For 12 weeks at the beginning of every year, Wellington, Florida is host to the Winter Equestrian Festival, which draws in the who’s who of the international show jumping world.
The 2014 season did not disappoint, but was so marked by the dominance of British show jumpers, that organizing CEO Mark Bellisimo joked that next year’s festival would be renamed the British Equestrian Festival.
Two rising stars from the Cayman Islands were lucky enough to meet one of those British stars, Ben Maher, whilst catching the end of the festival. Polly Serpell and Thea Millward were in Wellington to compete in the Second Annual Fédération Équestre Internationale Group IV Caribbean Challenge.
The juniors were there at the beginning of April to compete in the three-day event against other young riders from the Caribbean.
The Challenge was organized by a combination of WEF, United States Equestrian Federation and the FEI’s Group IV members and a number of Caribbean countries each sent two riders. The visiting riders borrowed horses from a pool lent by riders from North America, who also attended and competed at the Challenge.
After a warm-up competition, the first event to kick things off was the Group IV Classic. Millward had a great round and was delighted to finish in second place and tops in the Caribbean, with Serpell finishing 11th.
At the next event, the Group IV Championship, Millward had an unlucky refusal and was eliminated but it was Serpell’s turn to excel and she finished fifth, the highest ranked Caribbean rider on the second day. Serpell was also awarded “Best Horse” for the horse she borrowed, Montego.
For Serpell, this is priceless show mileage in preparation for her attendance at the Youth Olympic Games this August, where she will compete for Cayman against the best youth show jumpers in the world. Serpell has been competing consistently in Florida since she qualified for the Games last year.