Aust team to take on NZ young showjumpers

South Island team captain Devon Van Til in action on Akubra.
South Island team captain Devon Van Til in action on Akubra. ©

New Zealand’s jumping stars of the future will be in action at Waimate this weekend as South Canterbury North Otago Showjumping plays host to a visiting team from Victoria, Australia, as part of the annual Inter Country Young Rider Challenge.

The four-strong South Island team of captain Devon van Til (Rangiora), Brittany Whelan (Dunedin), Katie Meredith (Ohoka) and Olivia Robertson (Ohoka) will be looking for a home advantage to bring home the Juliet Scott Trophy, which was presented by coach Juliet Scott at last year’s competition.

For Van Till, Meredith and Whelan the competition will be an opportunity to exact revenge after being outdone in last January when competing at the Victoria Junior/Young Rider State Championships in Australia, while Robertson takes her place in the team for the very first time.

They come up against a talented Aussie team which consists of Zoe Boulton, Kristy Haworth, Melissa Julius and Jonathon Smith.

The competition will be run over two days of intense competition jumping at 1.10m level, with riders on borrowed horses, competing in two rounds each day with a jump-off on the final day if required. Each Kiwi team member has put up two horses. Horses are drawn with the Kiwis unable to ride their own horses in a bid to even up the stakes.

All four Kiwi riders have shown some great form this season, with Whelan and Meredith holding top 10 places on the Show Jumping NZ National Young Rider Series Leaderboard, while Robertson has only recently moved up to young rider level with immediate success as well as competing with merit at junior level. Van Till has also had success this season with new ride Akubra.

The South Island has been involved in the Inter-Country Teams Challenge since it was developed by the EFA Victorian Showjumping committee in 2003. A fierce rivalry has developed between Victoria and the South Island over the years, with the exchange been hosted annually by each country.

The competition was designed to give Young Riders (21 years and under) valuable experience in the format of Team competition, which will stand them in good stead for National Senior Team events such as the Olympics and World Equestrian Games. It also serves as important way to develop the strategies needed to travel and compete in a foreign country and, most importantly, to foster friendships between young riders from other countries.

The young rider teams’ competition is one of the highlights of the show, which has also attracted some of New Zealand’s best jumpers.

Among the more than 300 combinations and 170 riders entered are Olympians Maurice Beatson (Dannervirke) and Sally Clarke (Dannevirke), as well as talented pony riders Emily and Hannah Fraser (Takapau), who are en route to compete at the Ride The Rhythm event in Dunedin, followed by the Otago Jumping and Show Hunter Championships.

Beatson, has both the evergreen 18-year-old My Gollywog and his other homebred star Schimmel Warrior entered in the 2* Horse Grand Prix. He has been in dynamic form this season and currently leads the New Zealand League of the FEI World Cup Series.

Also in the starting line-up is West Australian rider Sarah Isbister making her debut on New Zealand soil. Isbister is a past member of the Australian National Youth Jumping Development Squad and State Young Rider Show Jumping Squad 2011, and is a current member of the 2012 WA State Show Jumping Squad. She rides the nine-year-old Little Briton, who she recently finished fifth on in the Equestrian Grand Final World Cup Qualifier at Equitana in Melbourne.

Beatson and Isbister will face some stuff opposition though from the likes of local Kelly Evans (Cave) on Hammertime, as well as the in-form Canterbury’s Susie Hayward (Ashburton) on Andretti, Kate Cavanagh (West Melton) on Vermont, and Dunedin’s Brittany Whelan on George Jetson, and Claudia Hay (Mosgiel) on Euro Sport Heartbreaker, all looking for strong performances ahead of the $50,000 McMillan Equine Feeds Super Grand Prix, which will be the star attraction at Ride The Rhythm on February 1.

Emily Fraser, who is currently the country’s second leading pony rider, will head a 15 strong line-up for Pony Grand Prix honours with her two ponies Tony The Pony and Tiger Tale LS coming up against a strong South Island contingent, which includes leading combination Steffi Whittaker (Halswell) on Moonlight Glow looking to increase their winning streak. There will also be series points up for grabs across the other national series’ classes.




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