Well, so much for warming up in Florida. Yowza was it cold! It was one degree Celsius on Thursday morning – minus 4 with wind chill. I know they aren’t used to that kind of weather in the orange grove, but for cripes’ sake can’t someone turn off the sprinkler systems when it is close to freezing? They were creating potential perfect black ice with the overflow from the watering of all that lovely grass on the verges. The blue rinse crowd already has enough difficulty deciding which lane is the one to turn left from, or remembering the difference between the wiper switch and turn signal.

Every time I go to Florida I come away with a slightly revised opinion of the place. I must admit that hanging out with locals who know how to laugh makes the trip more fun, and meeting Very Important People makes it more interesting. I don’t know why it took me all these years to properly meet Mason Phelps, but if ever there was a local character worth getting to know in Welly World, he’d have to be on my top ten list, maybe even top three. Mason appreciates my efforts to entertain readers and was an almost overwhelming source of goodies – some less verifiable than others, but goodies nevertheless. So what is the strangest thing he and co-auctioneer will be taking bids on at the therapeutic riding fund raiser? When he asked me to guess I said a facelift. Kind of close, but a little too far north. It’s a vasectomy. I can’t wait to see who buys it – will it be a woman who buys it as a birthday present for the husband who has everything? Maybe next year they’ll auction off the reverse vasectomy.

KarenSpookySmall.jpgThe same evening Mason told me about the curious auction item, he introduced me to someone who just might become the next big media thing in the horse world. His name is Bernie Uechtritz and he purchased the defunct Horse TV a little while back. Horse TV is gradually coming back to life, and Bernie has some big plans. You can read about some of them at www.HorseTV.com but if he gets this kite to fly it could mean some amazing publicity for equestrian sports… also for Arab shows and some of the more woo-woo folks, but hey, who’s a snob? It’s all good if it promotes horses, and I once showed Arabs. Here’s a photo to prove it.

While I’m on the topic of larger-than-life personalities in Florida (no I’m not going to talk about Madonna any more, except to say that it was Mark Bellissimo who went ape on Mason in the VIP tent), I learned about Robert Dover’s colourful website. And I do mean colourful. You can visit it at www.doversworld.com, but parental discretion is advised.  Actually, only homophobic parental discretion is advised. It isn’t very naughty. Not yet. Robert might be just testing the waters, like I was when I started making subtle comments about the judging in Aachen in 2006. That was definitely G rated. What I write about judging now would lean more toward XXX, at least if you ask some of the judges.

The next time I feel tempted to back off the straight talk, I’ll remind myself about meeting Lisa Wilcox for the first time last week at Tuny Page’s fantabulous facility. After she told me she had loved what I wrote after Hong Kong (you could have knocked me over with a feather that she even knew that the person talking to her about her student’s freestyle was the blogger), I said something a bit obnoxious, though I was joking. “Watch out or I’ll be blogging you.” You know what she said? “Write whatever you like about me as long as it’s honest.” She didn’t say ‘as long as it’s nice’, but ‘honest’. Lisa, you made my whole week.  You are cool.

Considering he had already read my blog when I met him for an interview, Mr. Bellissimo was both charming and willing to answer my questions. He was so friendly, in fact, that the only ‘dirty’ question I worked up my nerve to ask him was whether the rumor of the Tiki hut not having a liquor license was true. Let it be known that Mark unequivocally denies that accusation….but I would be lying by omission if I didn’t mention that his eyes got a bit twirly when he answered that one. It seems that the patrons of WEF this year have two beefs: the hunter people want some of that awesome pink footing that is in all the jumper rings, and everyone wants better food, especially those in the VIP tent, and especially on Thursday when some issues with food licensing resulted in the buffet’s sudden absence (I believe the buffet was restored by the next day). My own experience of horse show food has historically been of the greasy burger-and-fries variety, so I must admit I can’t quite wrap my head around this complaint. My perplexity really begins with learning that people drop $37,000 for a season-long table in the VIP tent. Nearly 40 grand for free lunches and an uninterrupted view of fifty zillion rounds in the Grand Prix ring? How much show jumping can a person watch, anyway? That was my husband’s and my travel budget for a whole year in Europe in the late nineties. I will never understand where all the money comes from and why they don’t use more of it on something meaningful (like charity) but at least the price tag explains all the grumbling when mac and cheese is on the menu.

One final word on the new faces I met in Florida. Or rather, a question. What’s with all the Belgian horse dealers? I must have met a busload of them, especially at Player’s on Sunday night. Are they like a litmus test for where the money is? Why didn’t I meet any Dutch or German dealers?  I love Belgium and I haven’t met too many Belgians I didn’t like (only one comes to mind…deposed FEI dressage queen….), so this isn’t a criticism. I just find it strange that I met only Belgians.