By ADRIANNA MATAMOROS
For four months of the year, during what is known as the winter circuit beginning January until April, Wellington transforms into the Winter Equestrian Capital of the world, attracting seasoned jumpers and their accompanying horses from around the globe.
Stevie Harvey, sophomore who began showing in Wellington during winter circuits as a sophomore in high school, credits South Florida weather for the city’s horse riding and show jumping popularity.
“If I were to stay in my home country of Canada all year long, I would have to take my winters off,” said Murphy. “Coming here allows me to ride year round, without sacrificing the chance to progress.”
The sport of show jumping, a discipline of equestrian riding, is renowned internationally, becoming increasingly competitive on a global scale. Murphy, a titled amateur of the sport, has recognized the time and dedication it requires since she began riding at age three.
“You live and breathe the sport,” she said, adjusting the cast around her sprained ankle, product of last week’s show. “Even so, it is hard to make a living of. Some do it really well, but I think I would enjoy it a lot less if I was unable to obtain a degree at the same time that I was working at my craft.”
For Murphy, the dynamic and class flexibility of Lynn captured the attention of her and her family, original citizens of Prince Edward Island, Canada.
“I came to Lynn because of its short distance from Wellington,” noted Murphy, alluding to the 45-minute drive between the school and the winter equestrian capital. “Lynn’s flexible dynamic makes it easier for my schedule.”
Although Murphy spends her summers in Ontario, where equestrian festivals are more popular in Canada, the bulk of her year is spent in Boca attending Lynn, allowing her to ride, train and show during the winter, a great advantage for someone seeking aspirations of Olympic proportions.
“Many people, when they come to college, give [show riding] a break, eventually growing out of the sport,” explained Murphy. “For me, being at Lynn prevents that. I am working to be the best jumper I can be, while still obtaining a degree, which is very important for me.”
Studying international business, Murphy and the advisors at Lynn developed a schedule, in which Murphy takes a combination of on-campus and online classes. “I take mostly night classes and online classes, giving me the rest of the week to prepare for the Gran Prix,” said Murphy, highlighting the extensive preparation for the Grand Prix showcases held on weekends, where universal riders compete for grand prices of up to $500,000.
And while Murphy’s circumstances are unique, they are not rare. Lynn hosts a collective group of students that seek to continue a secondary education, while showing, riding and competing.
“I started riding when I was a child, always loving horses and being around them,” said Paige Miller, a senior at Lynn who trains locally in the discipline of hunting.
“[Riding] was not the reason I came here, but coming to Lynn has made it easy to get back into my childhood passion of riding.” The dual commitment to school and equestrian riding has benefits that outweigh the cost, effort and workload, according to Murphy, who was also connected to an internship within the field of equestrian business, through Lynn.
“The Olympics is definitely a goal,” said Murphy, scrolling through snapshots of her and one of her show horses, Ellah, jumping during a past competition. “If you are going to put so much effort into it, it has to be. But for me, academics come first and with Lynn, riding does not have to be my only focus.”
Public visitors are welcomed to attend weekly competitions, dine and take tours on the main grounds of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington. Those interested can visit http://pbiec.coth.com/ for more information.