Springston - grass-roots eventing at its best

October 4, 2010

by Robin Marshall

It's over for another year. The huge teams event that is the Springston Trophy has wrapped up and a veritable army of volunteers, helpers, officials, and organisers have joined horses, riders, grooms, parents and supporters in heading home for a well-earned rest.

The spirit of competition and team pride is what it's all about. Members of the Te Anau/Castle Rock Mossburn composite team take part in the colourful parade of teams.

Springston Trophy event director Mary Adams packs away the last of the showjumping gear.

This year was the 25th running of the Springston Trophy, a grass-roots one-day-event run over three days - giving young riders and their support crews a taste of the big time.

It was apt that Southland won the bid for Springston's 25th anniversary, as the province is home to Joan McCall, the sole surviving member of the trio of pony club officials who started the event.

The weather over the weekend mostly held for the young riders, with Sunday's final showjumping day copping some rain. But by then nothing could dampen the enthusiasm as the riders completed their final phase, perhaps one day hoping to emulate Springston alumni Clarke Johnstone, who won a team bronze eventing medal at the World Equestrian Games over the weekend.

Event director Mary Adams said Sunday's rain meant the day was the coldest of the three, but underfoot conditions remained perfect. "Because the ground is sandy we have good ground conditions, so we've been lucky," she said.

While the cross-country was not a championship course, the jumps were up to standard (the Pony Club maximum is 1.05m) and Adams said she was pleased to get feedback from dressage judges that the standard in that discipline was better than in previous years.

Adams said Pony Club was all about getting young riders going, and on to bigger things, so they improve. "Clarke Johnstone rode in Springston probably six times. This is what pony club is about. They start at the bottom and then they go to the Olympics. One in many hundreds, maybe," she said.

Preparations for the event were hampered by snow, Adams said, "that made things just a wee bit harder. We lost that weekend - and you can do a lot of work in two days."

The snow also didn't help Southland riders' preparations, and Springston marked the first local event of the season. "So it's a hard preparation for riders, where there have been no nearby events," Adams said.

The cross-country course was finally ready - with all decorations and numbers in place - on Thursday morning.

The colourful parade of teams before the prizegiving is a spectacular sight.

Entries were down this year, with only 30 teams making the trip to Invercargill. A rider from Kaikoura had the longest trip. Adams put the drop in numbers down to the time that riders and supporters need to take off to travel to and from and compete in the event.

"It's just so far for people to come," she said. "We went to Nelson one year, and it was a two-day trip up and a two-day trip back, and you've got three days up there - people can't take that much time off work nowadays."

Adams paid tribute to the many helpers who made the weekend come together. About 100 people overall, all volunteers, helped run the event, she said. Officials and judges came from as far afield as Christchurch, with several from Otago also helping out.

"The personnel who helped have all been absolutely brilliant," she said.

She said that the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the Licensing Trust Foundation had been very generous with sponsorship, and the Community Trust of Southland had also been very generous. Telford Polytechnic had sponsored the showjumping day, and the Telford jump made a special trip from Balclutha for the day.

Announcer Graham Barkman, the voice of equestrian sports in Southland.

Noel Griffin has been made a patron of the Springston Trophy competition, joining Joan McCall and John Lavender.

Also making a special trip to see how things are done in the deep south were New Zealand Pony Club president Marj Steiner and vice-president and eventing representative Allan Ferguson. It was the first time at Springston for both.

Cross-country judge Bill Bates said course builder Alan Pine had done "an excellent job over quite a long period of time, probably more than two years in the planning, and over the last three months particularly."

Most of the jumps on the course had not been jumped before, and there were several new mobile obstacles on the course. The water jump which was built for Springston in 1995 had not been jumped in the same direction for about 14 years.

About half a dozen people at various times helped in the building of the course over the past few months.

"The whole event has taken a considerable amount of manpower. And Alan did an excellent job in getting the whole course together," Bates said.

"In fact, Alan told me he didn't receive any adverse comments about the course itself.

"All in all the whole event has been extremely successful, There's been a lot of good comments from the teams who have come from further north," he said.

Organisers had been well prepared for any issues on the course. "All the possible problems were talked about and discussed beforehand and were eliminated," Bates said. "We were well prepared, I believe, for anything untoward happening. You don't want accidents to happen."

Bates said organisers had a very good response from all the teams to provide cross-country fence judges. "Although the Southland Pony Club and its members were organising the event overall, we did call on two people from each team to go out and man the jumps. They were all pleased to do that. They did a great job out there," Bates said.

Event secretary Gail Poole said the managers and coaches who had passed through the office had been positive and great to work with. "They were happy and willing," she said, which made her job easier.

A patient family over the past few months had also helped, Poole said. "I put in some long hours, last week in particular, but it is fun. I enjoy it."

Poole was called away on Saturday when her daughter, senior Wyndham rider Jessica Poole, had a fall on the cross-country. She accompanied Jessica to the hospital in the ambulance, and members of the army of helpers stepped forward to fill her shoes for the rest of the day.

• At Southland Pony Club's AGM on Friday night a remit submitted by Balclutha Pony Club to introduce a qualifying criteria for Springston was passed, but will go through another meeting before it is ratified.

It aims to encourage riders to gain the necessary experience to be able to ride safely at the required height.

"Springston has never had an entry criteria as such," Adams said. "The remit states that riders need to have completed two events at the height at which they wish to ride at Springston."

It would not apply to next year's Springston, at Kaikoura, and dispensations would also be considered.

Another remit by the Mataura Pony Club asked that one dressage judge instead of two per arena be considered sufficient for Springston, citing the difficulty of getting judges.


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