After a rough period, Equestrian Bahamas (EB) finally got a stamp of approval from its international body, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), at the 2019 FEI General Assembly in Moscow, Russia, from November 16-19, 2019.
The recognition by the FEI means that Bahamians can now ride in international events under the Bahamian flag.
The Bahamas joins Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States of America (USA) and the U.S. Virgin Islands as members of Group Four of the FEI. In total, the FEI is comprised of 137 national federations.
“We are tremendously excited,” said EB President Catherine Ramsingh-Pierre. “This is the culmination of five to six years of tremendously hard work on the part of a team of extremely dedicated individuals – coaches, riders, parents and even interested supporters who have given their time and expertise, their finances and facilities. It was a tremendous work to put it all together and it means so much for the young riders of our country.”
The process of becoming a national affiliate of FEI was clear-cut but rigorous, said Ramsingh-Pierre. It can only be attained by votes by delegates through the FEI General Assembly. The Bahamas was one of three countries that applied for national affiliation status at the most recent general assembly. The other two were the Ivory Coast and Mongolia.
“The first step is paperwork,” Ramsingh-Pierre said. “The submission of all the information of all the equestrian facilities on the island, the infrastructure, what kind of rings we have, how many rings we have, what is the footing, how many horses we have, what do we feed them, how do we house them, how many trainers do we have on the island, how many riders, what kind of accreditation or qualification do these people have and what kind of competition do we hold, [a]ll of that is necessary. They want to see our rulebook. It is a lot of paperwork.”
The second stage of the application was the submission of Equestrian Bahamas’ formal constitution and organizational structure, code of ethics and mission statement. Once those submissions were approved by the FEI, it was onto the final stage – a site visit.
Two persons came down for the site visit – one from the FEI directly and the other from Group Four of the FEI. They toured the facilities and met with riders and coaches. A letter of recommendation that Equestrian Bahamas was fit to be accredited was drafted and a submission was made.
Equestrian Bahamas was founded in 2014. There are three member clubs with 100 active equestrian riders. There are 70 paid members, men and women. There are eight equestrian disciplines and The Bahamas only practices two of them – jumping and dressage.
For the first time in over 30 years, The Bahamas will send a team to travel internationally. The five-member team will participate in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Invitational in Conyers, Georgia, USA, in February 2020.
The team is comprised of Mila Sands, Elle O’Brien, Nicholas Astwood, Maya Tilberg and Peyton Wong.
It is the first time that riders from outside of the USA have been invited to compete in an IEA competition.
There is also an active inter-school league that allows the federation to build from the grassroots. It has grown significantly. This year, a total of seven teams have participated – the most in the three-year history of the series.
Ramsingh-Pierre stated that the league is fully funded by the federation and the children participate at no cost to them.
“They are based on an intercollegiate format so it can prepare our kids for going to compete abroad in college. There are about 30 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) division one through three schools that offer scholarships for equestrian,” Ramsingh-Pierre said.
There are about 10 shows per year including the inter-school leagues and other shows. There are two riding schools in New Providence – Camperdown in the east and Mariposa in the west.
Ramsingh-Pierre said that 2020 Tokyo Olympics is out of reach, but she added that equestrians such as Anna Camille Vlasov (jumping) who rides in France, Marcus Davis (jumping) who rides in Canada and Reine Pagliaro (endurance) who is in Georgia, are all on an elite performance pathway.
One of Equestrian Bahamas’ first goals since the sanction of the FEI is to participate in the 2023 Pan American Games and then try to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Ramsingh-Pierre pointed out that unlike other sports, equestrian is a sport that utilizes a human and a horse who both have to work in tandem.
Ramsingh-Pierre said that high-level competition will not happen here, but they are looking forward to increased international competition.
“That’s a matter of logistics. A quality Olympic-level horse is a six-figure animal,” Ramsingh-Pierre said. “We don’t have the equine hospital, chiropractors and all that support. Our job is to make them good enough so that if they decide to, they could pursue it. Like Marcus, he spent his first 14 years riding here. He’s got to be good enough that when he walks into a certain level of a training facility, they will say, ‘You have the potential. We will take you on. We’ve got the horses and let’s go from there’. That’s our job locally.”
Ramsingh-Pierre added: “We have had riders who have been out there doing it, it’s just that they have not been able to do it under the name of The Bahamas. They have only been able to do it individually. Why should they not be able to go out and have the privilege to represent their country?”
With this accreditation, the sport has a chance to grow even bigger, with local riders having an opportunity to compete on the international stage under the Bahamian flag. This also gives The Bahamas another opportunity to qualify athletes in an additional sporting discipline for multi-purpose games, and eventually, the Olympics.