The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has given Cambodia an ambitious leg-up by launching a long-term FEI solidarity program to build a broad base for the sport and raise its competitive level in the Kingdom, from stable management to saddle artistry.
Inspired by the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity Movement, the FEI model, which took shape in 2011, is oriented towards strengthening the administrative structure, helping healthy equestrian communities grow and honing the skills of aspiring riders to create a pathway for a strong national team.
“This is the kind of sustained backing from the International Federation we have been yearning for, and this program could not have come at a better time as we head to Singapore for the SEA Games in June,’’ the secretary-general of the Cambodian Equestrian Federation, Mona Tep, said at the end of a training session for national riders conducted by FEI Solidarity officer Jean Philippe Camboulives at the Cambodian Country Club horse park on Monday.
An accomplished international eventing and jumping rider himself until 2001, Jean Philippe, who is a tutor in the French national university of sports, is now out on the field monitoring and evaluating FEI solidarity projects numbering 120 spread across 92 countries.
“I am excited to be in Cambodia. I am happy with what I saw during that session with the national team. They are skilled, attentive, focused, but they get to ride only ponies, which is a distinct disadvantage. To get to the higher levels you need competition horses, or sports horses as we call them” said Jean Philippe, who led the Brazilian team to the Beijing Olympics and the South African team to the World Equestrian Games in 2010.
“Ponies are excellent for beginners and for pleasure riding, but when it comes to serious competition you need bigger horses and the Cambodian Federation has to import these. I know the investment is huge, and there is no breeding system like in Europe in the South East Asian region, but getting these horses is the only way to a better future,’’ the Frenchman pointed out.
To educate, train and coach are the three basic tenets of this program, and the FEI solidarity officer has made it emphatically clear that his mission is to create a dynamic around the national team, help strengthen
the CEF structure and ensure the welfare of the horses and the healthy growth of grooms and farriers so that the community at large can prosper.
Under this program, a National Plan for development is being drawn up to cover the next two years and efforts will be pivoted towards educating the national team.
Cambodia’s national coach Kathy Lovatt, who led the team to the previous edition of the SEA Games in Myanmar and is now preparing the team for the Singapore mission, said that Jean Philippe’s visit to the country and his interactive sessions with the national riders had galvanised the entire community.
“It is a positive change in direction for all of us,’’ the national coach said.
Of the six riders in the national reckoning, the four who went through some rigorous jumping routines under the watchful eyes of Jean Philippe were Ly Sovanachandara, Sim Narith, Long Sopeakthra and Phat Makara.
One of the country’s most promising female riders, 14-year-old Alicia Kheam, watched the training session aboard her pony from the other side of the railings, attentively listening to Jean Philippe’s valuable tips as he put each one of the national riders through the jumping sequences.
Alicia recently took part in a competition in Taipei and is waiting in the wings to step up to major events, representing the national team she is already a member of.
Just like an experienced jockey gives his mount its “head’’ at the right moment in a race, the FEI initiative has come as a excellent blessing in disguise for the Cambodian Equestrian community.