Clarke Johnstone leaps to top of NZ eventing league

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation during the cross-country at Kihikihi last weekend.
Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation during the cross-country at Kihikihi last weekend. © Libby Law Photography

Clarke Johnstone has shot up to the head of the ESNZ Eventing Super League rankings with his latest impressive wins, at the Kihikihi International Horse Trials over the weekend and the Horse of the Year Show last month.

He won both with his new ride Balmoral Sensation, who was brought up through the grades by Donna Smith. He has been riding the horse for only two months.

Balmoral Sensation was bred by David Goodin and is by the Corland stallion Senator VDL and out of the Aberlou mare Aberzanne.

“He has issues, but I didn’t expect to form a partnership so quickly,”  Johnstone said. “He’s a beautiful horse, and very well trained by Donna, it was just a case of working out the buttons.”

The combination pulled up from third after Friday’s dressage to take the lead after the fastest cross-country, and finished with a perfect show-jumping round.

Kelsey Rothery on The Felon and Simon Gordon on, who pulled up from 12th and 14th respectively after the dressage, finished second and third after producing the only other clear cross-country rounds in the 14-strong class, with eight combinations failing to finish John Nicholson’s challenging track.

Abby Lawrence and Pseudonym finished fourth, their best performance at this level, and all three combinations have moved dramatically up the Super League table. The three combinations at the top of the table before the event all failed to finish, resulting in the places changing and the scores closing up, so the remaining Super League events will be keenly contested.

Johnstone is taking Balmoral Sensation to the Sydney Three-day Event, from April 25-27 , to see how they measure up against the Australians, with the possibility of going to Europe to  contest a CCI4*.

“We are an outside chance for the World Equestrian Games, but it is one step at a time.”

He will be able to accumulate Super League points in Sydney, having already participated in Super League events in New Zealand.


Clarke Johnstone, Hamilton, Balmoral Sensation, 147 pts; Dannie Lodder, Auckland, Moochi, 143 pts; Simon Gordon, Auckland,, 136 pts; Angela Lloyd, Auckland, Song, 124 pts; Kelsey Rothery, Cambridge, The Felon, 114.5 pts; Matthew Grayling, New Plymouth, NRM Lowenberg102 pts; Abby Lawrence, Te Puke, Pseudonym, 96.5 pts.


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