As the Cayman Islands Equestrian Center welcomed the community in celebration of it’s 25th anniversary Saturday (29 September) national equestrian and instructor Jessica McTaggart says the sport has come a long way since the inception of the facility in 1993 by her mother, Mary Alberga.
“Mary’s idea, or what she will tell you, is that she wanted the opportunity for her children to learn to ride, and that was her goal. She left Jamaica in the 70’s and she always wanted her own riding stables and her own riding school.”
What started was with just one small stable has now grown to 30 plus horses on seven acres of land. After 25 years of cultivating the sport in the Cayman Islands, McTaggart says their equestrians are ready to make their mark.
“I’d like people to see there’s potential, that this is going somewhere for the country. My personal goal is to have a team at the 2022 Games. They look at you differently when you take a team than being an individual going.”
In 2010, McTaggart became the first rider to represent Cayman at a major international competition riding in the Central American & Caribbean Games. She followed that by competing at the 2011 Pan American Games. She says it was a major turning point for the Equestrian Center and the sport in Cayman.
“That’s when the federation started to see things differently. I think that’s when the riders here started to see well this is the possibility and it kind of inspired some of those younger riders.”
However, with just one major individual medal to the federation’s credit, a bronze by Holly Serpell at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation’s trophy cabinet is still pretty bare. McTaggart says her passion to change that won’t expire anytime soon.
“I think that the Olympics had a dressage rider in his 70’s, so it is experience under your belt and you have to put that time in, but yes, I want to hear my anthem.”
Currently, the Equestrian Center features a stable of young, competitive riders trotting closely behind. However, with the transient nature of Cayman ushering athletes to both school and with family, the future of Cayman’s equestrians are still undetermined.
“Right now I’ve got a really good core group of kids. It remains to be seen what they do with it they are still pretty young. I don’t know yet which one will embrace and maintain it and keep going with it.”