Jordanian princess visits equestrian centre

A Jordanian princess who heads the
international governing body of equestrian sport worldwide paid a quick visit
to the Cayman Islands last week and toured the equestrian centre.

Her Royal Highness Princess Haya
bint Al Hussein, who is married to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the
ruler of Dubai and vice president and prime minister of the United Arab
Emirates, visited the Cayman Islands Equestrian Centre on 24 June.

“I’m really honoured to be here to
meet the riders and the members of your national federation and to be here in
the Cayman Islands,” said Princess Haya, who is the president of the Federation
Equestre Internationale (International Equestrian Federation).

Mary McTaggart, president of the
Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation, led the princess on a tour of the
facilities at the equestrian centre, and discussed the challenges and triumphs
of the federation.

“I think our international
federation is unique in the fact that we have eight different disciplines,”
Princess Haya said. “We have three Olympic disciplines – dressage, show jumping
and three-day event, and then we have non-Olympic disciplines like driving,
vaulting, long distance riding, reining and para-equestrian, and to find
alignment between all of them is a challenge.”

The princess has been around horses
all of her life; she started riding when she was 3 years old, and her passion
for horses grew from there. The pinnacle of her riding career was when she
represented Jordan in show jumping in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney,
Australia.

When asked which posed the bigger
challenge, being a competitive rider or an administrator, Princess Haya
answered without a moment’s hesitation.

“The administration by far,” she
laughed.

Princess Haya said while equestrian
sport has a very strong European base; one of her main goals is to spread the
sport around the globe.

“Everybody in the federation,
including the Europeans, wants to see the wonder of horses spread around the
world. So, really, we are trying to do everything to bring developing regions
like the one I come from and the Americas up to that level,” she said.

The main problem, she said, isn’t a
lack of will or enthusiasm for the sport, “it’s really to solve issues like
transport and quarantine, being able to move horses, being able to have
regional qualifications in the regions themselves. So there’s a lot to bring together
there.”

Travelling to the different member
federations around the world is a very important part of her work, she said.

“Coming out here and meeting the
people that you would normally just be in touch with on the phone and seeing
what life is like and what challenges they face and then trying to thread it
into the direction the federation is going is what it’s all about,” she said.

Fortunately, Princess Haya does not
view all the travelling as too much of a chore.

“It beats being behind a desk in
Lausanne right now, so I’m really happy,” she said. “It is my first time [in
the Cayman Islands]. I’ve been so spoiled and so welcomed that it doesn’t feel
like work at all.”

Mrs. McTaggart said the federation
welcomed the visit by Princess Haya.

“It is a very honourable thing for
her to come and visit us and see where we are in our strive to join the world
of horse sport, so it is a great honour to have her,” she said.

Mrs. McTaggert’s daughter, Jessica,
who will become the first equestrian from the Cayman Islands to compete in the
Central American and Caribbean Games later this year, was also on hand to meet
Princess Haya.

Jessica will represent Cayman in
the dressage competition at the games.

Princess Haya, the daughter of the
late King Hussein of Jordan and Queen Alia Al Hussein, is an honours graduate
of Oxford University and for years has been involved in humanitarian and charitable
causes. She was also named to the international athletes’ commission of the
International Olympic Committee.

LOCALJordanianprincessSTORY

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Dubai visited the Cayman Islands Equestrian Centre.
Photo: Eugene Bonthuys

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