Heidi Mello makes history as first Bermudian president of Caribbean Equestrian Association
History was made at the Caribbean Equestrian Association’s recent Annual General Meeting as Heidi Mello became the organisation’s first Bermudian president.
The highly certified course designer and judge was unanimously voted in the post during last week’s Zoom meeting, which came as no real surprise given she had been hand-picked by her successor, Di Clarke, to take over the reigns.
“Last year at the AGM she [Clarke] approached me and said her term was up, looking for new blood, and so we basically spent the year preparing me for taking over as president,” Mello told The Royal Gazette.
Mello has her work cut out but is confident she can be equal to the task.
“I have a lot of work to do and it’s some really big shoes to fill,” she added. “But I feel very confident I can do a lot for the Caribbean.
“I have a wealth of knowledge and overseas experience up to Olympic level. It’s just finding ways to adapt big international scenes to work in little Caribbean islands which is one of the struggles. One of the key things to do is to find a way as a happy medium how we are going to make this work. That’s basically one of the biggest battles.”
At the top of Mello’s agenda is education and its vital trickle down effect in the sport.
“My biggest thing within the CEA now is going to be education; we have to keep the officials educated,” she said. “The officials then educate the competitors, the riders, the coaches and so forth.
“Like any other sport, the rules change every year and new formats, tables and competitions come out and we have to keep current on them so the head horse organisation, which is the FEI, has basically incorporated some new standards of examining their officials.
“It’s actually quite hard for people in the Caribbean to keep up with because travel and overseas experience is required, and they want to see us in person every three years which is the exams I’m preparing for right now.”
Mello also plans to develop a program within the region geared towards increasing the number of officials and competitions and most importantly help the CEA retain its ties with the sport’s world governing body.
“The biggest problem we had is that our officials in Bermuda don’t tend to officiate outside of the country,” she added.
“We are having a hard time throughout the Caribbean maintaining official status under the FEI, so we’re going to have to develop a program within the Caribbean and that’s why my biggest thing is going to be education. It’s got to be because we can’t have competition if we don’t have officials, and we if we don’t have competition then we have nothing for the competitors.”
Elka Gibbs, the Bermuda Equestrian Federation director, says Mello’s wealth of knowledge and experience will enhance the continued development of the sport within the region.
“Heidi is a qualified FEI Level 3 Course Designer and a FEI Level 1 Judge,” she added. “In addition, Heidi has extensive experience at officiating at numerous overseas competitions. The Bermuda Equestrian Federation extends its sincere congratulations to Heidi.”
Mello is joined on the CEA executive by her wife, Missy Shelley Mello, who has succeeded Bermudian Anne Cherry as the association’s honorary secretary.
“I have big shoes to fill after Mrs Cherry because she’s done this a long time,” Shelly Mello said. “She knows everybody and knows the stuff like the back of her hand so I have a big learning curve.
“Luckily she has agreed to help me in the transition and has helped me a lot in the BEF with points and running shows. It’s been great for me to learn from someone like Mrs Cherry.”
As for her wife’s new role as president, Shelly Mello added: “She is super excited about it and has a lot of ideas.
“Education is key and because she’s been around the world in many capacities – for both show jumping and dressage – I think she has a lot of ideas that she has seen all over the world and can contribute a lot to the countries that haven’t done a lot.
“I know all the advisory committees for both show jumping and dressage are super excited for 2022 just because we can go back in the ring and have a bunch of ideas; I think Heidi will really help.”
Shelly Mello assisted her partner in her previous role on the CEA as director of education and chairman of show jumping.
“My wife was helping me do that and the other thing she and I actually created was an educational round table,” Heidi Mello said. “Every other week we would meet and I would recruit colleagues from all over and we discussed rules, how classes went, and current events – and that was a really big hit. That’s what really opened my eyes to how much more education was needed.
"Late last year she became an FEI official herself for Bermuda and she’s actually an international stewart, so she has a very good feel for the sport and what goes on.
“Having my wife as the secretary is awesome because she does all of my secretarial stuff anyway.”