Welcome to horse town U.S.A, where Wellington, Fla. is the equestrian capital of the world

Danielle Goldstein warming up for Israel’s debut at the 2014 Wellington Nations Cup. (Sebastiano Vitale)

Those familiar with the community of Wellington nestled in West Florida’s opulent Palm Beach area are no strangers to its country clubs, fleet of luxury sports cars and high-end shops that line its wide streets. But this club where the wealthy and famous horse lovers go during the winter months has also earned its way to being called the Equestrian Capital of the World.

Each year in January through April, a wave of over 250,000 visitors descend on Wellington for its Winter Equestrian Festival. The town has become a winter mecca of wealth, filled with Polo shirts and Louis Vuitton bags. Celebrities like Bill Gates, athletes, world-famous musicians, and CEOs of million-dollar companies all flock to the small village in West Florida like snowbirds to revel in jockeys and riders trotting sleek horses across pristine lawns of grass and pearl white sand.  The festival attracts more than 250,000 visitors and more than 2,800 riders from over 40 states and 30 countries.

Photographer and horse enthusiast Sebastiano Vitale has been documenting the relationships between horses and people since 2010 with his first large installation project called Raw Horse.

“I have a big fine art photography project about horses, so Wellington was of course a place to be,” Vitale tells In Sight. “I went there with a lot of curiosity and could not have expected such a high level of professionalism, dedication and resources. The equestrian circle of Wellington is not an easily accessible world; it is very much about being elite, both in terms of professionalism and wealth. People in Wellington literally live with horses and travel with them in between major events. Most of them have lived this life since they were 5 years old or so.”