FEI Eventing World Challenge

Reviving the Spirit: Jamaican Eventing Soars with the FEI Solidarity’s FEI Eventing World Challenge Series

Eventing in Jamaica lost its momentum in the early 90’s after the Jamaican team was unable to transport their horses to the United States for competitions due to equine piroplasmosis when the Pan American games were held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1991. The FEI Eventing World Challenge has inspired Jamaica to revive the discipline along with hosting one-day events and reintroducing local FEI competition. 

To this end, Jamaica hosted their first FEI Eventing World Challenge Cat C Derby in November last year with the support of FEI Solidarity at Kingston Polo Club, Caymanas Estates, with 18 participants competing. Ultimately Denise Cole-Avril was the victor, on board her gelding Raggashanti.

Denise – who also happens to be the Jamaican National Federation Vice President – is a testament to the success of the local training opportunities offered to the athletes. Denise participated in all the national Federation’s Derby training programmes, and is an exemplary role model to young riders:

“This competition has been the first FEI competition we have had in Jamaica in quite a few years, and I think this is just what we need here to get the equestrian sport growing and back on track for the development of all levels of riders. In general, the Eventing challenge has been amazing as it allows all participants to hone their skills in Dressage, Jumping and cross-country.”

We then took some time to speak with Heidi Lalor, the president of EFJ (Equestrian Federation of Jamaica) about what this initiative means for development of the sport in Jamaica.

Can you tell us the significance of the FEI Eventing World Challenge for equestrian Eventing in Jamaica?

“By introducing the new FEI Eventing World Challenge, our riders and horses across the island are being exposed to Eventing and benefiting from the training and competing in all three disciplines.  The 2023 Challenge offered us a fresh and exciting new event to work towards, and we feel privileged to have been one of the first countries competing in the Category C Derby.”

What inspired the EFJ to organise the FEI Eventing World Challenge, and how did the idea come about?

“The FEI Solidarity team! Initially Jean-Philippe Camboulives (FEI Solidarity Director) directed us towards the challenge when it was launched at the 2022 Cape Town General Assembly. Jean-Philippe felt that this was an ideal project with reachable goals for Jamaica especially as we had access to polo fields and suitable horses.  Andreina Wipraechtiger further offered us much needed guidance throughout the process with our Eventing goals by advising the National Federation organisers from FEI clinics in 2022 to FEI competition in 2023.”  

What preparation took place to support riders wishing to compete in this event?

“Our preparations were key and we owe much of our success to our Eventing coaches – Jamaica’s two-time Olympian Samantha Albert (UK based) and Jose Ortelli (ARG).  Sam and Jose trained local horses and riders who had no exposure to Dressage or Cross-country and through a series of Training Days and fitness programmes the continuity delivered positive results.  

Their energy and commitment towards Jamaica’s development motivated us and their support gave our local coaches the opportunity to compete. In addition, Colombia offered Jamaican riders Eventing training camps and the Colombian NF accommodated Caribbean riders in their 2023 Derby competition on borrowed Colombian horses, offering them invaluable experience and exposure.”

What were some of the highlights from the inaugural FEI Eventing World Challenge?

“It was so rewarding to build a competent Eventing team around this development project, aligning with our competition goals. The team’s efforts inspired us and it was a pleasure working alongside FEI Solidarity, incredible coaches, and our dedicated national and foreign FEI officials from Mexico, Argentina and Trinidad who ensured our Eventing challenge’s success. 

Other highlights throughout the journey were watching the riders and horses enjoying their introduction to Eventing over seventeen months; it brought our equestrian community together and it was a wonderful initiative by our federation.”

The FEI Eventing World Challenge is run in conjunction with the FEI’s Solidarity department. What specific benefits or assistance does Solidarity provide?

“Solidarity was clear from the beginning: they wanted to see Jamaica remaining active in Dressage and competing in local FEI competitions. The Eventing module was a pathway for us to achieve these goals.

The FEI Solidarity department provided funding for our one-day training event in July 2022 with Jose Ortelli and further financial assistance towards our FEI Technical Delegate Ricardo Perez Conde (MEX) for our local FEI Eventing World Challenge.

Without these training programmes and experienced assistance with competition execution, this venture would have not only been impossible but unsustainable.” 

In what ways do you believe the FEI Eventing World Challenge contributes to the growth and development of equestrian Eventing, in Jamaica and beyond?

“We experienced an increase in rider memberships and horse registration as local riders wanted to participate in this new Eventing opportunity. The Category C Derby also encouraged adult riders back into local competition and by covering three disciplines we are contributing to well-rounded horses and riders.

Partnerships with South and Central America, and other Caribbean islands, has also opened more doors for us which continue to build interest and opportunities in Eventing.” 

What challenges did you face organising and executing the FEI Eventing World Challenge, and how were they addressed?

“As the last one-day event was hosted decades ago we were extremely limited with volunteers and trained officials. Most of our officials reside off the island, this led to our next challenge of funding the project.

The FEI required portable jumps which came at a significant cost to our Federation, so we turned this into a community project and the equestrian clubs invested and provided the portable jumps for the competition – this is an example of teamwork which was a great help to us financially.”  

Looking ahead, what plans or initiatives does the Jamaican Equestrian Federation have to further promote and expand Eventing in the country, building on the experiences gained from the FEI Eventing World Challenge?

“We would like the FEI Eventing Challenge to remain on the federation’s calendar and be an event everyone works towards and the equestrian community celebrates! We aim to grow our participation numbers and hopefully more sponsorship opportunities will be available to assist us with funding officials. We are grateful for this Eventing Challenge and all the opportunities it has provided Jamaica and hope that more islands in our region will join us in competing!”

Cole-Avril emphasises the importance of these initiatives for growth, saying: “It has also been a fun challenge in terms of the training and preparation, and with my 7 year old daughter now interested in riding, it has given her goals and aspirations. I’m looking forward to participants, including myself, being able to improve our capabilities in order to step up our game and move on to category B in the near future… and even category A!”

The Jamaican equestrian community reviving Eventing is just one more success story of FEI Solidarity. The FEI looks forward to the reinvigoration of a discipline which has deep history in the 80’s and early 90’s when there were at least three active cross-country courses across the island, and Jamaica was represented by riders at not only the Pan Am Games, but also the Beijing and London Olympics.

The support of all National Federations enables FEI Solidarity to help countries carry on the traditions of the sport and disciplines we all love, widening our talent pool, deepening our development, and elevating our high performers. 

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