Three young Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation riders recently represented Cayman at the 2013 Children of the Americas Dressage Invitational in Concord, Massachusetts.
The competition is held at The Bear Spot Farm and Foundation in Massachusetts and is the brain child of Jane Karol, director of the dressage invitational. She introduced the competition to allow for connection between people. Karol, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, is a horse trainer who has brought more than seven horses to Grand Prix.
A trio of riders participated in the week-long event, Thea Millward, 14, Anja Van Genderen, 13 and Phoebe Serpell, 13, along with children from Canada, Ecuador, Jamaica, Bermuda, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the US.
All three riders had to obtain qualifying scores at the World Fédération Equestre International Dressage Challenge that was held in February in Cayman. Millward, Serpell and Van Genderen received the top three qualifying scores.
CADI provides young riders with an opportunity to ride talented and experienced horses that owners lend and the opportunity to train with some of the best trainers in the world. Pam Maloof, Sue Williams and Gerrit-Claes Bierenbroodspot were Millward, Van Genderen and Serpell’s trainers, respectively.
The horse draw took place on the event’s first day and involved all rider and horse names being placed in a hat and pulled out to establish who would ride which horse. Millward drew Bentley, a chestnut gelding trained to Prix St. George level, Van Genderen drew Walina, a black mare trained to Grand Prix level and Serpell drew Ben, an 18-hand holsteiner also trained to Prix St. George.
The owners of these highly valuable horses are extremely generous to allow their horses to be used for this week-long event and it was frequently noted that without their generosity, the competition would not be able to take place.
Over the next two days, the riders were given full responsibility of the horse they had been loaned, arriving early at the barn each day to muck out, groom and feed the horses. Each day, riders had an intensive hour’s lesson with their trainer, which allowed them to start to understand and work well with the horse.
The last two days of the event were when the competition took place. All riders rode the CADI FEI Preliminary Dressage test and all three Caymanian riders placed in the top three.
Millward’s top score of the day of 73.261 per cent put her in first place, closely behind was Serpell with a score of 72.935 per cent and in third place was Van Genderen, with a score of 72.174 per cent.
As soon as the prize-giving ceremony was over, the three riders called their dressage coach in Cayman, Jessica McTaggart and both riders and coach were in tears. McTaggart is an elite international rider and coach and has been working with all of the girls for several years.
McTaggart is based at The Equestrian Centre in Cayman and is a true inspiration to the girls, who she has trained and prepared.
The second day of the event was the freestyle, which allows the children to choreograph their own dressage routine and select a piece of music that suits the different paces and gaits of the horse. The scoring of this event is slightly different and allows marks to be given for musical interpretation and creativity, technical style, difficulty and risk, as well as the use of the arena.
The freestyle results were: Serpell, 76.119 per cent; second place, Van Genderen; 73.706 per cent, third place; Millward, 69.777 per cent, fifth place. The first placed rider was Vanessa Altamirano from Ecuador with a score of 77.411 per cent.
Scores from the two events are combined to establish the overall winners and the Cayman riders went back on the podium; Serpell was the first place overall champion with a combined score of 149.054, Van Genderen was second and overall reserve champion with a combined score of 145.88 and Millward placed fourth with an overall score of 143.038.