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Kiwi endurance team for World Equestrian Games named

June 17, 2010

New Zealand has named its first team of riders to take part in the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky later this year.

Alison Higgins and Twynham El Omar

Jenny Chandler and Lace and Fineness

Sue Reid and Makahiwi Achilles

Jenny Champion and Freckles

The endurance team for New Zealand will comprise Alison Higgins (Nelson) on Twynham El Omar, Sue Reid (Pokeno) and Makahiwi Achilles, Jenny Champion (Masterton) and Freckles, Debbie Worsfold (Rangiora) on Northwinds Bradley McGregor, and Jenny Chandler (Te Awamutu) on Lace and Fineness.

Endurance is one of four disciplines New Zealand is likely to send to the 16-day event in the United States in September.

The five strong team will compete in the 160-kilometre endurance competition, the equestrian equivalent to the marathon where it can take up to 13 hours to complete. While it is a team that has relatively little international experience, those behind them are vastly experienced and very successful on the world stage.

New Zealand high performance endurance leader and chef d'equipe Madonna Harris - who has represented New Zealand successfully at a raft of sports at world level - is excited by the prospect her charges bring.

Alison Higgins is the highest world ranked member of the team, coming in at number three. Her horse Twynham El Omar was one of a trio of horses she competed successfully on in New Zealand this past season.

Mother of three Sue Reid is the reigning national and North Island champ aboard Makahiwi Achilles (owned by Phillipa Mutch) and has groomed for others at the world champs and junior world champs in years gone by.

Jenny Champion is no stranger to being selected for national teams, having got the nod a number of times before but financial constraints meant she often had to decline. She's groomed for her partner Shane Dougan at world champs before and has been endurance riding for 20 years.

Madonna Harris says the terrain in Kentucky will suit the Kiwi horses perfectly, but much hinges on solid riding skills and a strong team performance.

"It's been a gruelling selection process that has made all the candidates step up to the mark, and we'll be continuing that right through until we leave in September."

Four will ride as a team, as well as individuals, with the fifth contesting the individual title.

Harris is picking the main competition to come from United Arab Emirates, Spain and hosts United States. New Zealand won team gold at the World Championships in 1998.

"Our riders know what speed they need to ride at to maintain that world class level," she says. "Now it is a matter of making it happen. We have a great opportunity to do well there."

It's a huge financial commitment and massive undertaking to get these combinations on the ground in Kentucky. Players, grooms and supporters are on a mission to raise $250,000 to ensure they get to WEG and have a chance to shine on such a perfect course.

New Zealand chef de mission Wally Niederer had every faith in the team, saying the stringent selection process, which spanned much of the season, had seen riders rise to the occasion.

"It can only auger well for World Games," he said.

Endurance is one of eight equestrian disciplines taking part in the games - the others being showjumping, reining, dressage, eventing, para dressage, vaulting and driving. The World Equestrian Games are held every four years. The first one was held in Stockholm in 1990, and this year's event in Kentucky, in the United States is expected to attract riders from more than 50 nations.

The estimated economic impact the 16-day event is expected to have on Kentucky is around $US150 million. Organisers say they will sell 600,000 tickets. The games run from September 25 through to October 10 and are held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

More New Zealand teams will be announced over the coming months.



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