach. It's something that everyone should get to enjoy and feel like they're a part of and proud of."
Gretchen has watched the evolution on the show grounds for the past decade. "It's involved into a destination, a place not only for people to compete but to have fun. Families come, private people come, and it's spectacular what they've done. There's a daylight and a nightlife."
From the Gallery, their South Beach-style nightclub, to shopping along Vender's Row to a full carnival for the kids -- everyone was having a blast.
The equestrians also love the energy the night brings. "How great that it involves the community? It gets everyone to come out and see the horses, and enjoy what's going on and enjoy the sport," said one of the athletes.
The next stars of Saturday Night Lights are eagerly awaiting their turn in the ring. "This is what I hope to do someday," said Hannah. "I love riding. It's my life. This is what I want to do."
But watching the Nespresso Battle of the Sexes competition has left me one pressing question: "How do you get a horse to jump so high?"
Miriam, a trainer all the way from Germany, shed some light on my inquiry. "If you think of a dog doing agility, they have a lot of fun doing it, and it's the same with horses. Actually, when they like to jump, they love to jump, and they cannot wait to get to that jump. So they decide."
Once again, it was the ladies horses deciding they were going to jump higher than the men as they took home the win.
Catch us back on our Red Carpet February 16, but, of course, you can enjoy Saturday Night Lights every Saturday at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
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