EQUESTRIAN Michelle Sabga Aboud became the first TT rider to complete an Advanced Intermediate 1 Dressage Test at a competitive level on Sunday.
Aboud achieved the feat at the TT Equestrian Association (TTEA) Dressage League 2 competition (July 9-12). Additionally, the 19-year-old rode the Prix St Georges (non-competitively) and is now the third national to complete this test to date.
The Prix St Georges is the beginning of the international levels of dressage. This level is governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale. Any horse competing at this level must be a minimum of seven years of age.
Before Aboud’s historic display, Margaret “Muffy” Auerbach rode the Advanced Intermediate 1 test once before on her horse Ferrari for demonstration purposes only.
At the Prix St Georges level, Patrice Stollmeyer, the current TTEA president along with Auerbach were the only two other TT nationals to have competed at this level.
“This has been a lifelong dream of mine. However, things did not always go according to plan. I was lucky enough to have a solid foundation with my coaches both in Trinidad and aboard and with my horse ‘Take Over’ who is an advanced level dressage horse,” said the University of Bristol (England) student.
Aboud has been riding for seven years. Her journey began at the now-closed Goodwin Heights Stables with Auerbach and Sara McCartney. During her time there, Aboud’s passion for horses grew quickly and she was accepted into a programme in Wellington, Florida with Olympian Lendon Gray.
“It was a fantastic learning experience for me. However, I learnt a lot of hard life lessons and all did not go according to plan,” she said.
The young rider returned to TT in September 2018 for a gap year before commencing her degree in 2019. During Aboud’s first year at university, she took a year off from riding to settle down at school.
Although based in England, Aboud was able to return home before the border closure due to covid19. While abroad, she trains with Pammy and Pippa Hutton at The Talland School of Equitation.
“Since my return to Trinidad, I have continued my training with them via Zoom. With their outstanding commitment to me and coaching skills, I have gone from riding third level to schooling the Grand Prix,” she added.
Recently, Aboud attempted the Advanced Intermediate 1 in Wellington, Florida, but was unable to do so. It wasn’t until the owner of Biscoito, Luisa Fernandes and a clinician, Maria Iñes saw the potential in her and pushed the youngster to aim higher.
Following her year off of riding, Aboud was unable to stay away any longer.
“This time I was more determined than ever to accomplish my lifelong dreams, irrespective of the significant time and energy commitments this practice demands. I did not expect to be in Trinidad right now, and to be training and competing Biscoito at this advanced level, but sometimes life throws you some unexpected, but very welcomed surprises.” she said.
Aboud eagerly awaits the resumption of the new school term to return to training in person with the Hutton’s. She remains intent on competing at the Grand Prix level chasing her dream of Olympic qualification.
In the UK, Aboud’s equestrian coaches have guided her to experience very steady breakthroughs in her riding development.
She added, “They are the perfect complements of each other, and work as a team in everything they do – a fantastic combination of a mother-daughter duo! Pammy really works on pushing me past my comfort zone in every ride and always raises the bar of what she expects from me. Pippa, on the other hand, focuses on perfecting the details and my confidence on different horses as this is something I really struggle with.”