Strong competition is expected for the Eventer of the Year title in the CIC3* class at New Zealand’s NRM Horse of the Year Show this week, with the challenge of a new cross-country course added to the mix.
As well as the HoY title, the 18 combinations entered will also be vying for extra points in the year-long Super League series.
The new course designed by John Nicholson on the Hastings showgrounds has attracted elite riders from throughout the North Island, including 2013 winner Simon Gordon, who has been preparing Fletch.com carefully for his defence of the title.
But he will meet strong competition from several riders. The National One-day Event champions, fellow Aucklander Angela Lloyd and Song, were winners of the penultimate competition at Puhinui, while several other contenders there withdrew before the jumping phases to save their horses for the big one. Current National Three-day Event champion Donna Smith withdrew Balmoral Tangoloma after the dressage, while Dannie Lodder, who heads the Super League with Petra Eatson’s Moochi, contested a lower level event in their preparation for Hastings.
Interest will also surround Joseph Waldron, until recently based in Australia with his family, but currently competing out of Richard Otto’s yard in Te Awamutu. He campaigned here two years ago, when he won the NZ Young Rider Three-day Event title in Christchurch on Springvale All Black, and helped the NZ Young Rider team defeat their Australian counterparts.
Waldron competed at the Horse of the Year then as part of his preparation for team selection, and went on to place second in the Kihikihi CIC3* class before returning to Australia. Springvale All Black will be his hope for another New Zealand title this year. Both Waldron and Clarke Johnstone, who has returned from the UK and is also based in the Waikato, are members of the High Performance Accelerator Squad, deemed future NZ Olympic team contenders.
Johnstone will ride the former Donna Smith horse Balmoral Sensation, who has had a sensational career in every sense of the word. A big, strong horse with extravagant movement, he had a horror fall with Smith in the main arena while leading the Puhinui 3* class in December 2012, and was carefully re-schooled to win the 2* class there last year.
Johnstone subsequently bought the horse and they have had several lower level starts as they form a relationship, so they will be the focus of much attention. Johnstone also rides Leo Degas, whom he rode for Canterbury veterinarian Sam Taylor at Puhinui, placing third in the CCI2* class.
The most experienced rider in the field is Matthew Grayling, who rides Dave and Bridget Sutton’s Henton Executive, on whom he won the CCI3* class at Puhinui in December. Also a former Smith horse, known as a difficult ride, Grayling has taken time to teach him “the Grayling way”, and could be the one to beat.
Thirty-five combinations will contest the other eventing class, the NZ Horse & Pony Magazine CIC2*, with the announcement that an international super star is expected to compete on a borrowed horse eagerly awaited. It is at 2* level that horses “make it or break it”, showing they have the ability to go to top level, or have reached their limit.
Six of the Talent Development Squad members are participating in this class; Sarah Young on SS Galaxy, Virginia Thompson on Star Nouveau, Bonnie Farrant on Kaipara Dior, Samantha Felton on Ricker Ridge Escada and Henton After Dark, Francesca Silver on Case in Point, and Amanda Pottinger on Stoked.
Felton holds the top three positions in the AMS-Erreplus Pro-Am Rider series, while the leader of the Massey University Young Rider series, Lauren Alexander on BMW Ripley, is also contesting this 2* class. All series, including the Super League, culminate at the NRM National Three-day Event at Taupo in May.
Dressage takes place on Friday, cross-country on Saturday afternoon when the show will stop for the duration of this phase, and showjumping on Sunday morning following the “trot up” (veterinary inspection) to ensure all horses are fit and well after the exertion of the previous day.