Innovative Footing Surface Installed at PBIEC Ahead of 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival

2019. News PBIEC Renovation International Ring PBIEC

Wellington, Florida, USA – November 7, 2019 – Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) and managing partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), announced today that Equestrian Sport Productions has completed the installation of a newly engineered riding surface in the International Arena and warm up ring at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). This innovative footing mixture resides on an OTTO Sport Base Mat system and will provide a safer and more durable surface for both horse and rider.

PBIEC is one of the premier equestrian venues in the world, hosting 36 weeks of competition throughout the year, including the internationally acclaimed 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) which boasts 11 weeks of FEI Show Jumping competition and 12 weeks of Premier “AA” hunter competition. During the 2019 season alone, more than 51 countries and each of the 50 states were represented throughout the duration of the circuit. WEF is the longest-running and largest horse show in the world. PBIEC exhibitors will compete on the new surface for the first time tomorrow, November 8 at the ESP Fall Series, well ahead of the 2020 WEF season.

“ESP is committed to staying ahead of the technology curve when it comes to footing advancements,” said Bellissimo. “Our partnership is dedicated to providing the best competition environment for both our human and equine athletes.”

In September, ESP assembled a team of five world-class equestrian footing experts. The mission being to design a surface that would protect horse’s joints and minimize tendon damage. The team included Premier Equestrian, Inc., Bart Poels of Poels Equestrian, Bill Hawe of iEquiTek, FEI footing expert Lars Roepstroff, and Travis Gould of JTWG Inc.

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“Horse welfare remains the priority during our 12-week circuit,” stated Michael Stone, President of ESP. “The popularity of the venue gave rise to accelerated wear and tear over the last few years. Based on our review and feedback from the riders, we were in agreement that the surface needed total replacement to meet the caliber of competition that we are hosting. In addition, with the World Cup Finals taking place in the US next April, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics running in August, we expect the world’s best riders to bring their top-level horses to WEF this season to prepare and organize their international teams.”

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The new arena exhibits an innovative drainage system as well as OTTO Sport Base Mats, available exclusively at Premier Equestrian, Inc. These exceptional mats are manufactured from recycled materials and aid water conservation, concussion mitigation, and stability for both the horse and rider, absorbing up to 40% of the energy caused by the foot fall. The state-of-the-art footing surface is a custom blend, which combines specifically-engineered sands and a balance of fibers and textiles from Premier’s ProTex additive. Carefully designed, crafted, and tested on-site, this footing mixture retains moisture and also offers excellent drainage. Finally, the formula was designed to stabilize the sand, providing horses with superior grip, firmness, cushion, and responsiveness.

The installation included hundreds of hours of specialized testing and design iterations to finalize the footing mixture. Data was compiled by Lars Roepstroff and Bart Poels, an FEI-approved footing consultant, during the 2019 season in order to understand the needs of the arena. “I was here for maintenance [of the International Arena] and my team continuously studied the drainage capacities during WEF,” commented Poels. “Due to Florida’s unique climate and the sheer quantity of horses, the ring could not properly drain. We took several samples, iEquiTek tested them, and then eventually came up with this new custom blend of sand and the Premier ProTex additive.”

2019. News PBIEC Renovation Warm-Up Ring PBIEC

The International Arena’s warm up ring received the same installation process and materials.

Bill Hawe from iEquiTek commented, “This arena is now one of the very few in the world which has been completely engineered to meet specific performance and maintenance objectives, from the bottom all the way up to the riding surface.  Every component was part of the systematic data-driven approach. This represents a new era – Data Defined Riding Surfaces – where one designs to performance criteria, rather than waiting to find out the results after install.” Hawe continued, “Using this methodology, along with numerous measurement technologies and database models of other arenas, the team was able to rapidly design, construct, measure, and evaluate more than 11 different custom footing mixes, in addition to a variety of bases, mats and other components, and then select the one which met their specific goals. The data aligned to include the design measurements, database models, test surface measurement, FEI tests, and rider test ride perceptions.”

Further details regarding the resurfacing of the other arenas and additional improvements at PBIEC will be announced over the coming weeks. To learn more about Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) and the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), please visit

Source: Press release from PBIEC – Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

Photos: © PBIEC