Last week marked an exciting milestone for Equestrian sport in The Bahamas, as 17-year-old Reine Pagliaro’s successful ride in the FEI World Endurance Championship for Young Riders and Juniors marked the first time ever that The Bahamas has competed in an Equestrian event at the World Championship level.
74 riders from 20 countries vied for top honours over a technically demanding 120km course which took riders through open fields, wooded sections, and hilly terrain in Ermelo, the Netherlands. The course was so demanding that over 45% of the competitors failed to finish. However, Pagliaro rode a strategic and determined race in partnership with her horse, the 11-year old grey Arabian gelding Beautiful Knightmare (affectionately known as Beau). The pair finished the course in 38th place, clocking a final time of 8:09:35 at an average speed of 14.706 km/hr.
Saeed Salem Almuhairi of the United Arab Emirates was the individual first place winner, followed by his teammate Abdulla Ali Alamri. Rut Badia Marfa of Spain finished in the bronze position The young athletes from France won the Team gold, Team Malaysia won the silver behind France, and Belgium earned the Team bronze.
Endurance, one of the fastest-growing equestrian sports, is best described as a marathon on horseback. Strategy, fitness, and a keen understanding of horse welfare are necessary for success over varying terrain and environmental conditions. A Junior World Championship level course is 120 km long, comprised of four loops of varying lengths with a mandatory veterinary checkpoint at the end of each loop. “Welfare of the horse is paramount,” explained Mr. Eric Lamsma, organizer of the event.
So when Pagliaro crossed the finish line after over eight hours of riding, her first thought was for her horse. The priority was to ensure that his hydration and metabolic levels were good and that he was not injured or lame in any way. Once the final vet check had been cleared, it was official, and the Bahamas flag was on the board at the FEI Junior World Championships!
“The feeling is absolutely indescribable,” exclaimed a jubilant Pagliaro, acknowledging that her World Championship performance was the culmination of “years of hopes, dreams and ambitions”. She was quick to praise her equine partner, calling him her “true champion”. “No matter what the day brought, he went the extra mile and gave the extra push,” she said. “For this, I am truly thankful.”
Pagliaro was also full of praise for her support team: her coach, Mary Kathryn Clark; the team veterinarian, Dr. Carter Hounsel, DVM; the ground team who met her and Beau at each stop with water jugs, hugs and support, and above all the Chef d’ Equipe, Peggy Clark, whom she called “the backbone and brains behind the whole experience.”
Trainer Mary Kathryn Clark was equally as ebullient at the finish, heaping praise on Reine, on Beau, and the entire team. “Today was a day of many firsts…first world championships for this talented rider, first world championships for her trusted mount, first world championships for an amazing federation back in The Bahamas…I’m honored to have been part of such an amazing and fun team.”
Despite the time difference with the Netherlands, Federation officials back at home watched the leaderboard intently as the race progressed, cheering when Reine finally crossed the finish line. “We are tremendously proud of Reine and Beau,” said Equestrian Federation President Cathy Ramsingh-Pierre. “Their performance has brought the international presence of Bahamas Equestrian to a whole new level. We congratulate Mary Kathryn and Peggy Clark on the expert training and superb conditioning regimen that allowed Reine and Beau to successfully finish a course that defeated so many other worthy competitors. We extend our thanks to Dr. Hounsel and the entire ground team for their support. This is a wonderful way to begin a new season!”
Equestrian competition has been on hiatus since March 2020 locally due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans for the new show season are underway, with the first show scheduled to take place in October.