Local equestrians gearing up for the 2016 season started their preparation at the Kingston Polo Club, Caymanas Estates, over the weekend, with showjumpers in particular introduced to a new discipline – vaulting. Since last Friday, visiting FEI representative Emma Seely from California in the United States conducted a three-day workshop to familarise showjumpers with vaulting, one of seven disciplines in international competitions except the Olympics. Vaulting, she explained, is akin to gymnastics on horseback, but it requires intense training (initially on a barrell) to develop the skill. Seely said the workshop started last Friday with the older and more experienced showjumpers such as Jason Walter, Susan Wates, Lexie Wates, Denise Cole, Nabila Khouri, and Maelle Johnston, then moving to the children on Saturday and finally back with the older participants yesterday. “The response was good,” disclosed Seely. “Being introduced to vaulting for the first time, the participants were curious at first, but they soon got the hang of it, regarding basic movements on a horse, as well as get-fit exercises, and in the end they were quite keen and receptive,” added Seely, who has had vast experience in this area of the sport spanning 35 years. The sessions were conducted under the watchful eyes of national coach Betty Wates, who is also president of the Equestrian Federation of Jamaica. “Jamaicans being natural athletes, I believe we will adopt to vaulting pretty fast, and in a few years, could impact internationally in much the same way Samantha Albert did in showjumping and Alia Atkinson in swimming”, she said. Meanwhile, the polo players started their preparation over the weekend with practice matches on Saturday and yesterday ahead of the Doc Masterton Tournament on January 31 at the Caymanas Estates, traditionally the first polo match each season. According to Rachel Turner and Mitta Rousseau, two of the island’s top polo players, the action should increase this season following a lull in activities last year. Turner said the Doc Masterton will be followed by the Burger King Kids tournament on February 20, as well as the annual tour of the visiting team from Newport from March 3-6. They will play matches at the St Ann Polo Club at Drax Hall, Chukka Blue in Hanover and the Kingston Polo Club. Rousseau disclosed that later in the year there will be the club tournaments – the Hurlingham Cup and Senior Cup – for which Kingston Polo Club are defending champions, with players such as James Robertson, Paul Lalor, Mark Wates, Jorge Donovan, and Turner, as well as the Hi-Pro Family tournament, Dennis Lalor Polo tournament, and one of the big ones – the Scotia-sponsored tournament in mid-year.