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Taking Hong Kong horsemanship to the world

Corinne Bracken: “One of the proudest moments in my career is to qualify the para dressage team for the Paralympics.”

Corinne Bracken, show jumping performance manager for the Hong Kong equestrian team, wakes up with passion and purpose every day.

Corinne Bracken (right) led three members of the Club's Para Dressage Squad, Fleur Schrader (left), Timothy Tsang and Natasha Tse to the equestrian events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.  (Photo provided by interviewee)

Corinne joined The Hong Kong Jockey Club in 2015. Apart from coaching, she also works as a coordinator and mentor of showjumpers at international competitions. For that she has been travelling between Hong Kong, Britain and many other places in Europe in recent years. Of all the world-class contests she has taken part in, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is certainly the most memorable.

After years of hard work, one equestrian rider and three para riders supported by the Club qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. They represented the largest contingent of equestrian athletes Hong Kong had ever sent to the Games. Corinne says: “To stand there with the world’s cameras on you and be part of the Hong Kong team and see that flag flying on the screen, it just made me feel so proud.”

“One of the proudest moments in my career is to qualify the para dressage team for the Paralympics,” she adds.

However, none of those achievements came easy. Hong Kong’s equestrian riders have to go around the world to train and compete. "Our show jumpers are located all over Europe, while the para dressage team riders are mainly based in Hong Kong. With the pandemic restrictions, logistics and transportation are a challenge. Whether it's gathering everyone in one place for training or communicating remotely, it's all about keeping up the team spirit,” Corinne explains. "But I am happy to take on the challenges. Our team motto is: We have no problems. We only have opportunities.”

Corinne says equestrianism relies on the harmony between horse and rider. Solid horsemanship usually takes several years to build, as a rider and their horse need to get to know each other bit by bit to build a special bond. The veteran coach is also grateful for the Club’s decades-long dedication to public education, as well as to the nurturing and support of equestrian athletes. “The Club’s public riding schools allow riders to start from the bottom. After taking introductory courses, they can enroll in more advanced lessons or even take part in competitions,” says Corinne.

The 2020 Paralympics was the first time Hong Kong fielded a team to compete at that level, marking a new milestone in para dressage. The three para riders, three-time Paralympian Natasha Tse, Timothy Tsang and Fleur Schrader, are members of the Club's Para Dressage Squad. The trio joined the Hong Kong Riding for the Disabled Association when they were small and learned to ride in public riding schools.

“The core of our programmes is to identify talent, develop potential and deliver success.”

Since Corinne joined the Club seven years ago, Hong Kong’s equestrian development has thrived from winning medals in Asian competitions to shining on the international stage at the Olympics. “The core of our programmes is to identify talent, develop potential and deliver success. With the backing of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, I can only see the equestrian programmes getting better and stronger,” Corinne says.

Corinne Bracken with members of the Club's Para Dressage Squad, Timothy Tsang (middle), Fleur Schrader (right) and Natasha Tse (left).  (Photo provided by interviewee)

Did you know?

Following the equestrian events of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, which were held in Hong Kong with the Club’s support, the Club established the HKJC Equestrian Team and Junior Equestrian Training Squad to develop elite Hong Kong riders.

In 2016, the Club launched the merit-based Hong Kong Equestrian Performance Plan. This comprehensive programme provides not only equestrian mentors and a full support team, but also access to top-class competition horses.

In 2019, the HKJC Youth Equestrian Development Programme, which is run in collaboration with The Equestrian Federation of Hong Kong, China and Hong Kong Sports Institute, was unveiled to develop a pipeline of future talents.

To support riders and horses to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Club sent a specialist support team, including a performance manager, coaches, grooms, veterinarians, farriers and physiotherapists for both riders and horses, to Tokyo.

In 2021, four members of The HKJC Equestrian Team represented Hong Kong in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games - the largest equestrian team Hong Kong has ever qualified.  (Photo provided by interviewee)