Cayman Islands has its horse loving set like most of the islands in this region and last week they entered the Caribbean Equestrian Association Mini Dressage Challenge for 2007.
Over a month long period the judge started at Antiuga, then Trinidad, Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica and finally Cayman.
Dressage is when horses have to perform a number of drills for about seven minutes in an arena and they are judged by one person to ensure consistency. In this case it was Cecilia Hansson, the Swedish international whose career highlight was winning a team bronze medal at the World Championships for Student Riders. Her highest ranking in Sweden was eighth in a country that has tens of thousands of riders.
It was held at the Equestrian Centre off Linford Pierson Highway, near the Bobby Thompson Way roundabout. Cayman had the lowest score out of six islands competing but that’s no disgrace as they did not have an adult team. A country has to have a minimum of three adults and Cayman only had Aileen Palmer and Mary McTaggart. Barbados were the top adult team and Bermuda had the top children. Top Cayman rider was Alex Kennett on Rambo with 154 points. Jamie-Lauren McTaggart was second best child with 143 on Iggy Pop.
Jane van der Bol, of the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation, said: ‘Cayman came sixth but we are still proud of how we did. Only Barbados, Bermuda and Trinidad had adult teams. It takes three adult riders to create a full team and we did not have enough ready for this event.
‘This is the first year that Cayman has participated in this event. We have limited resources of riders and horses and only a few horses and riders are qualified to ride in such an event. Not just any horse and any rider can participate as there are movements in the test that require a higher level of training than most school or pleasure horses have or most pleasure or beginner riders are able to do.’
Van der Bol is not disappointed though because it was great experience for the children, including her daughter Ashley, 11. ‘We had a wonderful showing from our child riders, and they all did extremely well for their first time in this event. Having such a qualified judge as Cecilia Hansson made it even more exciting. The children and adults that participated in the clinic the following day came away with invaluable knowledge that will make them better riders in the future.
‘If we can arrange the opportunity to have professional instructors and judges visit Cayman on a regular basis and increase the knowledge base for our riders, we will have more success in the future. We are working on funding to arrange these opportunities for our children and adult riders.
‘We were so pleased with the way our young riders challenged themselves to learn the tests and practice and show. We want to participate again next year. I’m sure Cayman will do better.’
Hansson said: ‘I’ve been judging for 11 years and think the Caribbean is doing very well with its equestrian. On many islands it rained a lot so it made it impossible to train. Some weren’t able to train and practice as much as they would like and it showed in their performances. I got a feeling that they were very nervous but you didn’t see it so much as you would imagine.
‘The most riders are on Barbados. They have polo as well. In this competition they had over 40 riders. The young ones need to look up to the adults but Cayman didn’t have adults competing.
‘Cayman has a perfect arena. It’s so lovely here so they can make the most out of it. It’s only the weather that is the problem. It’s not easy for the riders nor the horses in the heat. I think they’re doing it really well, with good spirit.’
Little Ashley Scaletta loves riding. She said: ‘My main thing is jumping, I just love it. Riding any of the horses here is very nice. I know Ashes pretty well. She’s my favourite horse here besides Rambo.
‘If you want to start riding, it takes about two years to get going really well. I love jumping more than anything. When you go over the jumps, it’s so beautiful, you feel like you’re gliding with them. It’s just like woah!
‘I’ve come off lots of times, but that’s a basic thing about riding, you need to experience that. If you never come off, it’s like, so, who cares about you? I always wear a helmet. I’ve got stepped on my toes a few times and got bitten once. It doesn’t put me off because of my passion for horses and jumping. I just love it.’