The Inside Scoop on All Things WIT

The Winter Intensive Training program was such an influential experience in my life that it deserves its’ very own blog! Some of you may have followed my Florida experiences through Annie’s Equestrienne Apparel’s social media. Others may be considering the WIT program themselves. Yet others of you may be wondering what the WIT program even is. Many of you know that Wellington, Florida is one of the biggest equestrian destinations in the world. It is home to two very large showgrounds, Adequan Global Dressage Festival and WEF. Riders from all over the world come to Wellington in the winter months to train, and sometimes compete in the CDIs, or international competitions. (Another blog!) Bumping into Olympians at Dunkin Donuts in Wellington is quite commonplace. I’m still pretty sure that Welly world doesn’t actually exist, and it’s all some figment of every equestrian’s wildest dreams.
The Winter Intensive Training program is through Dressage4Kids (D4K), an amazing organization run by Lendon Gray, two time dressage Olympian. Lendon Gray is widely known throughout the dressage world for helping youth dressage riders find a place in the dressage world. Through D4K, Lendon is able to give clinics throughout the country, offer scholarships, donate horses, and teach the WIT program during the winter season. The WIT program accepts a group of approximately fourteen applicants under 21, of any level of dressage, to go to Wellington, Florida, and train with Lendon. Not only do you receive lessons, you also go on field trips to watch Olympians ride, see beautiful barns, listen to lectures, and have fitness six days a week. You work out of a barn at the gorgeous Hampton Green Farm, and are responsible for taking care of your own horse, doing chores, and helping out your “WIT-mates”. As I mentioned previously, you ride with Lendon Gray, or one of the assistant trainers five days a week, have a hack day on Friday (There are beautiful places to hack), and take a day-off Monday. Days start at 6:30am sharp every morning, (This includes days off) We then have fitness, and lessons promptly follow. (I really learned the most from watching lessons and taking notes). In the afternoon we have lectures, then we feed the horses their dinner. At the end of the day, we’re always exhausted, but we always learned so much.
Showing at WIT is entirely optional. Hampton Green is within hacking distance of Global, which allows for a more relaxing atmosphere. You also have your WIT cheering squad which is a lot of fun. There are National shows, and CDIs (International shows). CDIs feature the FEI divisions and require your horse to stay in the secure Global stabling, and you also must participate in the veterinary inspection or “jog”. Freestyles are also mandatory in most of the divisions. Last season I showed FEI Ponies in the CDIs in order to qualify for National Championships. I was SO nervous to show in the big, international ring but Lendon was such a great coach! I had an amazing team of very supportive people behind me. Our fitness instructor (and second WIT Mom), Tonya, Lendon, my Mom, and of course, my “WIT-mates”.
The WIT program provides young riders a way to experience Wellington in a very special way. The Wellington experience can unfortunately be very expensive, but through WIT, the overall costs are greatly reduced in comparison. Board, lessons, etc…the cost can seem overwhelming. Lendon Gray believes dressage in Wellington shouldn’t be exclusive for only the very financially privileged.
FAQs
What did you do for housing?: Considering I was 11 and 12 during the WIT program, I stayed with my mom at a condo in Wellington. Some older girls lived together. Housing should be acquired early, because it can be the most expensive part of the program. If you can be in Wellington, you should. Our schedule is never the same, some of our lectures are in the evening, some days we have night check, so you really want to be close to the barn.
How did you keep up with school?: Some of us were in college and took a semester off, some of us were online schooled, Personally my school was very flexible and would email my assignments to me. I usually did school on my day off. (I had a pretty cool barn manager who helped me through Pre-Algebra…Thanks Ali!) Lendon knows that school should take first priority, so if you need another day for schoolwork, that’s fine.
How do you apply?: Applications are on the D4K website.
What are some of your lectures?: Our WIT lectures are at the barn or sometimes at a field trip elsewhere. Sports psychology, theory, gaining sponsorships, vets, companies, famous riders, long- lining, saddle fitting, and dentistry are only a few of the lectures we’ve had in the past. If there is a certain lecture or event you would like to have, Lendon will usually make that happen.
I attended the WIT program in 2017 and 2018 and I would be happy to personally answer any other questions you have regarding it. Visit Dressage4Kids.com and read under the Winter Intensive Training program. This page also has blogs from other former WITees. You can contact me at anneliseklepper@gmail.com.
-Annie and Gi

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