Olympic eventer Jonathan “Jock” Paget is the new head of New Zealand’s new Equestrian High Performance programme.
Currently the Equestrian Sports New Zealand performance leader, Paget will take on the rebranded role, which was previously known as high performance director.
Based in Taupo, Paget moved home from Britain four years ago after riding at the highest level, which included being part of the bronze medal-winning team at the London Olympic Games and winning Badminton. He also represented New Zealand at the World Equestrian Games.
In recent years, riding has taken a back seat, with his horsepower team shrinking from 15 to just two. “My riding has not been the priority – my ESNZ role has been. I have two nice horses at 3* and 4* and while I enjoy riding, it doesn’t get as much time as it probably should,” he said.
Paget says the new role is a “massive opportunity” — “I always need a challenge.”
“Since I have been in the performance leader role, I have always gravitated toward programme development and always wanted to spend more time on that. I love coaching, horses and the whole environment that comes with that but what really gets me going is the strategic side of how the programme works and the thinking behind what delivers those performance outcomes,” Paget said.
ESNZ chief executive Dana Kirkpatrick said the sport was excited to have Paget in the role particularly as he brings such a depth of experience.
“He is an athlete, a successful Olympian, a considered and intelligent thinker and is well respected by his colleagues and peers. Jock has been through the High-Performance Sport New Zealand Coach Accelerator Programme and has benefitted from great support by HPSNZ, ESNZ and his peers to lead the high-performance programme into the postponed Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 World Equestrian Games and then the 2024 Paris Olympics.”
She said the tight timeframe of three pinnacle events in the next few years was challenging but the wider high-performance support team was more than able to deliver great results for the sport and New Zealand as a whole.
It wasn’t long after finishing seventh at the 2010 Kentucky Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that Jock was identified by ESNZ as a potential coach and leader in the sport, bringing with it new opportunities.
“They effectively said here is someone we think has an exciting future in the sport, let’s develop him,” Kirkpatrick said.
While based overseas he would head home annually to coach and was mentored by HPSNZ’s Lyn Gunson whom he credits “hands down” as the biggest influence on his coaching and leadership development. His involvement in the CAP Programme was life-changing and now all of that work and investment is coming home to roost.
“I am just incredibly grateful to ESNZ and HPSNZ for providing me with these opportunities for development and delivering great programmes to enable me to apply for this role,” Paget said.
“I pride myself in being able to figure things out. I bring to the team very solid contextual experience at many levels. I have experience in the industry as a developing rider, high-performance rider, team member, coach and for the past two years as performance programme leader. There is a lot more to the role than that experience, but it certainly helps and I am grateful to have such an experienced team of riders, coaches, staff and supporters who all make this sport what it is.”
Key relationships, and the new ones he is looking to build with the other disciplines, will be key to success going forward. “I need to get across all the disciplines and that’s exciting because I think there will be a lot to learn from them and we can all learn a lot from each other. I am very keen to collaborate with them. I need to understand the challenges and opportunities they have. I have been so focused on eventing for so long, so it’s exciting to learn about the others.”
He has no plans initially to make any big changes but says it is important to always be understanding of what is needed for the athletes and disciplines so the capability can be built around it. “Figure it out, build it and make sure it meets the performance requirement.”
He has plenty of fond memories to look back on though – and he admits it is very hard to pick just one. “I have been so incredibly lucky with so many awesome highlights. You can’t go past winning Badminton by .3 – that was fun.”
Jock and his wife Tegan live near Taupo with their boys, Max and Billy.