Judges fancy Cayman’s prancing

A pair of visiting judges believe Cayman’s equestrian scene is on the right track.

Ricardo Rojas Cruz of Costa Rica and Mariano Santos of Spain were here over the weekend to judge the Cayman leg of the Fédération Equestre Internationale World Dressage Challenge. The contest, organized by the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation, featured some 10 ladies at the Cayman Islands Equestrian Centre.

Santos, 56, states the horses and facility are top-notch.

“This is my first time here and Cayman is on the right path,” Santos said. “There are good instructors and useful horses. They just need more exposure in competition and they can maintain their quality of riding while competing. The facility is wonderful and capable enough.”

A number of local ladies earned top marks. Jessica McTaggart won the adult preliminary class on her horse Monroe Carr. The dark bay mare posted a score of 65.17 per cent. Mary McTaggart won the adult elementary class with a score of 65.81 per cent on her grey stallion Partenon. Over in the junior ranks, Thea Millward rode her bay mare Storm to the elementary juniors title (57.77 per cent) and the preliminary juniors crown (66.90 per cent).

Rojas Cruz, 54, was here in 2011 and feels Cayman continues to improve every year.

“This is my third year in a row and every time I come the improvement is there,” Rojas Cruz said. “In one year they are better with horses, food and competition. They brought in teachers to Cayman to get the riders well prepared. I see lots of incentives.

“The competition is better every year. There are new horses here and older ones and more riders. From what I’ve seen, the youngsters who departed for study are back and now they are really good. They are the ones that can buy better horses. There is a lot of room for improvement. They are working on it and are on track to improve.

“We’re grateful for the weekend timing of this year’s event. It’s great for kids that have to go to school. It’s perfect and we’re lucky this year.”

A number of new faces had respectable showings. Sarah Baker placed fourth in the adult elementary class on a chestnut gelding called Odin at 66.90 per cent. For the juniors, Phoebe Serpell was third at 63.88 per cent on a dark bay gelding called My Shadow and Anja Van Genderen was fourth on her bay mare Karma.

Cayman was the second stop on the Caribbean section of the world challenge. Judges were in Kingston, Jamaica last week and were in St. Andrew, Barbados this week. The last two stops are Santa Cruz, Trinidad and Devonshire, Bermuda. Haiti was supposed to be in this year’s competition but are still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.

Santos, who has been a dressage judge since 1995, states equestrian officials have a busy schedule.

“The FEI selects judges by zone. All of the Caribbean countries, like Cayman, are in zone 10. We have to take three weeks off our normal work schedule. We often judge two countries in one week.”

Cayman has done well the last two years. Joe Jackson on Wild Apache won the adult title and Ashley Scaletta on Rambo nabbed the junior crown in 2010. Last year Mary McTaggart grabbed adult props on Partenon while Polly Serpell was the top junior on My Shadow.

Milly Serpell is the director of membership at the local equestrian federation and states Cayman is in good shape thus far.

“The Cayman team consisted of Thea Millward, Polly Serpell (who scored 66.9 per cent on My Shadow) and Jessica McTaggart,” Serpell said. “We are aware that we are currently ahead of Jamaica but we are waiting for the results from Barbados, Bermuda and Trinidad to know how Cayman has placed overall.”

Ultimately, Rojas Cruz (who works in real estate back home) states Cayman is a favourite stop in the competition.

“The people here are so good to us, that’s why we keep coming back. The people are friendly and willing to improve a lot. The federation here is very well put together and everyone works together. That’s not seen in other countries and it’s nice to see. It looks like a real equestrian family here.”