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NZ names eventing team for World Equestrian Games

September 1, 2010

With less than a month to go, New Zealand has finally named its eventing team for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Mark Todd and Grass Valley. © Al Crook
The team of five is a mix of youth and experience, and is headed by Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson. Fellow Olympian Caroline Powell and rising stars Jonathan Paget and Clarke Johnstone round out Kiwi hopes at the Games, which start on September 25. The eventing competition starts on September 27.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand eventing high performance leader Erik Duvander said he was relieved to finally have selected the team.

"It's been a long 18 months, but a well-balanced team like this is just what you wish for," he said.

None of the horses in the team have competed at Olympic Games or World Equestrian Games level, but Duvander is quite sure they will be contenders for the 2012 Olympics in London.

"These are all young horses, and have hardly hit their prime, so they are looking good for WEG and the London Olympics."

That vision is very much part of ESNZ's high performance programme, which is targeting a return to Olympic medal winning in London.

"It is very hard to win a world champs on your first try," says Duvander.

He feels that Andrew Nicholson, whose track record in recent months has been impressive, is an individual medal chance, "but with a team like this, you can never count anyone out."

Four of the combinations would ride as both individuals and a team, with the fifth riding as an individual and team reserve. It has not yet been decided who would fill what slots.

Nicholson and Todd hold the honour of being the only two Kiwis to have been named for six Olympic Games and between them hold an impressive clutch of medals and titles - Todd having won two Olympic gold medals and two team WEG gold medals, with Nicholson having won a gold team medal at WEG.

"Mark has such mana and it is a real strength to have a rider like him on any team," Duvander said.

Paget had been pushed hard in the high performance programme in recent years and had stepped up at every challenge, impressing selectors and spectators alike. "He's a very talented person and soaks up everything we give him."

Johnstone had competed with class against the best Australia had to offer at the weekend where he earned nothing but praise from critics on both sides of the Tasman.

"This is an exciting team. The world champs are decided very much in the cross country and showjumping phases, and that is where our strengths lie with this team," Duvander said.

Speaking from his temporary UK base in Surrey, England, Paget said he felt extremely honoured to be selected to represent New Zealand on the world stage.

"I am sure I could not have made it onto the team without the fantastic help and advice from Erik, Andrew and Mark," said Paget. "It seems they can't do enough for me, such as going out of their way to walk courses with me. They are always looking out for me and and I am very grateful they have gone way above and beyond what I expected."

"Thanks to them I've learnt a huge amount since I arrived in the UK with Promise to get further experience."

"In July we went to Aachen where we had a silly run out in the water when we were going fast to make the time. The fall at Hartpury three weeks ago was just one of those things. Promise misread the jump a little bit and just collapsed on landing into the water. However, I did not feel so bad when I heard that there were another 12 horses that did exactly the same thing at that same spot!"

"At Highclere this past Monday the water was again quite tough and it caused a few problems. As I was in the start box before I left I heard the commentator say 'we've had another problem at the water', which was the last thing I needed to hear! But Promise was very sharp and I think he'd learnt from Hartpury. He was great cross-country and good all day."

He said Promise looked great, and was eating up all his food, and seemed happy. "I'm just keeping him going on the flat and getting him a bit fitter. There's always a danger that after you've been selected you back off and want to wrap the horse up in cotton wool. But I need to keep pushing to keep the horse fit and then maybe only back off him the week before we leave the UK. He'll not do any more events but I might take him to a dressage day."

"I believe all the UK-based Kiwi horses are travelling together by road to Belgium on 18 September and fly out from there."

Paget and Clifton Promise will be joined in Kentucky by groom Patrick Everingham, who has been holding the fort back home at Muriwai with Summer Phillips whilst Paget has been preparing in the UK since completing the Rolex three-day on Clifton Promise in April.

Paget has a very busy schedule planed for the next few months.

"I am coming back to New Zealand the day after WEG to work the horses at Muriwai for a day and then head off for Flaxmere for the Gunn Estate One Day Event on October 9-10. I will be taking Clifton Pinot and am really excited about getting Clifton Razz back out again."

Paget added that he intended to compete hard at all levels this season leading up to the season finale at Puhinui 10-12 December. "In January I'd like to do a few clinics and catch up with many of the talented Young Riders and Juniors that I have not seen since April."


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