Havana Thoroughbreds

Havana Thoroughbreds


By: Silvia Martínez Puentes Photos: José (Tito) Meriño

With measured and elegant movements Zabriena cantered through the gateway with experienced rider Maikel Carmenate at the reins. At that moment someone in the stands was waiting to make her his. Carmenate had cherished her, ridden her and tested her strength, and was determined she would not go for less than her worth. And the bidding began. First 7,000 €, then 15,000 then, as established by the rules, the bids went up 1,000 by 1,000.

Havana ThoroughbredsThe sale of Zabriena capped at 23 000 euros, the highest bid of the auction. Chilean Caceres Leopoldina carried off the golden mare (Tenerife VDL x Gershwin, born 4 July 2004), declared by the auctioneer to be a horse with all the attributes to win grand prize in any competition in the world.

The First Havana Elite Auction for jumpers became a great opportunity to acquire internationally ranked horses of the famous Royal Dutch Blood. The bidding, held at Lenin Park’s Equestrian Center, was organized by the Equestrian Club of Havana, VDL Stud and the travel agency ECOTUR SA.

Guillermo García, president of the Flora and Fauna Enterprise and recognized as the man behind the revival of equestrian sports in Cuba, made the welcome to all those present from Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and the Netherlands.

The quality of those sold at auction, he said, was the result of the brotherhood between Cubans and Netherlanders and especially the standards of a group of youngsters, almost children, dedicated to training and forming horses for national and international competitions and for the enjoyment of all lovers of the equestrian modality.

Havana Thoroughbreds“We want to have a structure in Cuba like the one we have in Holland,” VDL STUD founder and breeder Wiepke van de Lageweg, told Cubaplus. “From the moment I raised the idea, Garcia showed great enthusiasm and we decided to bring high-quality horses to Cuba. Europe has the greatest horse breeding centers in the world. Four years ago we took a Cuban jockey to the Central American and Caribbean Games. Our goal is to have a complete team, but for this we must hold auctions.

The surprisingly high level of seriousness with which the Flora and Fauna Company worked has achieved an equine center of the finest quality. Because this is only the first auction, we realize the prices have not been high; a great advantage for buyers. The center’s riders and workers are responsible for this miracle, Van de Lageweg affirmed.

Franklin Domenech Snowball, head trainer of the Equestrian Center, stressed that the country has never before had the quality of horses available today, which are essential to this sport.

The riders are lads that were very new to this and we trained them step by step, he said, because in equitation an experienced, versatile rider is necessary, and that requires time and effort in training. Fortunately, we have a tradition in Cuba of rigorous selection and training of athletes, he pointed out.

Havana ThoroughbredsFrom Franklin we learned that the riding schools of Artemisa, Bayamo, Camagüey and Holguín, in the child, youth and adult categories, feed the Lenin Park Equestrian Center - a superior training school where the island’s finest horses and riders are concentrated – one destined to become a site for international competitions as well as an attractive place for recreation and horseback riding.

As part of the International Equestrian Federation, Cuba has offered this institution for related specialty training courses and conferences such as veterinary, blacksmithing, track design and the labour of judges and trainers. The offer is completed with everything associated with an equestrian clinic.

SUGAR RANCH One could almost say that the auction began at Rancho Azucarero (Sugar Ranch), where bidders became familiar with the horses on which they would offer. There were tours of the stables of the mares and the stallions and the young developing animals, as well as the free jumping areas and the training rings.

Located west of Havana in Artemisa, Rancho Azucarero has more than 748.2 hectares on which to raise the animals’ fodder: basically hay and forage grasses combined with organic compost, protein supplements and honey.

Rangeland management is integrated with current engineering principles and enclosures with electrified perimeter fencing. Reproduction - both directed and by artificial insemination - is accomplished after meticulous selection of stallions, with advanced techniques that ensure the continuity of follicular development of the animal in order to facilitate breeding and early diagnosis at the optimum time. This permits the development of genetically excellent examples of precise selection for pedigreed English thoroughbreds, and Royal Dutch Warmbloods as well as the P.S.I. Holstein mixture.