Jimmy Mandala, the facility manager of the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington who was entrenched in the village’s equestrian community, died this week after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 48.
Mandala passed away on Halloween at a hospice in Easton, Md., according to an obituary posted on the local Star Democrat newspaper’s website. Mandala’s father, brother and uncle also died from pancreatic cancer, according to the obituary.
There will be a celebration of life in Wellington this winter.
Mandala’s equestrian career and work as a steward for the International Federation for Equestrian Sports took him to the Central Park Horse Show and the Dressage Festival of Champions in Gladstone, N.J.
“He was an amazing person who overcame many obstacles in the short amount of time that I knew him,” his wife, Annie Cizadlo, wrote in a Facebook post. “He was an incredible ring steward. He worked countless hours at shows across the country. I still have a photo from the 2010 WEG in Kentucky with a ring he built hanging in my living room.
“I see his reflection in the Global Dressage Facility in Wellington each and every time I am there,” she said.
Wellington’s equestrian community rallied around Mandala and Cizadlo during his treatment. Last year when Mandala’s pickup needed repairs, Michael Barisone of Barisone Dressage organized a fund-raiser to rebuild the Dodge Ram 2500 from the ground up, according to an article from Dressage News.
“Jimmy was a lovely man, and he took care of us all wonderfully at Global Dressage for many years,” said longtime Wellington resident Carol Cohen Hodess, a founding member of the Global Dressage Festival.
Cohen Hodess this year presented Mandala and Cizadlo with the Global Dressage Visionary Award. “He didn’t just think that it was a job,” she said. “We were his family, his children, everybody at Global Dressage.”
She recalled how Mandala would care for her daughter, who began competing in dressage at age 6. “She would tear around the show ring on a pony, and I would be yelling,” Cohen Hodess said, laughing at the memory. “Anytime I’d be melting down, he knew exactly when to take her aside and give her a piece of candy, or give her a ride in the golf cart.”
Oded Shimoni owns and operates OS Dressage in Wellington. As a trainer in Wellington since the early 1990s — Cohen Hodess is one of his clients — he worked often with Mandala. He said seeing Mandala was “like soul food.”
“He was the kind of guy that when you arrive to a horse show, if he was the first person you saw, you knew it was going to be a good show,” Shimoni said. “There was so much positive energy about him.”
But Shimoni said Mandala also brought a wealth of knowledge to the Global Dressage Festival.
“He was extremely neutral,” he said. “He was never pointing fingers, just presenting the rules and make sure everyone followed them.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Shimoni said.