World Equestrian Center The Carolinas Equestrian Feels Like Home. The large sign at the entrance of the World Equestrian Center says, "Welcome Home Equestrians," and the Roberts mean it wholeheartedly. Photo by Tracy Emanuel

WELCOMING ... EVOLVING ... CREATING.

Not only are the first letters of each of these words synonymous with the World Equestrian Center, the words themselves aptly represent the founding principles of the Roberts family and their Wilmington, Ohio, event facility. With the recently growing interest among Carolinas based hunter/jumper riders in competing in the World Equestrian Center series of horse shows; I was eager to interview Roby Roberts, one of the owners, to learn more about his vision for both the Ohio, and the future Florida based, state of the art equestrian event venues.

Roby is a lifelong horseman. Growing up in Wilmington, Ohio, his Mom's passion for horses inspired the family to ride and compete with Quarter Horses - Western Performance horses. "Our family owned a Quarter Horse breeding operation and we competed all the way up to the Quarter Horse Congress. Now my daughter, Sofia, who's 14, competes in the hunter/jumpers."

In addition to owning and operating R + L Carriers, a global transport and logistics business, the Roberts family owned and operated Roberts Arena for 35 years. "We ran it for decades as 'The Showplace of the Midwest,' and it was a destination for American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) shows as well as other breed shows," shares Roberts. "When my parents decided to stop showing, the facility was leased out. A few years ago, we decided to run it privately again."

Roberts Arena was rebranded to the World Equestrian Center in early 2016. "We already owned the facility as it was on our family's property - and where I grew up - so it made sense to keep there," he adds. Extensive renovations and upgrades have been made to the facility's infrastructure that is situated on 100 acres. The family has purchased more land around the facility with expansion plans under development.

World Equestrian Center The Carolinas EquestrianThe Sanctuary Arena at the World Equestrian Center. Photo courtesy of the World Equestrian Center

The three climate controlled indoor arenas (with crushed limestone and fiber footing that is meticulously maintained) and 600 perma­nent, matted stalls (variety of 10 x 10 and 10 x 12 options) are all connected via enclosed walkways such that one does need to go outside, which is particularly convenient during the winter months. The World Equestrian Center owns and hosts four distinct United States Equestrian (US Equestrian) AA rated Hunter Jumper Circuits - Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, with a total of 26 horse shows annually. "So far our horse shows have been very popular," offers Roberts. "This year the majority of our Winter Circuit has been sold out." These shows have attracted exhibitors from over 41 states and six different countries thus far. Additionally, the World Equestrian Center will serve as the host for the 2018 United States Hunter Jumper (USHJA) Emerging Athlete's Program (EAP) in August and the USHJA Young Pony Hunter Championships in September.

Aside from the hunter/jumper disciplines, the World Equestrian Center is also the venue of choice for four of the nation's top ten Quarter Horse shows - The Madness in April, the AQHA Level 1 Championships in May and The Buckeye Youth and Buckeye Classic in July. With that being said, both the Ohio facility as well as the future Ocala facility are available for outside organizations to lease.

World Equestrian Center The Carolinas Equestrian KS SporthorsesStephen Pack aboard "SKF On My Own" along with Katie Barnette Pack and David Cervantes of KS Sporthorses LLC of Columbus, NC."Our staff is 100% focused on customer service," asserts Roberts. "It is our top priority to make sure that all of our exhibitors, their horses, our spectators - that they are accommodated and that their needs are met while they are at the World Equestrian Center." Certainly, the facility boasts top notch amenities including great sport, terrific shopping and dining options, a full schedule of family - friendly, after show hours events, spa, complimentary WiFi, the list is endless. "The most important thing that sets us apart is that we are nice. People are smiling and helpful - everyone from the horse show staff, to the jump crew, to the concessions people - everyone is nice. So the experience at World Equestrian Center is pleasant and that has made a big difference for the people who compete here."

The large sign at the entrance of The World Equestrian Center says, "Welcome Home Equestrians," and the Roberts mean it wholeheartedly. "People often say to me, 'You have a nice facility,' but my response is, 'it is not mine - it is ours - it belongs to you, too."' He believes that when people fully understand that the Roberts are sincere in that regard, it positively affects them. "We're driven by a set of Christian values that permeates throughout the World Equestrian Center experience. If you're kind and welcoming to people, it makes them feel nice."

It's the Roberts' philosophy that they don't consider their experiences as challenges or successes but rather as opportunities ... that is opportunities to be better or do better. Certainly, there is a future direction in which they are headed and goals that they are pursuing, but their mission is to seek opportunities and allow the facility to share its own story. "For example, our vendors, when we started, we didn't know how they would do. We tried to make a great environment for them - to help position them well and market them to our exhibitors and spectators. So now we have lots of vendors - 20-25 per show - enough to encourage us to invest in a Vendor Village - we start construction in April. It's going to be a stunning, town square type village with permanent structures, landscaping, streetlights, etc. All indoors. But we couldn't have planned that two years ago - the facility wrote its own story there."

Visit the World Equestrian Center Online at worldequestriancenter.com/

Winter Series of the Midwest World Equestrian Center