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A day for history


XALAPA, Ver., México. 17th November 2014

México champion!

The team from Mexico made up by Bernadette Pujals, Mariana Quintana, José Luis Padilla and Omar Zayrik has capped a year long preparations with a phenomenal triumph. Team gold! I get exited and teary eyed just thinking about it. It was so exciting that even the president of Mexico’s national Dressage Committee was jumping with joy.

The day started out slightly cloudy, the starting order for Intermediare I test was the same as for the Prix St George but today the atmosphere in the Coapexpan Riding Club was much more exited, tense, nervous and lots of worried faces could be seen in the larger crowd. Everyone was following every step the horses made.

From the very beginning of the day everyone knew that the Mexican team would give their all, that it was a no holds barred situation to get the gold medal. It has been 20 long years since Mexico won a team gold in Center American and Caribbean Games. Something had to give.

The first up was Omar Zayrik, with military bred Presuntuoso, who scored a much better result than in the Prix St George, a 65.527%. Following him came one of the young future promises of the region, Radmé Mahamud with Highlander. This horse once upon a time was Raúl Corchuelo’s stellar mount. Radmé And Highlander scored 63.921%, improving slightly from their previous mark. It seems curious that given that Inter I is a much more difficult test than Prix St George many riders are more comfortable in this test and can considerably improve their scores. Inter I requires full canter pirouettes, canter zig-zag in half passes with flying changes in the change of direction and two series of flying changes, every three and every two steps.

In the first group of riders was Alida Coburn from Venezuela who scored 58.237% because she had problems in the test, especially in the pirouettes and resistance in the horse during the changes. A wise Mexican judge explained to me that this test the Inter I separates the horses that can truly collect and tries the riders’ coordination to get the changes out of the horse. After Coburn, came Andrea Schropp from Guatemala, who surprised this reporter as she seemed a completely different combination, where she did best was in the flying changes.

Then came the turn of Mariana Quintana whom I find very charming as she’s always smiling when the announcer called her name, suddenly the atmosphere in the Coapexpan club became much more rarefied, tenser and more exited. The public received Mariana with a brief ovation, no-one wanted to go over the top. She shone out in her test as she was very relaxed, soft and precise. It could be seen she was truly enjoying her ride, it’s delightful to watch this combination. Even her much criticized walk was excellent, it was very relaxed without the hind end ambulating, I sincerely do not comprehend why she’s always marked low in this. What I liked best from her test was the canter zig-zag in half passes. When she finished the public could not contain itself and the ovation resounded in the arena. Mariana was visibly relieved and very happy, she hugged her horse Benzemá and left the arena. Her score was great: 66.421%. another combination to improve their score.

After her followed Marco Bernal, the second rider from Colombia, a very experienced rider and who in the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara 2011 together with this very same horse Farewell IV obtained 71.105% in this very same test. But today it was not to be, it was much more difficult day for Marco, some changes were not on time and after the extended canter there was a miscommunication with the horse that caused him to half trot-half canter. He had to use stronger aids to get the horse’s response and so his score was 65.421%, a difference from his score in the Prix St George of 67.658%.

On the heels of Marco along came Yvonne Losos de Muñiz, from Dominican Republic who is a Grand Prix rider and who has won individual gold in the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio. Together with her new horse, Foco Loco, scored 65.474%. With her concluded the first group of riders.

The second group began with Michelle Batalla -Egerström, riding a lovely Danish mare with a nice small shapely head, but with a lot of character as was noticeable she has trouble concentrating. Even so Michelle got a 61.132%. Then came Irina Muro from Venezuela who scored 64.105%, Irina is also one of the riders that is always smiling. Margarita Castillo was next, from Guatemala who obtained 65.211%, considerably better than in the Prix St George, then the only rider from Honduras, Karen Atala that scored 61.132%.

Finally it was the turn of Berna Pujals, as she came into the arena the Mexican champion was received with cheers and lots of applause, Berna turned her head and smiled at her admiring public, thanking them for the reception. Her mare Aurora El Camino looked very well connected, calm and willing.

From the moment the Judge at C rang the bell, everyone grew quiet and turned their rapt attention to the combination entering the arena. A difficult test performed by an expert who knows how to ask her horse for what she wants, Berna rode Aurora for everything she had. Berna remarked later that Aurora has a lot of character, that she tends toward willfulness, that she’s not an easy horse. In the first halt the mare was not square, she left the right hind leg out, then later in the rein back the mare hesitated, but in the canter exercises after the walk the mare seemed to visibly relax and enjoy the work, the flying changes had a quite a bit of jump, the pirouettes very collected and in place, the extensions with impulsion and all through the test the mare was always on the vertical. Berna is one of those riders that is soft with the curb bit, her rein always has a little bit of lax, it’s never tense.

The final trot extension and halt were perfect, when she finished her salute there was a moment while the audience gathered themselves and then broke into cheers and applause. Berna had a wide smile and was visibly satisfied, she knew she’d done her best, and the results proved it: 70.947%. Yet agin Berna squashed the competition.

After Berna came the turn of Virginia McKey, only rider from Bermuda, who scored 62.053%. Next was Marco “Junior” the 17 year old son of Marco Bernal from Colombia, he outdid all previous riders from his team and score 67.869%, the second best score so far. Quite a feat for so young a person. After him came the other young lady Ami Egerström, from Costa Rica, who demonstrated she’s one with her horse Amorino, this friend impresses me more every time I see her, although this time she scored 65.790%, less than in the Prix St George.

Alejandro Gómez from Venezuela was next and with the stallion Drakkar Noir 3, by the way one of the most beautiful horses of the competition, and scored 64.237%. Then Sylvia Luna from Guatemala who scored slightly better with 64.869%.

José Luis Padilla from Mexico was next with Donnersberg, also received with cheers, rather louder this time, so much so that Donnersberg did a very comical (to the observer) double take and turned on his haunches with the intention of running away, that is just until José Luis got him in hand and the public quieted down after witnessing such an extreme reaction.

Although José Luis did his best, after this Donnersberg was not happy and rather tense with an error in the flying change after the extended canter, and so they scored the lowest of the Mexican delegation: 63.00%.

The next combination was Puertorican Luis Reteguiz Denizard together with Royal Affair, and they did perform royally well and scored 68.579%, very close to their Prix St George score and the closest yet to Berna.

After Luis came the turn of the last combination from Colombia: Raúl Corchuelo, with Beckham, the one rider considered capable of challenging Berna, he also received an ovation from the public, as the Colombians came with plenty of cheerleaders. At the beginning everything looked well, but when the canter exercises began the horse started to resist , he did not want to perform the pirouettes, refused to change lead in the last series of changes and when they got to C for the transition to trot the horse just plain did not want to continue, Raúl had to apply some strong kicks and everyone just suffered along with him, from being ranked 2nd he went to the bottom of the scoreboard with 57.500%. To sum it up it was just terrible.

There being only two riders left, everyone just wanted to know the results, after such a terrible performance from Raúl all Mexicans could feel the gold medal already.

Cristobal Egerström from Costa Rica was second to last. In the Prix St George he was outdone by his daughter, but this time he came out the better rider with a score of 63.366% even though his horse Bello Oriente bobs his head in the canter pirouettes.

The Venezuelan Irina Moleiro was the last rider and such was the anxiety felt by everyone that even the announcer forgot she was yet to pass. Irina paid no attention to the situation and rode her test very well and scored 64.737%.

Finally the test concluded and everyone from reporters, public, judges, secretaries, riders… we were all tense expectant, impatient, waiting for the final results from Irina and the overall team scores. While the arena personnel put in place the podium and red carpet, the score technicians made us wait.

Us Mexicans in the know we could feel the gold already, but until the final results were announced it was still speculation. Then along came Antonio Rivera, the Mexican team trainer and often time fellow team member, from the direction of the Appeals Committee and he let me know that it was true: Mexico won gold.

Finally, finally, the announcer called the placings, the Mexican team made up of Mariana Quintana, José Luis Padilla, Omar Zayrik and with Berna Pujals in the lead, had imposed themselves on the competition and obtained the very much yearned for team gold medal.

In second place the silver went to Colombia, and the third place the bronze, for Guatemala.

To describe the emotion of witnessing such a feat is impossible, al I can say is that I’m very exited, happy and very proud of my friends

Berna, Mariana, José Luis y Omar: Congratulations!!!

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