“Please come back home,” a weeping Lydia Hinds, mother of 16-year-old Nicole Lezama, said yesterday as she appealed for the safe return of the teen who has been missing since Saturday.
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Thomas making show jumping strides in Florida
Chelsea Thomas, one of T&T’s leading riders is certainly making good use of any extra time she may have while attending the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Thomas left Trinidad in August 2013 to begin her tertiary education, and to further advance her equestrian career, primarily in the show-jumping arena.
While in Florida, Thomas has been under the guidance and coaching of Debi Connor, a Grand Prix rider and Olympic qualifier hailing from Reddick, Florida.
Connor is one of the largest importers in the USA of horses for the Hunter/Jumper world of equestrian sports, but apart from that, she is a most gifted and professional horsewoman.
Before leaving for Florida, Thomas had secured several local titles under her belt. In March 2012, she won the Champion High Point trophy, and placed first in the preliminary adult class in the FEI World Dressage Challenge.
In May that same year, she earned the first place in Category C of the Beacon FEI World Jumping Challenge, before placing first in the mid-league class of the T&T Super League Show Jumping competition.
Thomas spends six days a week practicing with Connor in Ocala and since January has competed for three out of those six days in the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit. This winter show jumping circuit was a 10-week rotation, eight of which were competed in by Thomas.
On the average week, she would show from Thursday to Sunday giving her horse a rest day on the Monday, then training again on Tuesday and Wednesday before beginning another rotation on Thursday.
She began the circuit on St John 10:9, a horse leased to Connor. While this mount was a top jumper, Thomas and Connor eventually realised that the pair was not a good match.
For the last two weeks of the circuit, Thomas switched to another horse, Lots of Class, owned by Connor. This horse and rider pair proved a much better match. Having started the circuit jumping .95m, Thomas ended the circuit by going up a level, jumping heights of 1.10m.
Overall, on the HITS circuit, she enjoyed a first, second, third and three fourth placed finishes. Then in the RMI Mid-Florida show jumping event, which followed immediately, she also placed first, second and third.
Thomas has indicated her goals for the year, which she says includes travelling around Florida for additions competitions, as well as Tennessee, if possible.
She has set long-term goals for herself, the main one of which is to attend the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2018, once she has attained sufficient experience competing in higher level divisions around the USA.
Now that the HITS circuit is over, Thomas continues to train approximately four to five times per week. On a busy training day she can ride up to five horses.
While there are some riders that come up to Ocala to train from the Caribbean including but not limited to Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands and T&T, Tomas knows of none that live permanently in the area.
It will be a long road to thew Central American and Caribbean Games for the young rider, but she is determined to rise to the challenge. The fact that she currently lives and trains in Florida may well work to her advantage.
These games are held every four years and T&T was last represented in these international games in Puerto Rico in 2010 by Margaret Auerbach riding her own horse, Fantastic XIII in the dressage competition.