TAMPA — The annual Tampa Equestrian Festival opens today at the Florida State Fairgrounds with events featuring everything from fast and scopey grand prix horses partnered by the nation's top show jumping riders to feisty little ponies and their even smaller young riders.
Gates open at 8 a.m. today through Sunday. Each day has 30 to 70 equestrian competitions. The festival is closed Monday. It reopens at 8 a.m. Tuesday and continues through April 7, culminating in the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium.
Many show jumping riders who last week finished the first round of trials for the London Olympics in July and August are expected to show in Sunday's $50,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, a qualifier for the World Cup finals next month in the Netherlands. Kent Farrington, who won last year's Invitational, placed ninth on the U.S. Olympic long list after last week's trials in Wellington. Longtime crowd favorite Margie Engle was second to 17-year-old newcomer Reed Kessler. McLain Ward, who is recovering from a shattered left kneecap, was given a bye and is eighth and 10th on the list on different horses. Ward, with Beezie Madden, was on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. gold medal Olympic team.
Tampa Equestrian Festival
What: A hunter/jumper horse show circuit featuring riders of all ages and horsemanship levels and their ponies and horses. Visitors can walk among the horses, but give a wide berth to the ones that kick (they'll have red ribbons on their tails.)
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through-Sunday and Tuesday through April 7.
Schedule: Friday — $32,000 Tampa Bay Welcome Stake at 5 p.m. in the covered arena; Sunday — $50,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, 2 p.m. in the covered arena. The event is a qualifier for the final show jumping World Cup, April 18-22 in the Netherlands.
Where: Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N, Tampa.
Directions to fairgrounds: From Tampa or St. Petersburg/Clearwater via Interstate 275 to I-4 eastbound, take Exit 6 for Orient Road and turn right off the ramp. There will be a sign for the fairgrounds entrance immediately on the left. Check in at the security guard gate for entry.
What: The "Super Bowl" of show jumping features Olympic medalists from around the world and is one of the premier outdoor show jumping competitions in the United States.
When: April 7. The public can walk the course with the riders from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Opening ceremonies are at 7 p.m. and showtime is 8.
Where: Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.
Tickets: Purchase online at stadiumjumping.com or call Stadium Jumping toll-free at 1-800-237-8924 or (941) 744-5465. Advance tickets are $10, $20, $25. Day of, they're $15, $25, $30. Tickets for groups of 10 or more and seniors 55 and older are $7.50, $17.50 and $22.50 depending on location. Girl Scouts tickets are $7.50. Any active duty military with ID can get one free ticket. Tickets for active duty family members military are $10 for adults, $5 for children.