Land of the Long White Cloud

New Zealand 2001 South Island Endurance Championships
FEI Cat B. 20th January 2001

The South Island Endurance Championship's where held in a glorious valley on 'Inverary Station' at Mt Somers, about one hour's drive from Christchurch, New Zealand's South Island capital city. It was a fantastic opportunity to experience true New Zealand 'High Country' station life and how the New Zealander's run their shee, cattle and deer farming. 'Inverary Station' covers some 4,500 hectares of low range hills with a limestone bluff and river flats running along the South Ashburton River.

Mountain views of Mt Somers and the Old Man Range surrounded the area, the South Ashburton River of ice blue colour ran through the valley floor and if one chose to drive another half an hour south you would come to the isolation of Heren Lake... what a fabulous spot this is.....'fly fishing' is the sport here! Sparse of inhabitation with a feeling of seclusion only raw country can give you, the country side around 'Iverary Station' was truly breath taking.

The FEI ride was set over a distance of 120k and a second ride of a lesser distance of 80k, although the entry numbers are not as high as in some countries the endurance competition in New Zealand is fierce.

The quality of the horseflesh left nothing to be desired, excellent horses were turned out and with only 19 entries in the 120km ride and 10 entries in the 80km the competition for a place was going to be tough.

Three riders from Australia, including myself, travelled over to compete. They were Australia's second FEI ranked rider Meg Wade, along with Anthony Geyteman nominated for the Category 120km ride and yours truly nominated for the 80km ride. Australian Joanne Hamilton-Brannigan was head FEI veterinarian, accompanied by Glenn Beeman, Ian Hodge and Paula Cameron. The Chief Steward was Lesley Pease who along with the Technical Delegate Ray Tylee came from the North Island to officiate.

Hosted by the Mid Canterbury Endurance riding club, the 120km ride started at the civilised time of 6:30am, the weather was pleasant and at that time in general we thought the temperature would rise during the day and the ride would finish in the heat, but this was not so ... Half an hour after the 120k riders set out, the 80k riders where sent on their way.

The ride started with travelling along some flat roads at a good pace along the valley floor then we traveled up into the undulating hill country, through large sheep paddocks, travelling up and down continually climbing.

The going was uneven under foot and large rocks or small river boulders where all over, it was hard to get a good go along but the views where breathtaking.

As the morning progressed the bad weather set in and the mist and low white cloud came in fast and thick - now I know first hand why they call New Zealand the land of the long white cloud - and this made finding your way across paddocks to site markers very difficult.

Like an obstacle course and without arrows to direct you, we where at the mercy of our instincts and one could be seen to do a few zig zags and circles to find which direction in the paddock you were meant to be going as the markers were a good 500m apart and generally at the top of hills.

This truly added to the experience and although not quite getting lost, it was at times a matter of traversing around until you found a site marker, all the time wishing your taste of the low white cloud would be over!

The 120k ride was made up of two 40k loops followed by two 20k loops coming in off the first 40k loop Anthony Geyteman from Australia (eventually finishing in seventh place) was in the lead on his mount 'Simeon Sadir' a seasoned and highly competitive endurance stallion owned by David Marshall of Holly Farm, there was a small group in the lead and they set a fast pace.

Unfortunately for Anthony, Sadir fell in the second leg and Anthony was passed by the eventual winner Brian Tiffen on the terrific seasoned gelding 'Daintree Pagan' who is another very competitive horse on the endurance circuit. Brian also gaining the best conditioned award he was followed by Jenny Rouse on her mount 'Elizara' taking second place. These three riders were the leaders for the majoirity of the ride.

The weather did not improve and as the rain set in - ride camps, support crews, riders and horses where finding it hard to keep warm.

Said to be unsually cold weather for New Zealand at this time of the year, the Australians were rather in shock as they had left home temperature's of 46deg.

Meg Wade of Australia on 'Festive Fields Chelcedony' rode a steady ride in the middle of the field for most of the ride and came home for an eventual third place, fourth place went to Sarah Hamer riding 'Shahkan' and fifth place went to Pauline King on Sunny Brae Denny.

The 80k ride was made up of one 40k loop followed by two 20k loops, a sterling pace was set by front runners from the start and through out the ride, Katrina and Tony Lilley on 'Crown Nova' and 'Moonlight Krystal' and eventually took out second and third place respectfully they lost the win to Kelly Mitchell riding Jasmine.

With a gallop finish from the top four place horses across the finish line, this made for an exciting finish.

The ride committee headed by Barbara Gilbert and whose secretary was Marie Britten managed this ride in terrific style and are to be congratulated on their excellent camp sites and ride facilities.

'Inverary Station' offered a cottage with accommodation, hot showers and cooking facilities, yards for the stallions were in abundance, plenty of open space with trees for shade, ample water on track and safe riding through the foot hills and paddocks.

The vetting and strapping areas were large and all facilities were excellent, the hospitality shown was terrific. The ride was made up of some road work, undulating hill country winding through paddocks, farm roads with some creek crossings, bogs, mud and gravel roads.

The committee held a dinner at their presentation night which followed immediately after the ride finished and here for a minimal fee guests were offered bbq salmon and salads and the prizes offered where numerous.

In all, everyone enjoyed themselves, there where no hazardous experiences and it was a fantastic way to experience New Zealand.

With the cloud covering the high country I think we really did experience the soul of New Zealand and now have a true understanding of "The land of the Long White Cloud". I am looking forward to next year, when I intend to complete!