Rebecca Brown shares her experience of competing at the Maccabiah Games–think Jewish Olympics–in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Brown, a Texas-based event rider, earned fourth place individually in the Advanced dressage competition. The U.S. show jumping team won individual silver, and American Becca Weissbard brought home the individual gold. Many thanks to Rebecca for blogging about the whole Maccabiah Games experience. –Jenni Autry
Top photo: Alexa and Epo at one of the first practices. Photo by Sloane Milstein.
Sorry for the tardiness of this update, folks! Wi-fi in Israel was sketchy, at best, and I’ve finally gotten back to knowing what day and time it is here in beautiful US of A! The inaugural Dressage and show jumping competition of the Maccabiah Games has come and gone with plenty of success for the U.S. teams. To best and fully understand these results, you should know a few things about the competition logistics.
First of all, the organizers did a great job putting together this unique competition, but it wasn’t without its obvious shortcomings due to it being the maiden voyage. As it was told to us, it was originally difficult to convince the Israelis to take part in the competition and to lend the horses. In order to keep everyone happy, the Israelis were allowed to ride their personal horses. They were not subject to the drawing of random horses so long as they provided a second personal horse to go into the draw for riders from other countries.
All the horses that were put into the draw for dressage and show jumping were required to have qualified, but, as you can imagine, the horses that were put into the draw were the second-string horses. In a country that predominantly show jumps, the show jumping horses were mostly nice and the dressage horses were somewhat lacking. Of course, you’re going to get a mixed bag, but all were qualified and capable. It was up to us — the riders — to bring out their full potential!
The countries that decided to take part in the competition were Israel, Germany, Guatemala, Chile, Hungary, Mexico and the United States. Some sent full teams and others sent individuals. Israel was allowed to have as many individuals as wanted to compete. The riders ranged from highly accomplished amateurs/catch riders to Grand Prix dressage riders and Olympians. For example, Alberto Michan from Mexico placed fifth individually at the 2012 London Olympics. The horse draw was the most interesting part of this competition because, in its own way, it evened the playing field; you had no idea what you were going to get … with the exception of the Israelis, of course.
Alexa and I were fairly lucky in the horse draw. Alexa drew a 9-year-old Belgian gelding named Epo Van De Respen who was very kind but a tricky ride. He got very strong after the first few jumps, and Alexa showed true skill in keeping him jumping in great form. I drew a mare named Milani. She was a previous Israeli National Advanced Level Champion. At age 19, she was capable, but lacked that sparkle that will really blow the judges away.
The competition itself was very fun and proved to be a great challenge. The show jumping courses were fair but technical, and the dressage judging was what you’d expect at a championship. At the end of the Maccabiah Games, the USA show jumping team finished one point behind Israel to bring home the team silver medal, and Becca Weissbard from the USA finished with individual gold, jumping clean through all four rounds. The USA dressage team rode phenomenally to finish two riders in fourth place overall. Wendy Garfinkel finished in fourth place in the Medium Level and I finished in fourth place in the Advanced Level.
This was an absolutely great experience and a true challenge. I would highly suggest this experience for anyone who is interested. Any complaints that I may have had about the competition are all kinks relevant to the competition’s newness that will be fixed by the next Maccabiah Games in four years time. As far as I know, there are no other competitions like this. Aside from the horse swap for the individual show jumping title at the World Equestrian Games, it’s the only competition of its kind.
For us eventers, this competition asks us to compete in show jumping and dressage at a higher level than Advanced on horses that we don’t know after only four very short practice rides, in an international team format, in a foreign country. How could I say no? So, you’ve got four years to see if you can claim any form of Jewish-ness better get digging in that family tree! In the meantime, check out MaccabiEquestrian.com and “like” Maccabi USA Equestrian Sports on Facebook. Go USA!