Aucklander Dannie Lodder was surprised to find out she was leading the field at the conclusion of the dressage phase of the CCI3* at the Puhinui International Horse Trials as she had initially been a bit disappointed in Tomahawk II’s test.
“That was hard work,” she exclaimed coming out of the arena. “He didn’t really pick up for the occasion. He is a great horse, and I really love him. He is probably the nicest horse I have ever had. He just got in there and was flat.”
But the test was good enough to take the lead going into Saturday’s cross-country phase, albeit by just 2.8 points from Matangi’s Samantha Felton and Ricker Ridge Escada. Virginia Thompson from Kaukapakapa is in third place on Star Nouveau, also very close to the leaders with 60.5, followed by Katharine Van Tuyl and Double J Sunshine fourth on 60.7.
There was some controversy in the class when South Island rider Emily Cammock was pulled up by the judges and eliminated due to her horse showing signs of lameness. Bitterly disappointed by this blow to what looks like an exciting future for this young horse, Emily may be able to take some consolation in the fact she is first, second and fourth in one of the other classes, the Veterinary Associates CCI1*. Nick Brooks is in third place on Lexington.
The riders in the CCI3* were all unanimous in their description of the Tich Massey-designed cross-country course. “Big, bold and challenging,” was the general description. Virginia Thompson declared that she would have to “take her nana pants off” tomorrow, to get around the impressive jumps within the time required.
Dannie Lodder has competed at this event several times and has yet to take home the winner’s trophy. “I have been lucky enough to gallop around here a few times. I think there are a couple of questions near the end which could catch a tired horse. It needs to be ridden in an attacking way, which I like.”
The event at the Puhinui Reserve next to Auckland Airport is one of only two events held in New Zealand at three-star level. While Olympians Sir Mark Todd, Vaughn Jefferis and Australian Stuart Tinney have all had their names engraved on the trophy in previous years, none of the field in this year’s top class have ever won the trophy before. There are eight competitors still in the running to secure the trophy and prizemoney of $2000.
Puhinui also marks the halfway stage in the year-long Equestrian Sports NZ eventing series. The cream of NZ eventing riders will be vying for points on offer in the Eventing Super League. Katharine van Tuyl and Double J Sunshine are currently in second position in the Super League, and a top three placing would see her overtake the current leaders, Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation, who recently returned from being placed third at the Adelaide 4* as part of their Olympic bid.
The iSpyHorses CCI** dressage was dominated by Te Kauwhata’s Donna Smith. She is in first place on Quantico, on a score of 51.1. Smith is also second equal on Mr Hokey Pokey, tied with Campbell Draper on Mr Mancini on a score of 52.1. Then on Cluny, Smith is equal with Kate Wood on Wolf Whistle II, both on a score of 52.6.
Young (under 21) and Junior Riders (under 18) are competing for three-day titles at this event. Jackson Bovill leads the Honda NZ CCI** Young Rider class on Visionnaire. For the past 9 months Bovill has been a working pupil with Clarke Johnstone at Matangi, the only New Zealand based High Performance squad member. Johnstone is not competing at this event as he is attending a wedding in Australia, but according to Bovill, he has been on the phone “constantly!” Bovill had expected his mare to be competitive but was delighted when she “pulled out a nice test.” Sarah Young is in second place on Leo Degas, with Tayla Mason in third on Sonidor.
Greer Caddigan, from Hamilton, on Gymnastik Showdown leads the Devi Heating CCI1* from Cantabrian Lucy Turner on Carbon. Sophie Alexander from Kumeu is third on Saltador.
Cherie Jacques from Otorohanga has a narrow lead in the NZ Horse & Pony CCN105 class on her consistent Black Gem. Te Awamutu’s Zoe Gray on FIS Florentino is just 0.2 penalties behind her with Sarah Young and The Little Prince third.
The cross-country starts on Saturday at 9am and will go most of the day, with the Honda NZ CCI3* expected to start at 12:30.
More than 200 horses and riders from throughout the country are competing in the prestigious event, and there is extra entertainment with the Equilibrium Puhinui High Jump Challenge, nick-named “tip, strip or out” at lunchtime on Saturday. On Sunday, the Eventers Challenge is a fun combination of both showjumping and cross-country for those not competing in the main classes.