Equestrians saddle up for “Jewish Olympics”

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Showjumping at the World Maccabiah Games is run at 1.20m level.
Showjumping at the World Maccabiah Games is run at 1.20m level. © World Maccabiah Games

Showjumping and dressage riders are among athletes from more than 80 countries preparing to take part in the 21st World Maccabiah Games in Israel.

It is only the third time in 85 years that equestrian sports are being included in the program for what is often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics”, from July 12 to 26.

Held every four years in Tel Aviv, the Maccabiah Games received FEI approval in 2013 to hold dressage and showjumping events. Patterned after the Olympic Games, the event is produced by the global Jewish sports organization, the Maccabi World Union for Jewish and Israeli athletes.

The equestrian events are run under the auspices of the Israeli Equestrian Federation and conducted under FEI rules. Each country can enter up to 10 riders for each of the events, and all Israeli riders are providing a qualified horse to the pool of borrowed horses, which are available to those riders who are not bringing a horse, for a cost of $US1000 per horse. Teams comprise three competitors plus a reserve.

The dressage competition is being held at FEI Challenge Medium and Advanced level, and jumping is at 1.20m level. The equestrian events start on July 18 and wrap up on July 21.

With more than 10,000 athletes from 80 countries participating in 43 sports, the Games are the third-largest sporting event in the world.

Three dressage riders and four showjumpers will represent the USA, all competing on borrowed horses, with international eventing and dressage rider and longtime US para-dressage coach Missy Ransehousen travelling with the team as an advisor.

The USA's dressage team for the 2022 Maccabiah Games, from left, Rebecca Cord, Lauren Sara, Aviva Nebesky, and Missy Ransehausen. 
The USA’s dressage team for the 2022 Maccabiah Games, from left, Rebecca Cord, Lauren Sara, Aviva Nebesky, and Missy Ransehausen.  © Adrienne Morella

It will be the third trip to the World Maccabiah Games for team member, coach, and chef d’équipe Rebecca Cord. Cord, 40, of West Grove, Pennsylvania, and Clarksboro, New Jersey, is an FEI-level dressage competitor who owns and operates a training and sales business in Clarksboro. She is a US Dressage Federation (USDF) bronze and silver medalist, a USDF L graduate, and a USDF and American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA) certified instructor.

Aviva Nebesky, 63, of Bowie, Maryland, is a former social worker who now is a full-time equestrian professional. She specializes in teaching dressage to adult amateurs and to riders who struggle with fear and confidence issues. She has competed through Fourth Level and is a USDF bronze medalist and a USDF L graduate with distinction. She is also a co-host of the Dressage Today podcast.

A fashion designer by trade, notable for her maternity line, Lauren Sara, 59, of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, is an adult-amateur competitor who has been riding since childhood. Her primary equestrian discipline is eventing, and she has competed up to Third Level in dressage and has earned her USDF bronze medal.  Following the World Maccabiah Games, she plans to return her focus to eventing.

“When I was notified that I had made the team I felt an indescribable pride that I would be representing my country at the Games,” she said. “I look forward to competing with my teammates in Israel and meeting other riders from around the world.”

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