By: Sara Warden
2 min read January 2020 — Horses are big business in Florida, which boasts the third-highest horse population nationwide behind only Texas and California. The state is home to half a million horses and the horse-riding industry pulls in an estimated $6.5 billion annually.
This week, Palm Beach County welcomes the Winter Equestrian Festival – 12 weeks of elite competition ending on March 29. The contest attracts a diverse set, aged between 2 and 70, among them some of the most talented Olympians, adult amateurs, juniors and children from 52 countries. But many of these competitors have something in common: deep pockets.
The show-jumping prizes are often lucrative, and the Winter Equestrian Festival will award millions of dollars in total purse money to victors. But this is partly a reflection on the initial outlay to participate. “Only the wealthiest of families can afford to break into the sport. Today, prized horses can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost of maintaining a horse can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars a month,” according to Business Insider.
The Equestrian Festival is not the only sporting event Palm Beach residents can look forward to this year. Coinciding with the festival is the Palm Beach International Polo Season, held at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Although a typically exclusive sport, this festival offers fun for all budgets, with tickets starting at just $10. Also on offer for those who want to splash out are Champagne brunches, ride simulators and introductory lessons starting at $100 each.
Palm Beach County will also welcome another elite sport this month: the Gainbridge Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), with a purse of $2 million. Pro golfers are expected to descend on Palm Beach County to witness the three-day event beginning Jan. 23. “Expect the Olympics, expect to see the best young female golfers at the prime of their career, come from all over the world. We’ll have 29 different countries teeing it up here when we play in January,” Mike Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA told CBS 12 News.
Other sporting events in the first quarter include the start of baseball’s spring training. The World Series champion Washington National’s first spring training game will be against the Houston Astros, the team they faced in the World Series, on Feb. 22. Palm Beach County is proving it is entering the big leagues with this range of heavy-hitting events.
“We’re just trying to put a spotlight on this incredible run of sports that will impact Palm Beach County in so many ways. It’s great entertainment for our local residents in our community to a huge economic and tourism benefit that will be delivered through Palm Beach County through sports,” said George Linley, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, to CBS 12 News.
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