National dressage coach gears up for Caribbean championships
The Covid era has been tough for many sports with a lack of international competition but Bermuda’s dressage riders this weekend have the opportunity of competing against other countries on home soil.
With logistical difficulties and expensive transport costs for horses, the Caribbean Championships allows participants to stay in their own countries while an accredited judge travels to assess the rides.
Angela Halloran Smith, head coach of the Bermuda dressage team, is thankful for the opportunities that the competition affords.
“We’re extremely lucky to have this competition as it gives us international exposure without leaving the island,” Halloran Smith said.
“I’m all about striving to be better and this will give us a good sense of where we are. Bermuda was extremely strong in dressage three years ago but we had several upper-level horses and there is a cycle as those horses end up retiring, so we now have more younger horses.
“There is some super talent on the island, there is no question about that, but they are in the early stages of their training and the way this competition works is it rewards you for performing at the higher levels as you get a coefficient that gets added to your final score and that makes a big difference.
“I still feel our scores can be strong. We have two challenges, a mini challenge and a regular challenge and we have about 15 challengers in each. You perform your test and when you get the results, you select a team made up of the top scores.”
While excited about this competition and the future, Halloran Smith is frustrated that the momentum she had started to build as head coach was halted by the pandemic.
“It’s very exciting to see the changes that Bermuda dressage particularly has gone through over the last five years since I’ve been national coach,” Halloran Smith said.
“We were on such a high just before Covid but that just killed us, it really broke my heart. We had so much momentum and everything just stopped.
“We have just returned to competition in September and our show season runs until May. For the first time since I have been in Bermuda, which has been almost 12 years, we’ve had two shows in six months where we’ve had 50 rides. That’s huge for us.”
With things picking up nicely, Halloran Smith is confident that 2023 could turn out to be a vintage year.
“It’s going to be extremely busy, which is fantastic,” Halloran Smith said. “We already have an international judge scheduled to come right after the first of the year, so she’s coming to do clinics. In February, we have another US judge coming over and we have shows in March and May.
“I’m also delighted that Lendon Gray [former US national champion] will be back in June with her Dressage4Kids programme, so we’re really busy.”
Halloran Smith is very giving of her time and is also a member of the Women in Sport Committee, which recently held a highly successful event celebrating the achievements of female athletes and officials.
“Women in Formation was great,” Halloran Smith said. “I became a part of the women in sport committee through the Equestrian Federation and I had just become the national coach and thought I would participate.
“It’s been fantastic to see what other sports are doing and how amazing the other women are. We are extremely happy that it went well and the best thing about it was that it didn’t really matter which sport you were from. It was all about coming together and celebrating the success of women in sport and acknowledging their strength. It was an amazing evening.
“I think it’s important to realise that there are extra challenges being an athlete in Bermuda. There aren’t as many things available to you as there would be on a US team or a UK team. They have so much more to offer their athletes but a lot of the groundwork here comes from the athletes themselves. I believe that here they need to have a much deeper commitment to succeed.”