The outstanding performance of the New Zealanders at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in England last weekend has reinforced their reputation as the world’s best cross-country riders, with all seven Kiwis in the top 13 of the 70 international starters at the prestigious English event.
Andrew Nicholson, making his return to elite 4* level following the career-threatening neck injury he had last year, was second on Nereo, his bronze medal ride at the London Olympics, behind young Australian star Chris Burton on Nobilis 18. This was Nereo’s third time as runner-up, Nicholson having previously won three times on Avebury.
International eventing’s husband and wife duo, Jonelle and Tim Price were third and fourth on Classic Moet and Ringwood Sky Boy respectively. Jonelle further enhanced her tag as “fastest woman in the world” by having the fastest round of the competition in a repeat of their World Games performance in France two years ago.
Former Burghley winner Caroline Powell, returning after a broken leg, was eighth on the promising Onwards and Upwards, ahead of Sir Mark Todd, who has won Burghley five times on five different horses, on his London bronze medal horse, NZB Campino, in ninth place.
Former World and Olympic champion Blyth Tait, on the comeback trail, was 11th on Bear Necessity V, and Dan Jocelyn, also a former NZ team member, was 13th on Dassett Cool Touch. All completed clear cross-country rounds over a tough course on which no-one finished inside the time. Only 40 horses completed the cross-country, twenty-four24 of these with clear rounds.
Central & Southern Hawkes Bay Eventing’s venue Arran Station, the Silver Fern Farms property at Takapau, has hosted five of these seven Kiwis during their early days, before they moved to the mecca of eventing in the UK. Andrew Nicholson went aged 18 (he is now 55) before the course was established, and South Islander Caroline Powell also left in her teens having not competed outside the “mainland.”
Tim and Jonelle Price made the long trip from the South Island to compete at Arran Station regularly, while Sir Mark gained qualifications there when he made his return to the sport before the Beijing Olympics. Dan Jocelyn competed there as a youngster, while Blyth Tait attended events there in his capacity as team manager during his retirement.
The latest FEI World Rider Rankings, based on international events during the previous 12 months, so including the Olympic Games, confirms Kiwi riders place on the world stage. Michael Jung (GER) has an unattainable lead of 711 points, ahead of Chris Burton (AUS) on 549, and Phillip Dutton (USA) on 536.
Sir Mark Todd is fourth on 499, Tim Price seventh on 445, and Clarke Johnstone has rocketed up to ninth, after placing sixth at the Olympic Games, on 427. Andrew is 12th on 382, Jonelle 13th on 375, and Katharine Van Tuyl is hanging in at 29th place with 292 even after the off season here.
Clarke Johnstone is back in New Zealand, although Balmoral Sensation is still in England, having to do two months quarantine there and a month in Australia before returning home. So they will not be defending the top title at the National Eventing Championships at Arran Station next month, but Johnstone will be competing at other levels.