By RENALDO DORSETT
ONE of the new sports set to be introduced into the high school curriculum by the National Sports Secretariat, the Bahamas Interschool Equestrian League (BIEL) was officially launched yesterday.
Equestrian Bahamas, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education’s Sports Unit, announced the new initiative and outlined the impact the pilot programme is expected to have this academic year.
BIEL is expected to include eight schools and will also accommodate participation from home-schooled students.
President of Equestrian Bahamas, Cathy Ramsingh-Pierre, said BIEL will offer another avenue for young participants to showcase their skills as the sport continues to grow in popularity locally.
“It is one of the oldest Olympic sports, the only sport contested at the Olympic level equally by women and men head to head and it is growing in popularity in this country. Equestrian Bahamas currently has over 48 junior members registered and competing,” she said.
“If you have not ridden yourself you have no concept of the courage, skill and timing that it takes to sit on top of a 1,200 pound animal and ask them to be your teammate without worries. It takes skills, it takes, courage, it takes empathy and it’s a wonderful sport for all children to learn to do. They are accustomed to competing on an individual basis but this league gives them the opportunity to represent their schools in their chosen sport and bring that to the Bahamas.”
Participating schools in New Providence will include St Andrew’s, Lyford Cay, Windsor Prep, Queen’s College, St. Augustine’s and Tambearly. There will also be an additional two schools from Grand Bahama included into the programme in addition to home schooled students.
The schedule include the first event in December, hosted at Mariposa Stables, the second in February at the Camperdown Equestrian Centre and the National Championship event at Camperdown on April 29.
BIEL affords students the opportunity to participate in a unique school activity that could lead to collegiate scholarship and career opportunities. Competitions will be structured around the same format as intercollegiate riding programmes. Beginning in the current academic year, both teams and individual riders will accumulate points over the course of three competitions.
“The primary objective in this country is to develop equestrian sport in this country from the participation level to the performance level. One of those pathways is through the formation of an interschool Bahamian equestrian league and it is with great pride that we launch this league. It is an initiative to continue the diversification of sports offered at the inter school level. It is intended to provide greater exposure, competitive and scholarship opportunities and finally to further the development of equestrian in the Bahamas at the grassroots level,” Ramsingh-Pierre said, “In phase one we will institute a series of competitions highlighted with the national championship and moving forward hopefully we plan to move pilot programmes into the public schools so ultimately equestrian sport can be offered to all students in the Bahamas.”
BIEL lists its objectives as the continued diversification of sports available for interschool competition; provide greater exposure, competitive and scholarship opportunities for junior equestrian athletes; and further development of equestrian sport in the Bahamas at the grass root level.
“Thank you to the Bahamas for embracing our children and this sport that takes so much time and dedication. I feel like it is an avenue for our youth to learn responsibility and compassion and it certainly takes a lot of drive and dedication for them to spend their time with horses,” Carol O’Brien, a parent of two equestrian student athletes said, “To be recognized and to be able to offer it to children throughout the Bahamas is incredible and I appreciate the availability. My oldest daughter had to go away to boarding school to further her career in the equestrian world but it would be amazing to stay here in this amazing country and be able to do the same.”
Nicholas Astwood, a student at Tambearly School urged others to get involved in the sport.
“I started riding about three years ago when I started summer camp. It was supposed to be a week but I just feel in love with the sport,” he said, “I would suggest it to other young people because it’s a great sport to get into and I think every person should have the opportunity to learn to ride.”
Director of the Ministry of Education’s Sports Unit, Evon Wisdom, said the launch exhibits his ministry’s willingness to display the diversity of sport in the Bahamas.
“The sports unit is responsible for the entire Bahamas and all sports which come under that umbrella within our schools,” he said, “We know there are limited amount of schools with students that can compete. What we will be attempting to do in phase two is assisting in sponsorship of various schools. We would like to convene this series and then appeal to the nation as a whole. Once this pilot period is assessed we will consider full time status. We will be appealing to corporate Bahamas because we know this sport is not a cheap sport. We hope that this is successful not only for the persons currently involved but that we can reach out to others who have not been exposed to the sport.”
Bahamas Olympic Committee President, Wellington Miller, said he looks forward to equestrian becoming the next breakthrough sport for the Bahamas and his organisation is willing to invest toward that goal.
“This is another opportunity for young Bahamians and the government’s effort in making this accessible for everyone through schools,” he said, “It would be a great thing for the BOC to have someone represent the Bahamas in equestrian and have a breakthrough like Emily Morely did with rowing in Rio. Next year we get our annual budget from the IOC in January and I am sure we can put on courses and make Bahamians more aware and we can get funds to assist with the ventures in equestrian. If we are taking it to the inner city that’s what we want and that’s what we are working with the IOC to do. I am saying it publicly because we want to push this issue and I want equestrian to be apart of it.”