Show jumping set to ride to glory

04 Jun, 2023 - 00:06 0 Views
Show jumping set to ride to glory

The Sunday Mail

Arthur Choga

THERE is a scene that plays out at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show and the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair every year.

Without fail, the arena is rigged with barriers and obstacles, and riders on majestic horses navigate these jumps with different levels of skill and composure.

There are a few falls and a lot of truly awe-inspiring jumps.

Welcome to the world of show jumping.

The idea of watching man and animal work seamlessly together to overcome challenges is an intriguing one, and show jumping presents one of the most exciting ways to watch this in action.

Outside of Hollywood movies, where man and animal sometimes come together in the strangest of ways, this is one of the truly spectacular showcases.

Sadly, there are rarely any crowds to watch these marvellous displays.

And yet Zimbabwe is a continental force in show jumping and has consistently sent representatives to the Youth Olympics.

Shayne Hay of the Zimbabwe Equestrian Federation (ZEF) says the country has always had an athlete at every Youth Olympic Games event since its inception.

We had Yara Hanssen in 2010, Sophie Teede in 2014, Breezy Clark in 2018 and Amy Hay in 2022.

Clark and Hay both won bronze medals for Team Africa.

But that is not all.

In the World Jumping Challenge Finals, Celeste Wright and Kirsten Sims represented Zimbabwe in Germany in 2003, while Paula Dakin starred in Chile in 2010 and was placed second.

Charley Crockart won the 2014 World Jumping Challenge Finals in South Africa.

She had earlier participated in Guatemala in 2010.

She also went to Venezuela in 2012 and came third.

Hay made the finals in 2022 and Zoe Roberts is due to ride at the 2023 finals.

Louis Peech competed in the 2022 Jumping Children’s Classic Finals and was ranked first in Group IX (African countries).

Hay also says they have won the Inter Africa Cups held at the Easter Festival at Kyalami Equestrian Park five times.

However, the sport is viewed as elitist and tends to suffer from people imagining they need to actually own a horse to compete.

Well, the interesting thing is that one does not even need a horse to take part.

One can simply join a riding school or a yard and have riding lessons.

There are a number of very capable coaches for all stages of development.

The image of a large, diverse crowd at a show jumping event, much like what used to happen at tennis and is happening at cricket, is appealing.

People love a winning sport, and, once you understand the rules, any sport can be enjoyable.

Most of the competitions are held at Borrowdale Country Club.

The Zimbabwe Equestrian Federation had its first committee meeting on February 1, 1954.

Shows have been held in Bulawayo, Harare, Marondera, Chinhoyi, Mutare and Victoria Falls.

Over the last five years, with the drive and support of many people, the federation has begun to grow after a few years of decline.

The federation has now managed to build a world-class arena at Borrowdale Country Club.

This has also helped to improve standards.

The other location is in Bulawayo, where they have a grass arena located at the Bulawayo Trade Fair grounds.

Show jumping is the most popular event, with eventing, dressage and pony club being the other disciplines.

Although it is a comparatively smaller federation, it still produces good riders.

A few are competing in South Africa and are holding their own.

According to Hay, they have about five riders competing in the 130cm height, compared to South Africa, who have 100 competitors in the same height.

One rider is based in England and is hoping to compete in eventing at the Paris Olympics 2026.

Charley Crockart also won the 150m Grand Prix — a top-level event — in South Africa.

Overall, Hay was the first Zimbabwean to win the South African Junior Championships in 2022.

In April 2022, about 10 riders travelled to SA and competed in a large show in Johannesburg and most of them got podium finishes.

Keeping young people engaged in the sport is proving difficult, but the federation is keeping its head up.

However, show jumping is not considered a school sport and is, therefore, not recognised.

This is especially difficult for the children who are interested in the sport, as they have to train outside of school hours.

Hay says the pony club is considered a great way to get the kids started, interested and hooked.

■  Feedback: [email protected]

Share This: