Helen McNaught-McFarlane became the first British rider to win the biggest prize in New Zealand showjumping, taking out the Olympic Cup at the Farmlands Horse of the Year Show in Hastings on Sunday.
McNaught-McFarlane and her Polish import Carnutelabryere won the Showjumper of the Year crown ahead of 14 other combinations and before thousands of spectators who packed the grounds for the final day of the six-day show.
It topped off an excellent season for the two, and their edge in hot Hawke’s Bay summer conditions, could have been thanks to the bananas fed to the 10-year-old horse before and during the class.
“He loves them,” said McNaught-McFarlane, who is married to Kiwi Olympic showjumper Duncan McFarlane, and who was runner-up last year to Claudia Hay and Euro Sport Centavos.
Fifteen started the class, with 12 combinations with four faults or less, coming back for the second round. Seven went clear in the first round – McNaught-McFarlane, Amanda Wilson aboard Showtym Cassanova, Australia’s Clint Beresford on Emmaville Jittberbug, Katie Laurie on Dunstan On The Point Eve, Maurice Beatson aboard Conyers, Tash Brooks on Kapattack and Olivia Robertson on Ngahiwi Cisco.
International course designer Werner Deeg raised the ante in the second round, with fences up to 1.57m. In the second round, clears were far less forthcoming, with just Wilson, McNaught-McFarlane and James Arkins (Aus) on his Kiwi bred Rosthwaite Vigilante II leaving everything in place. However, Arkins carried four faults from his opener.
That meant 23-year-old Wilson would take on the 40-something-year-old McNaught-McFarlane in the jump-off. The more experienced McNaught-McFarlane and her quirky 10-year-old grey knew she had to put as much pressure on the younger rider as possible. Despite a good rattle at the last, they were clear.
A very nervous Wilson and her 11-year-old pinto started with gusto but took a brick from the wall, jumped the third and then retired.
“He was incredible out there,” said a very proud Wilson. “That whoopsie wasn’t his fault – it was a bit of a miscommunication between us. He is a very extraordinary horse.”
It is just their fourth season competing. Wilson bought the horse sight unseen as an eight-year-old off Trade Me. He is called Cassanova for the perfectly shaped heart on his neck.
Another dressage record for Julie Brougham
The dressage at the Horse of the Year show was tightly contested, particularly between Rio hopefuls Julie Brougham aboard Vom Feinsten and John Thompson on JHT Antonello.
Brougham notched another Australasian record on Sunday with her musical freestyle, but had to concede the Dressage Horse of the Year crown to Thompson, riding in his first HOY. Brougham also nabbed her last necessary qualifying score that will make her eligible for Rio selection.
Thompson was pleased to score two personal best scores, and particularly as just six weeks ago he nearly lost the horse to colic. He now has just one more mark to make him eligible for selection, and next week heads to Australia.
In show hunter, Chloe Akers set a new record when she and Kiwi Motto won their fifth open title – the sixth for the horse.
It is estimated up to 60,000 people streamed through the gates at HOY to watch the best horse and riders from across 14 disciplines.
CSI2* Olympic Cup: Helen McNaught-McFarlane (Taupo) Carnutelabryere 1, Amanda Wilson (Hikurangi) Showtym Cassanova 2, James Arkins (Aus) Rosthwaite Vigilante II 3, Clint Beresford (Aus) Emmaville Jitterbug 4, Tash Brooks (Cambridge) Kapattack 5, Katie Laurie (Mystery Creek) Dunstan On The Point Eve 6.
Fiber Fresh Junior Rider of the Year: Steffi Whittaker (Canterbury) Ngahiwi Cruise 1, Drew Carson (Putaruru) Double Shott 2, Laura Inkster (Auckland) Cabana 3, Courtney Townsend (Darfield) Suzy Fog 4, Alyvia James (Rangiora) LC Victorieuse 5, Georgie Mae Goodworth (Rangiora) Golden Mile 6.
EasiFeed New Zealand Speed Horse of the Year: Katie Laurie (Mystery Creek) Dunstan Carlo 1, Keean Cooper (Te Kauwhata) Amarula MVNZ 2, Samantha Peters (Northland) Zabambi 3, Claudia Porter (Hastings) Joia Hara 4, Christine Cornege (Cambridge) Varekai SL 5, Heather Pease (Piopio) Llannation 6.
Show Hunter of the Year: Chloe Akers (Opiki) Kiwi Motto.
Dressage Horse of the Year: John Thompson (Hamilton) JHT Antonello. Reserve: Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Vom Feinsten.
GJ Gardner CDI3* FEI Grand Prix Freestyle: Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Vom Feinsten 76.3% 1, John Thompson (Hamilton) JHT Antonello 73.8% 2, Wendi Williamson (Kumeu) Dejavu MH 73.675% 3, Abbie Deken (Taranaki) KH Ambrose 70.675% 4, Anya Noble (Cambridge) Airthrey Highlander 65.7% 5, Jody Hartstone (Raglan) Ali Baba 64.75% 6.
Level 8 Horse of the Year: Wendi Williamson (Kumeu) Don Amour MH. Reserve: Fiona Craig (Kumeu) Crystal Mt Xodo.
Young Dressage Rider of the Year: Lucarne Dolley (Kumeu) Devil’s Chocolate. Reserve: Molly Lumb (Taranaki) KH Arvan.