Cuban Flora and Fauna

Cuban Flora and Fauna

By: Diona Espinosa

This is the first time Jean-Philippe Camboulives visits Cuba. It is also the first time a representative of the International Equestrian Federation (IEF) comes to the island. Camboulives has been part of the IEF Solidarity Committee for more than four years, and his mission is to assess the equestrian sports activity in Latin America.

Connoisseurs of the matter state that he is an expert, one of the best in the world. He has devoted more than three decades to something he is clearly passionate about. His services as coach of the national teams of France, Russia, and Ukraine testify to it. Horsemen from Guatemala profited from his expertise during the preparation for the Pan-American games of Guadalajara, Mexico (2011); and those of South Africa took advantage of it for the world championship in Lexington, United States (2010). For two years, the Brazilians were led by Jean-Philippe in the way to the Pan-American games of 2007, where they ended third and classified for the Beijing Olympic Games of 2008, a tournament in which they reached the tenth world place.

His arrival, last January 28, is the result of a call for assistance that the National Equestrian Federation presented a couple of months ago to IEF directives. Jean-Philippe was commissioned to assess the performance of the sport here. Like most tourists, upon his arrival he was impressed by the American cars from the 50’s that still traverse the streets of Havana. But he was most impressed by the exercise of horse breeding in the Cuban countryside.

In a tour of Rancho Azucarero, a breeding center located in the province of Artemisa, in the western part of the country, he was able to witness first-hand the professionalism of Cuban technicians and experts. They run the only farm in Cuba where pedigree horses from Holland, Argentina, Spain and Germany are bred.

Camboulives knows that in European countries horses receive a first level treatment and diet, and they acquire great physical shape and look marvelous. But the possibilities that the ranch offers are also very attractive.

There, not only do veterinarians, stable keepers and assistants give attention to animals and ensure the quality of their breeding, but also provide them with a 1,700 hectare field where they can gallop freely. All this brings “force and a high sport level” to Cuban specimens, he said. This is the key that opens the door to success for all teams in all countries.

The Frenchman assured that “with some luck, and work” young riders could form a team that could represent the island in the coming Pan-American and Central-American games. The problem is not the aptitude of the athletes, but the possibilities of the National Federation to “keep up the training and competition pace in order to advance within six or eight years with a select set of horses.”

There’s very little time, just about three years, before the Central-American games are here. However, Jean-Philippe wishes to start IEF projects in Cuba, step by step. According to Camboulives, “the principle of selection resides in identifying, qualifying, preparing.”

First, the international organization creates a long term development plan for athletes which includes scholarships, workshops, and courses for blacksmiths, stable keepers, coaches, judges, officers… Next, there will be the preparation of a 100% Cuban team, with enough quality to face regional, continental and world tournaments.

The technical potential of the horses in Cuba allows them to be included in these events, said the specialist. The sportsmen that practice in the ranch of Artemisa are very young, all under 18. So, Jean-Philippe predicts their possible participation in international events.

These young men are a treasure to be exploited. According to Jean-Philippe, they could very well occupy positions at the Lima Pan-American Games (2019) with as little as 23 or 24 years of age. In horseback riding, the best horsemen are around 55 years old. “The age average of the athletes participating in the Olympic Games of London (2012) was around 40.”

However, there’s more to do. Like in every other sport, the foundation for better results is trial, repetition, competition and rivalry of talents. The representative of the Solidarity Committee didn’t hesitate to state that “the horse must serve the sport.” Thus, the five competitions that take place every year in Cuba are not enough.

The sport cycle in horseback riding cannot wait 8 or 12 years for exchanges with other national teams. These cycles are measured by competitions like continental tournaments and other events such as the Bolivarian Games of Venezuela. Therefore, Jean Philippe proposes to increase competitions in Cuba to 25 at least, with two or three more in the junior or IEF Challenge categories.

Shortly the Cuban federation will have access to the online services platform of the International Federation, which will allow for exchanges between technical personnel. Camboulives will also present other initiatives and projects to the IEF commission, composed of a president and representatives from each region.

And in a few days Cuba will present its seventh horse auction. On February 13 international clients will be presented to fine horses that impress on account of their quality and their performance in prestigious world events.

The bidding starts at 7,000 euros and can reach up to 20 or 25,000 per horse, according to the organizers of the event. About the auction Camboulives said that “the fact that important buyers come to Cuba is clearly a result of the level of Cuban breeders and their horses.”

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