Kirista Rabain believes she is capable of a top-ten finish at the FEI World Jumping Finals — if she has a slice of luck with her randomly-assigned horse.
Rabain will represent Bermuda at the finals in Algiers, Algeria, from July 27 to 29 after winning the World Jumping Challenge at the National Equestrian Centre in March to qualify for the competition.
She will be among 20 riders from the more remote countries hoping to advance to the podium round by placing in the top half after two qualifying stages.
Rabain qualified on her horse, Helsinki van de Heffinck, but will be required, along with all of the competitors, to adjust to a borrowed horse when she arrives in North Africa.
“You have to pick from random horses as it would be too expensive for riders to ship their own horses to Africa,” said Rabain, who had to qualify at a height of 1.30 metres.
“You never know what you’re going to get and some horses can be very tricky, especially the females who are often more emotional and sensitive.
“You need to be on their page a bit more, whereas the male horses you can typically just get on and do well. My expectations are to try and get on the podium, but I’ll be happy just to make the final.”
Rabain has previous experience to draw upon having competed at the 2015 finals in Zhitnica, Bulgaria, coming third in the Farewell Competition.
Philip Correia, who won a silver medal at last year’s event in Rabat, Morocco, also qualified for Algers as one of the region’s top-two riders but is unable to travel because of work commitments.
Countries competing will include New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Lebanon, India, Morocco, Mauritius and Uzbekistan.
The event had been set for May 3 to 6 but was postponed after the Algerian government suspended all sporting and cultural events because of its parliamentary elections.
“I’m a lot more prepared this time around, knowing how the format works and how the horses are chosen,” said Rabain, who will travel with her coach Mary Frances Gaglio.
“In Bulgaria my horse was a little bit older so she didn’t perform as well.
“But I’ve done a lot more riding and I’m in a better place just to get on a horse and get along with the job. I’ve been schooling so many horses [in Bermuda] and I think I stand a better chance of being able to bond with the horse a lot faster.”
Rabain, who rides at Hinson Hall Stables in Devonshire, intends to reach out to Patrick Nisbett, one of the island’s top show jumpers, who has been a great source of advice for the 25-year-old.
Nisbett, who is now based in Europe, won silver at the finals in Hagen, Germany, in 2005.
“Whenever Patrick and Jill [Terceira] are back on the island I ask for tips and lessons,” Rabain said. “When I was in Bulgaria I was talking to Patrick quite a bit about my horse and how to get along with her as she really wasn’t easy at all.
“While I was competing at this year’s World Jumping Challenge, Patrick would look at my round on videotapes and give me advice to build on. He’s a great help and definitely helps to clarify things.”
Such is Rabain’s passion for horses, she has also tried her hand at harness racing at the National Equestrian Centre on Vesey Street.
“I was probably 14 or 15 years old and I would go and stand at the fence and watch the people go around and think about how cool it would be to be in the buggy,” said Rabain, who works for Best Shipping.
“I was offered the chance to jog and train with them and it just took off. Horses are such a passion for me that I’m keen on anything to do with them. I won’t be racing this season, though, as I’m focusing on school, work, and being an adult!”