The third Inter-Africa Vaulting Cup took place from the 22nd to the 24th of March in the Lipizzaner Hall at Kyalami Equestrian Park. For three days, the Lipizzaner Hall was transformed into an international vaulting venue, with flags, bunting, plants, and a beautiful competition arena in front of the grandstands and a screened-off practice arena at the back of the hall.
Seven South African teams from four vaulting clubs and eleven teams from Mauritius (2), Zambia (3), Malawi (3) and Swaziland (3) competed in the E-grade competition. This year D-grade was offered for the first time in the Inter-Africa Cup, and this was contested by four South African teams from three clubs and a team from Swaziland. Eight of the teams were development teams ó teams made up primarily of vaulters from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are heavily dependent on sponsorship and aid and for whom vaulting is an unprecedented opportunity.
Karen McGowan, Malawiís National Vaulting Representative, brought two teams of young vaulters mostly recruited from farms in rural Malawi. Many of these children had never been in a car before, let alone a plane; for some, this was also the first experience of hot baths and proper beds. Karen said, ëThey had the time of their lives Ö we brought the vaulters as an experiment! Of course, most of our vaulters are underprivileged: they have no exposure to television, theyíve never seen sports like dancing or gymnastics. They loved it ñ weíre all over the moon.í Last year, Karen imported a horse suitable for vaulting from South Africa, and has been coaching her teams without a resident international coach ó she has hosted clinics with Agata Pekala and a visiting German coach ó and she is to be congratulated on her teamsí achievements. Most of her vaulters speak only Chichewa, so she also has to serve as a translator during clinics, and during the training hosted at Riba Stables immediately before the Inter-Africa Cup. In the E-grade event, Karenís teams came 4th and 9th and the Michiru Club team, also from Malawi, came 7th.
Mauritius also has no resident international coach; Barbie and Jasyn Gertenbach ran intensive clinics there earlier this year, and Jasyn coached their teams in the run-up to Inter-Africa Cup. They fielded two very strong teams which included some very supple and talented vaulters. Congratulations to Celine Bourgault, Claire de Ravel, Victoria Seesha, and Nicolas Desvaux, the members of Mauritius 1, the winning E-grade team. Congratulations also go to Yoanna Seesha from Mauritius 2 (which came 6th in the E-grade): she was the only vaulter anyone had ever seen perform a head-stand on a horse!
Like Malawi, Zambia entered Inter-Africa Cup for the first time this year, and achieved excellent results in the E-grade competition: 2nd, 8th and 11th places. Silke Jens from Germany has been coaching there for two months, and Agata Pekala from Poland has also run some clinics. Silke says that some of her vaulters are really talented and very enthusiastic; they are looking for a canter horse and are determined to go far.
Swaziland, like South Africa, has been involved with the Inter-Africa Vaulting Cup from the start, when Kate Taman of the Swazi-Lizkhar Stud was one of the enthusiasts who got the event going. Ilka Kempes, from one of the top German vaulting teams, has been coaching in Swaziland since the beginning of the year. The Swazi teams, sponsored by MTN, were placed 5th, 17th and 18th in the E-grade competition and 4th in the D-grade event. MTN Swaziland (D) was the highest-placed development team.
South Africa fielded teams from four clubs: River Park, Riba, Willows and Enos Mofokateís Soweto Riding Club. Enos says that, after over 20 years of trying to make it possible for disadvantaged riders to compete internationally in show-jumping, he has realised that vaulting is the discipline with the most potential for development. He says, ëInvolvement in a sport, especially one that includes a chance of representing oneís country, can give these kids an interest that enables them to break free from the disadvantages of their backgrounds.í In the E-grade event, SA River Park came 3rd, SA Soweto 10th, and South African teams also took 12th to 16th places. The D-grade event was won by SA Riba 2: congratulations to Nicole Masson, Kelsey-Jo Baumann, and Julia Pitchford. SA River Park came 2nd, SA Riba 2 came 3rd and SA Soweto was 5th.
Inter-Africa Vaulting Cup 2008 was a huge success and the visiting teams all said how much they had enjoyed the experience. The atmosphere and spirit were amazing: everybody was involved and teams shared horses and coaches, fun and games, meals and chores. Mikkel Vandrup from Denmark, who is coaching at Riba, says that it was an amazing experience to see all the teams helping each other and that he will be glad to be able to boast that he was part of Inter-Africa Cup 2008. Although Mikkel helped with most of the teams, the Soweto teams were his special charge, and their performances did him proud. There were also some (happy) tears shed ó amongst the spectators during the opening ceremony, and the day after the show saw tears and many gifts of carrots as young vaulters had to say goodbye to borrowed horses that they had worked with prior to and during the show.
A show succeeds only because of the efforts of many people. Thanks are due to all the officials who served through the three days of the show, and especially to the judges ó Silke Ceruti and Shelley Paveley. Heartfelt thanks go to Janet Pitchford, Warren Hunter, Ina de Vry, Jakes Gertenbach, Cheryl Theron and Ingrid Masson, all of whom provided help in ways too numerous to mention. Thanks also go to a number of our young international vaulters, who gave a lot back to their sport and worked very hard to make the show a success. Jasyn and Chelsey Gertenbach, Bongani Mabandla and Kenhardt de Vry helped with everything from coaching and lungeing to operating the music for the show to heavy lifting, tidying up, picking up rubbish left by spectators, and all the little things that have to happen in the background.
Generous sponsorship enabled Barbie Gertenbach and her team to decorate the arena attractively, and to award trophies and ensure that every vaulter received a rosette, snacks and Easter eggs, and mementoes such as T-shirts. Thank-you to Twinings Tea, Silke Ceruti, Equipage, Haulcon, Multotec Pty Ltd, First Choice Financial Services, Oryx Logistics, Vrijehof Stud, Divine Sales, Herbal Life and Blue Hills Nursery. A special acknowledgement must be made of the FÈdÈration Equestre Internationale, which provided funding to help development teams with their costs.