While Israeli fans tend to stick with mainstream sports such as soccer and basketball, the Israeli Equestrian Team put horse events on the map last Friday, when they made history by being the first Israeli team to compete in an international equestrian competition.
Although the Canadian team won the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, the Israeli team reached its goal of bringing Israeli horse-racing to an internationally competitive level. T.E.A.M. Israel (The Equine Athletics Mission Israel), a non-profit organization promoting the sport in Israel, backed the Israeli athletes at the event.
“Competing as a team at this level is no longer just a dream, and we hope to inspire more Israeli riders to join us in creating depth in our equestrian sports for generations to come," said T.E.A.M. Israel CEO Kate Levy.
As part of the Nations Cup, the Israeli show jumping team competed in the Wellington, Florida event last Friday. The team consists of riders Danielle Goldstein, Elad Yaniv, and Joshua Tabor, with Levy serving as chef d'equipe (team captain).
“This Nations Cup team achievement is a much-anticipated and incredibly positive step in the right direction for the Israeli Equestrian Team, T.E.A.M. Israel, and every equestrian and horse-enthusiast in Israel. We are so proud to be the first team to ever raise the flag for Israel, and we consider it a victory to have made it this far,” remarked Levy.
The Israeli team surmounted the odds by competing, even though two members of the team, Yaniv and Tabor, were riding their horses for the first time. Most riders at the event had familiarity with their mounts, giving the Israelis a disadvantage.
Levy spoke about the difficulties in competing, saying that "it was a little daunting competing at this level where everyone knows that it would be better to establish a relationship with the horses, but we were willing to risk it all to be part of this event and begin charting our path to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio."
The team's third member, Goldstein, made aliyah (immigrated) from the US in 2010. Last summer she represented Israel in the European Championships in Denmark, and led the Israeli show jumping team to a gold medal at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in her capacity as coach.
Deborah Schultz, co-founder of T.E.A.M. Israel, remarked that "it is so exciting to see this vision come to life and have Israel so well represented on the international stage." She called the competition the first step towards the organization's goal "of developing a robust equestrian culture in our small but powerful country."
That goal will be further by the group's aspirations to advance in the Nations Cup US summer tour.