byErin Gilmore| Feb 16, 2017
Picture this: a lush driveway leading to an immaculate barn with songbirds flanking either side of the entrance. Bouganvilla and orchids drip from the overhangs, and perfectly turned out horses are framed by their stall windows. A spongy grass grand prix field is decked out with a full course of jumps, and a tractor is putting the finishing touches on a sand ring.
This was no ordinary day at the barn—not that a day in Wellington can ever quite be described as “ordinary.” A full bar was positioned perfectly at the helm of the circular driveway, and formal waiters drifted through a crowd of riders in white breeches. Well-dressed spectators lounged on field side couches as the air quite literally crackled with sound checks from a full-sized stage next to the warm up arena.
No detail was neglected when Monica McCourt held the Rushy Marsh Farm Ladies Birkin Invitational at her private facility in Wellington, Florida’s Grand Prix Village on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Last summer, when she began planning the ladies-only event, she didn’t have to look far for inspiration: her husband Frank McCourt is half-owner of the Longines Global Champions Tour. Frank’s involvement in the sport was inspired by his wife, whose lifelong passion for horses has become a full-time focus.
So it was no surprise that this for-fun event was pulled off with style and class. International voice of show jumping Steven Wilde commentated, and the riders list featured such names as Olympic Silver medalist Lucy Davis, as well as France’s Marie Hecart, Heather Caristo-Williams, and Katharine Dinan.
Two height sections of riders were invited to compete for an extraordinary prize: a custom Hermès Birkin bag “trophy.” Sophie Gochman won the 1.10m section with Wirina, and Nicole Shahinian-Simpson won the 1.35m section with Akuna Matata. Both riders will get to keep their Birkin for the year, until it goes up for grabs again at the 2018 Birkin Invitational.
And that sound check? It was for the afterparty, which featured the Argentinian group Malevo, of America’s Got Talent fame. They were flown in just to perform. Their dance and drum performance coordinated with a dramatic night sky—as they finished, sheet lightning flashed in the sky behind them.
It was the perfect end to an ultra posh afternoon that really did showcase the best of the equestrian utopia that is Wellington during the winter season.
-Photos by Erin Gilmore and Tori Repole for NF Style.