Young riders from throughout New Zealand will be tackling a very special cross-country course this week, one that goes through Massey University’s backyard and has been designed by a leading eventer.
Some 150 riders will take part in the New Zealand Pony Club Eventing Championship teams competition, with the cross-country phase on Massey University grounds on Friday, with other two components at Manfeild Park in Feilding on Thursday and Saturday.
The cross-country course has been designed by World Equestrian Games champion Andrew Scott, who also lectures at Massey University as part of the school’s equine programme.
Scott says the course, which has been developed through a partnership between Massey University and the Manawatū Pony Club, offers diverse challenges for the riders. “The course really is unique because it offers a mix of park-like landscapes, open galloping and some challenging obstacles.
“One jump in particular is designed to test the boldness of the rider. It’s totally horse friendly but can be a bit scary for the rider,” he said.
Part of the course is set in the university’s arboretum – a sanctuary for trees from all over the world. “I love the arboretum. The kids will have a lot of fun galloping through there and it really gives a good international flavour to the course.”
After the event the course can be used by the Manawatū Pony club. “It’s a great opportunity to leave a legacy for the young riders of the Manawatū. There’s a lot of new fences here that they can come and train on and hold competitions in the future.”
Equine specialist senior lecturer Dr Chris Rogers says a course like this has been 15 years in the making.
“It’s nice to utilise the facilities we have here. We want to grow young talent and foster our next Olympic athletes. It’s also a great way for us to engage with the community.”
He says bringing Scott on board as part of the teaching programme has “closed the gap between agriculture and sport”.
“Massey has one of the strongest equine programmes in the southern hemisphere in terms of research and publications. We have sport scientists and equine scientists working together to understand how people and horses interact.”
Massey University offers an equine major as part of its Agriscience degree, as well as the only equine minor under the Sport and Exercise Science degree. It is the only university in New Zealand that has a dedicated equine centre where students can keep their horses while studying.
The eventing championship is sponsored by Pryde’s EasiFeeds.