How Anna Richardson ’21 Keeps Up with School While Competing in Florida Equestrian Festival


Missing school for a sick day is already hard, but some young equestrians opt to take on the challenge for up to three months.

The Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, lasts from early January to late March and attracts thousands of talented equestrians, including students ranging from first to twelfth grade.

The festival gained popularity in the 1970’s and has caused the entire town of Wellington, a small town near West Palm Beach, to become dedicated to one thing: horses. The festival consists of 12 weeks of competition, offering over 70 different divisions to compete in. The competition also attracts more than just amateurs: it is not unusual to find yourself next to a member of the US show jumping team. It is every horse-crazy girl’s dream to attend the illustrious competition.

Spending three months in the horse capital of the world isn’t all sunshine and unicorns, however. Since the festival isn’t centered around school breaks, young athletes must also keep up with their rigorous school schedules while away.

To fill this need, Wellington is host to numerous one-on-one tutoring services to help young equestrians excel both in the saddle and the classroom.

Wendy Solomon, the founder of Signature Academics, talked about some of the major differences being away creates.

“I think it is a shift to being more proactive, to reach out and get their assignments from teachers,” she said. “In class, they sort of just receive the information.”

Wendy also talked about the immense independence that is learned by being away from school for a long period of time.

“I think honestly, one of the big benefits is a sense of accomplishment and independence. The students figure out how to manage their work and time without the artificial structure of the school day,” she commented.

Lindsay Stern, a senior at the Professional Children’s School in New York, finds that the hardest part about  being away for so long is not seeing her friends. On the academic side however, Lindsay shared some of the tools she uses to keep up.

“I use a lot of Google Calendar, the school assignment website, and I email my teachers a lot,” Lindsay stated.

Since fifth grade, I have been missing school to come to Wellington. Each year, it becomes harder and harder to stay on top of all my assignments. This year, with taking three honors classes, two AP’s, and a sixth class, it is definitely challenging to perform my best both in competition and academically.

The technology used at Williston, such as OneNote, really helps me stay on top of my work; it is easy to view and submit assignments. However, I find that the best way to stay on track is through communication. Keeping in touch with teachers and friends helps me make sure that I am not only keeping up with homework, but also with what is done in class.

Staying organized is also extremely important. I like to make sure I write down all the classes I am missing on a certain day, what they did in class, and what I need to do that night to keep up.

Going to compete every year has definitely taught me about commitment and independence, as I am solely responsible for my learning. While it can be hard to stay up until 11 or 12 o’clock doing homework, knowing that I have to get up and be on my first horse at five am, it is a great opportunity and privilege to miss so much school.