Teenage riders excel in Concord

Two Caymanian junior dressage riders made the podium in the US.

The Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation were proud to be represented by two young riders at the 2012 Children of the Americas Dressage invitational in Concord, Massachusetts earlier this month.

Phoebe Serpell, 12, and Anja van Genderen, 12, participated in this week-long event together with children from Peru, the US, Ecuador, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. These young riders were given this amazing opportunity to ride well-trained and experienced horses on loan from owners for the week.

They also had the experience of being trained with some of the best trainers in the world. The event is open to 12-14 year-olds so both of our Caymanian riders were at the younger end of the age category.

On the first day of the event the horse draw took place. The names of the riders and horses were pulled out of a hat and they were then paired together. Once they were matched, each rider was totally responsible for the care of the horse over the next few days. This included chores: spending all day at the barn mucking out, grooming and feeding the horses and each day there was an intensive hour’s lesson with their trainer. The owners of these horses are extremely generous to allow their horses to be ridden and used for this week-long event.

The competition took place over the last two days of the event. On Friday, Phoebe and Anja rode the CADI Preliminary Dressage test. Phoebe was the last rider of the day and had an excellent test, scoring 69.892. This placed her in second place and on the podium for the first time.

Anja displayed true grit and strength of character when her horse decided to rear and bolt off during the test. She was then allocated another horse, who also decided to misbehave. Anja bravely agreed to continue on with the competition on another horse called Nibbit. Anja and Nibbit made a strong team.

The second day of the event was the Freestyle. This is where the children are allowed to select pieces of music for walk, trot and canter and choreograph a dressage routine. The scoring of this event is slightly different. Marks are given for musical interpretation and creativity as well as technical style.

Phoebe was the second rider of the day and rode a magnificent test, scoring 72.20 per cent. This placed her second in the freestyle. Anja also rode a very impressive test and scored 70.758 per cent, placing her third in the freestyle event. It was an amazing day to see two Caymanians on the podium, scoring two of the best scores of the day on horses that they hardly knew, having just rode them over the previous few days.

Overall in the event, Phoebe’s combined score of 70 per cent placed her in second and she was awarded the Reserve Champion.

Phoebe commented, “I loved participating in the event and cannot thank my coaches Jessica and Mary McTaggart enough for preparing me so well. Jessica really helped me with the choreography and music for my freestyle and I thoroughly enjoyed riding it.

“Meeting children from other countries was amazing and I have made some great friends and we hope to ride together again one day. I loved my horse Jake and cannot thank his owner Jane Karol enough for lending him to me.”

Anja was equally pleased, “I had a wonderful week, it was a great experience and I will never forget it. Even though the first day of competition did not go so well, my trainer Amanda guided me through it and I rode a beautiful freestyle the next day on an amazing horse called Nibbit.

“My Caymanian coaches, Jessica and Mary McTaggart, are the best and I am so thankful for their encouragement, help and support. It was fun to make friends with children from different countries who enjoy horses and dressage. Maybe one day we will see each other again. If I qualify, I would love to go again next year.”

The Cayman equestrian federation is very proud of the young riders and look forward to watching the developing careers of both individuals. Jessica McTaggart of the equestrian centre spent weeks and months preparing and coaching both girls since they qualified to represent Cayman in February 2012.

For the record, the invitational allows each country to send up to three qualifying riders and Jessica is already planning dressage training to allow for the development of other riders riding skills to enable them to qualify in 2013.

The federation is now looking forwarding to preparing its members and riders for the Caribbean Equestrian Association Dressage event and Fédération Equestre Internationale World Dressage Challenge scheduled to be held in Grand Cayman later this year and February 2013, respectively.