From a family of polo players is born Barbados’ first eventing equestrian team. Founded by Monique Bjerkhamn Archer, the three-person team that includes her daughter Zoe, competed in and finished in third place at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Colombia last month.
Zoe delayed her freshman year of university to train for the three-part series that composes eventing: dressage, cross-country and show jumping. The Games, which were held on a military equestrian base outside of Bogotá in July, saw established teams from Central America and the Caribbean compete fiercely for medals and qualifications; none more so than the team from Barbados. Led by Coach Joss Gray of the UK, Monique, Laura Smith, and Zoe proudly took home bronze medals in eventing.
Eventing is the triathlon of equestrian sports with three, scored segments over the course of three days. Both the riders and the horses must be distinctly in tune from day-to-day as the requirements of the competition and scoring different completely.
“The first day is dressage, which is extremely disciplined; followed by the cross-country course in which you charge hills, descend slippery slopes… you jump logs and water,” said Monique. “It’s an incredible high due to the element of danger. The third day is show jumping – a return to precision and exactness.”
Monique and her team nailed the competition and stood on the podium proudly representing Barbados, a country where eventing wasn’t even a known sport two years ago. “The other teams we talked to who have trained for years couldn’t believe we entered, qualified and were competing after just such a short time,” Monique said.
It’s been an enormous effort personally for Monique who has championed the sport back home. Her father donated the land from their family farm to design and build the cross-country course that includes a water complex, steps, ditches and permanent corners.
But it’s a dream come true for Monique who was badly injured as a child from a horse kick in the face that required reconstructive surgery in England. She remembers her mother crying next to her in the hospital as she endured surgery after surgery. “’Don’t worry…’ I said to my mom, ‘I’ll get to the Olympics someday,’” Monique recounted. Her team’s finish in Colombia qualified them for the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru. Placing in Peru qualifies teams for the Tokyo Olympics.
“The difference between the Central American and Caribbean Games and the Pan-American Games is the CCI* level,” explained Monique. “Whereas the Central American and Caribbean Games were one star, the latter is two star.”
Zoe is off to England this fall – taking her horse Millridge Z Two with her. As for Monique, after months of being away– Miami, Bogotá, and elsewhere – she’s ready to recover for a bit in the comfort of her homeland where she and her horse, Camross Diamond, will prepare for Peru.