A $250,000 eventing course described by Olympic eventer Jock Paget as “a course designer’s dream” is being planned for New Zealand’s South Island.
The South Canterbury North Otago eventing group has big plans for the course, on the historic Craigmore Station in South Canterbury, and fundraising has started to make the concept a reality.
Craigmore Station is a 4000 ha (10,000 acre) farm in the foothills of the Southern Alps near Timaru, and sheep, cattle and deer are farmed there.
Paget was guest of honour at the group’s first fundraising event at the station on Monday.
The New Zealand based rider said he was blown away by the venue, with its undulating terrain and incredible views from the sea to the Southern Alps – different from any course he had ever seen.
“It has so much to offer. I think it will be a course designer’s dream to build an eventing course here. The terrain is amazing. There are lots of cool little dips and holes that can be utilised, which will make for a very interesting course,” he said.
The group has big aspirations with hope the event could grow to become one of the iconic events on the eventing calendar attracting riders from grassroots right through to the highest level.
For more than a decade the South Canterbury North Otago group has been without an eventing course following the closure of the Cannington venue.
Group chair Sara Rowley told a packed audience at the dinner held in the station’s old stables that she was grateful for the support they had received, with more than 250 people joining them to be part of the day.
“This is the very first step,” she said. “Everything starts with a single step and this is it. We are trying to create something really special here. We hope that it will be more than just a horse event, but an event the whole community will be able to get something out of, not just the riders.”
Rowley paid tribute to landowners Bridget and Forbes Elworthy, her team of volunteers from the eventing group and South Canterbury Hunt, as well as Craigmore Station staff, who had all been working towards Monday’s event. “It has been a wonderful success. There has been a mammoth effort going on behind the scenes, but we couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone,” she said.
She said Paget had put his hand up to be involved. “It’s been wonderful having him here, and we’re hoping he’ll be back to ride next time. He’s an inspiration and people have loved getting up close and personal with him.”
Earlier in the day Paget showed his skills weren’t limited to eventing when he won a claybird target shoot with an almost perfect score ahead of ESNZ high performance selector Bill Phiskie, Sara’s husband Nick Rowley, and South Canterbury huntsman Ryan Smith.
Unfortunately he couldn’t quite match it in the novelty race held on the station’s front lawn where he took on Phiskie and local pony club, hunt and showjumping riders. Paget gave it his best shot riding one of the Rowley’s ponies, taking on activities which included bending poles, cracking a stock whip, jumping, shooting a balloon with a bow and arrow, and blowing a hunting horn.
Paget’s interview over drinks and nibbles in the form of a “frank and candid” conversation with local identity Rachel Vogen was also well received.
The group hopes to have the venue ready by October next year, dependent on funding. The group hoped the local community would get on board with businesses coming forward to sponsor fences, and it was also making grant applications and fundraising.