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Taranaki’s Abbie Deken had the biggest win of her career, riding off with the Dressage Horse of the Year crown at Horse of the Year on her lovely chestnut KH Ambrose.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the pair, but all the hard work paid off for Deken, who did a personal best in today’s Freestyle to clinch the title.
KH Ambrose is a 14-year-old gelding by Anamour and was bred by John McGrath. Deken bought him as an unbroken three-year-old and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing.
“There are so many struggles and doubt along the way and massive setbacks, so when you get something like this the hours and hours that go in are so worthwhile,” she says.
“Early on he would dump me, often, there was a point when I didn’t think I would be able to continue with the horse because it was too dangerous – but we got through it. Then he got laminitis in 2012 and we missed our first Grand Prix season.”
Deken’s goal for the show was to improve on her nationals performance nd ride better. She and coach Vanessa Way had worked hard on the passage piaffe tour, and that paid off today.
“I had a nice feeling throughout the test and a smile on my face. I really enjoyed it. I went into it thinking, let’s try to enjoy it, and I did. To get the win on top of that is the icing on the cake.”
It was a battle between Deken and John Thompson, who won the Grand Prix Special yesterday and looked on track to defend his title.
But Deken and KH Ambrose had a blinder in the CDI*** FEI Grand Prix Freestyle today, scoring 72.9 for the win and sealing the overall Dressage Horse of the Year title for 2017.
Thompson and JHT Antonello, last year’s title winners, were second in the Freestyle today with 71.825 and second overall. Third overall was Penny Castle with Magnus Spero and fourth was Jody Hartstone and Ali Baba.
In presenting the awards dressage convenor Wendy Hamerton said it was Deken’s first really big win, but Thompson had chased her hard.
“Taranaki might be on the edge of the earth for some people, but when it comes to dressage they are right up there.”
Deken paid tribute to her coach Vanessa Way, who was also fourth in the Freestyle and fifth overall. “I’m super excited for my big first win. Thanks to my amazing coach, Vanessa Way, she’s helped me every step of the way, this is for her as well.
“She’s my coach and she lives right next door to me, we are a real team between us. She’s 100% the reason why I’m here.”
It was a great show for Deken, who won her first Horse of the Year title earlier in the show, the Level 3 championship.
Deken says it is an exciting time as it is very competitive at the top level of dressage in New Zealand and all the riders are very supportive of having the country’s first rider to go to a World Cup final, Wendi Williamson.
And she’s not finished with KH Ambrose yet. “We’ll have a solid winter training and keep on trying to get the scores higher and higher – he’s still got more in him.”
Young Karaka rider Lily Tootill couldn’t have asked for better preparation for her upcoming trip to Australia, lifting the prestigious Olympic Cup at Horse of the Year Show today with the only double clear.
If the 20-year-old and her 9-year-old chestnut Ulysses NZPH felt the pressure jumping last in the second round they didn’t show it, leaving all the rails up to record the biggest win of her career.
“I don’t really get nervous, I get quite excited. I was dancing around the practice ring, I’m happy that I get to go out there and try again,” she explained.
“I’m ecstatic. I didn’t think it was impossible (to win), at the end of the day it is anyone’s class to win.”
Yesterday’s deluge meant the ground conditions were testing, but a packed grandstand appreciated the jumping from some of the best showjumpers in New Zealand this afternoon, despite the trying conditions.
“My horse is a bit of a mud lark, he felt pretty happy out there, he didn’t feel any different to normal.”
With the weather playing its part in the competition, and rain starting to fall again just as the class began, riders were given the option to jump a practice fence in the ring, before commencing their round.
Twenty-one started the two-round competition over the course built by German course designer Werner Deeg. The going was tough and certainly took its toll on the horses and riders, with rails falling around the course.
The crowd went wild when Tootill and Ulysses NZPH delivered the only clear of the first round.
Those on eight faults or less, nine combinations, came back for the second round over a shortened course.
There were five clears in the second round, Samantha Morrison and Biarritz and Katie Laurie with On the Point Eve, both carrying eight faults, and Maurice Beatson and Mandalay Cove and defending champion Helen McNaught with Carnutelabryere, who both bought four faults forward.
McNaught stopped the clock in 58.6 and Beatson was also clear but slower, in 61.19.
Tootill came out knowing she had to jump clear, but if not she needed to be faster than McNaught. “The time was quite tight, which helped me keep things flowing, as I wanted to be inside the time.”
In the end all the rails stayed up, with McNaught and Beatson second and third respectively. Laurie was fourth, Morrison fifth and the youngest competitor, 17-year-old Emily Hayward-Morgan and AP Ninja were sixth.
Tootill had a great show, also coming second in the Young Rider of the Year and sixth in the Lady Rider class, but it was the Olympic Cup that really topped it all off.
She had plenty of praise for her horse, who she described as her best friend. “I actually know what he’s thinking just by looking at his face. He’s more a pet than a sport horse.”
The combination is also part of the New Zealand team that will compete in Australia later this month, and today’s win gives her plenty of confidence heading into the tour.
Waiuku’s Tyla Hackett and Gin emerged victorious in a very competitive Junior Rider of the Year class, which was run over a different format due to the inclement weather.
Due to ground conditions yesterday, the Junior was instead contested this morning over one round and then a jump-off. Once a certain number of clears had been found, to save the ground, those who took a rail were given the bell to leave the arena.
Course designer, Lex Peddie, from North Canterbury was careful to ensure the course was fair for all riders, and also safe.
The class had 60 starters and 15 made it through to the hotly contested jump-off.
Sinead Dolman and Kiwi Lansing whizzed round clear in a time of 27.15, which looked hard to beat.
But there were several riders who were competing in the Pony of the Year title class, over in the premier arena at the same time, and had also made the Junior jump-off – one of those was Tyla Hackett.
Hackett came back from the Pony of the Year and blitzed the jump-off clear, stopping the clock in 26.85, just pipping Dolman.
Keean Cooper and Double J Angelic took third with a clear jump-off in 27.93 and Oliver Croucher was fourth on Waitangi Surf, also clear and stopping the clock in 28.83.
Brayden Aarts and George Jetson were fifth and Nicola Hammond and Links Hot Gossip rounded out the top six.
The only double clear of the competition secured the Pony of the Year title for South Islander Steffi Whittaker and Moonlight Glow.
An emotional Whittaker was clearly thrilled to win the class, thanking her granddad and nana for giving her the pony in front of a packed grandstand.
“I told granddad before we left, if I don’t get it this time I’m never going to get it.”
There were 24 starters in the two-round competition over the course set by German course designer Werner Deeg.
Heavy rain the previous day meant all showjumping competitions were cancelled for the day and the Pony of the Year was re-scheduled for Sunday morning.
Despite the difficult going there were three combinations with a clean slate after the first round. They were local rider, 12-year-old Phoebe Burns on Galaxy Masterpiece, Morrinsville’s Emma Watson on Fun House and Christchurch’s Steffi Whittaker on Moonlight Glow.
All those on four faults or less returned for the second round, which meant there were 11 to jump a second time.
Local rider Ruby Mason and Mr Acho was the only four-faulter to jump a clear second round, adding nothing to her first round tally, much to the delight of the crowd.
Then Whittaker came out, the first of the three riders with a clean slate. She clearly meant business and threw down the gauntlet to the two riders still to come with a super clear in 56.61.
Her plan for the second round was to be clear and quick, “but don’t go too crazy”. She knew she needed to go clear to win.
Despite the tough conditions her pony jumped well. “I thought it (the ground) might be a bit dodgy but he jumped super.”
Neither could match it, Watson had two rails for 8 faults, as did local hope Burns, leaving Whittaker as the only double clear of the competition and the winner of the Somerset Fair Cup.
Mason’s second round clear was enough to lift her up to second, Georgia Percy was third with Surprise Illusion with one rail in each round for a total of 8 faults, and Sophie Scott and Benrose Playtime were fourth, also with an 8 fault total over two rounds.
Emma Watson and Fun House had to settle for fifth and Phoebe Burns finished in sixth place.
In a class of horses and riders all competitive on their day, the Advanced title was always going to be a tight scramble, and it proved to be so, in the deciding class, the Harney & Sons Musical Freestyle.
With red ribbons from the Pryde’s Easifeed Prix St Georges and Inter I title tests already hanging up in his truck, victory was enticingly close for Alex Matheson and Dutch stallion PSL Lingh II.
Also sitting handy for the title was Vanessa Way and NRM Andreas, who set the score to beat early on in the final class with a not-out-of-reach 67.7.
Angela Lloyd and Ruanuku R came closest, putting up 66.875 to earn them second place and third overall in the championship, well-deserved after a consistent show.
Matheson kicked his test off with a lovely entrance but the work became a little rushed and was peppered with small but ultimately expensive mistakes (66.375). He had to settle for third, although his previous wins ensured him the reserve champion sash.
But the day belonged to Vanessa, who had a good show, with reserve placings in the L4 (NSC Pronto) and L5 (NRM KH Arion) championships as well.
Superstar Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo is incorporating local produce, apples, peaches and kiwifruit, into the dessert degustation he will host at Horse of the Year Show this afternoon.
Making a flying visit to Hawke’s Bay, his first time in the region, Zumbo designed the degustation, accompanied by Harney and Sons Fine Teas, which will be delivered by Orton Tailored Cuisine.
“I’ve got a little five course canapé degustation, all desserts, will do a Q&A session and overlook the desserts.”
Being in a region renowned for its fresh fruit and produce, he wanted to incorporate some of that into the menu.
“I’ve only been here for half a day and I have seen that every paddock is full of fruit or produce.
“Apples, peaches and kiwifruit, I’ve used some things that are grown around here, I’ve got a little apple tart…and a kiwifruit, vanilla and avocado dessert.”
After arriving last night, he enjoyed seeing what the region had to offer this morning, including a visit to Elephant Hill winery, and taking in the show.
“This is my first time coming here and I was very impressed, it was packed – so many people.”
Australian’s most celebrated patissier and star of Zumbo’s Just Desserts, Zumbo began a pastry empire back in 2007 with his Balmain shop front, and now has nine stores in Australia. Famous for his macarons, Zumbo has three books to his name as well as numerous appearances on television, including on MasterChef, which introduced the croquembouche to an international audience and made macarons a household name.
As a child he loved sweets and junk food and growing up he found school wasn’t his thing, leaving at age 15.
“I wasn’t enjoying school, I wanted to get out and an apprenticeship in pastry was something I found. I loved it, it was something I could focus on – I found it hard to focus at school, with cooking I’m 100%.
“I put my head down and try to make myself better. I get to travel and meet great people and work with great people.”
The association with Zumbo wouldn’t have happened without HOY’s portfolio of fantastic sponsors, many of who are keen to provide additional attractions for the show and develop it for Hawke’s Bay locals.
Unrelenting overnight rain ground most of the Saturday HOY action to a halt, but the dressage continued in the oval and the CDI FEI Grand Prix Special was a close fought battle.
After making the trek through the slush from the warm-up to the arena the horses did look like they’d just finished a winter steeplechase, with riders to match, but the competition went on.
John Thompson and JHT Antonello again rose to the top of the seven-strong field, managing to crack into the 70s with a winning test of 70.235.
“He’s feeling the best he’s ever felt,” Thompson enthused. “We made a few easy mistakes that can be corrected.”
He didn’t have it all his way though, Abbie Deken and KH Ambrose were on fire and it was a tense wait for scores as she chased him all the way, coming in second place, just one percent behind on 69.216.
“He was much more rideable today,” Deken says. “I was a bit disappointed with myself, I was off balance going into the one [time changes] but overall I’m happy with how we went – much more settled.”
All combinations will go through to tomorrow’s Freestyle, which, along with today’s Special, counts toward the coveted Dressage Horse of the Year title. At this point Thompson and the uber-experienced JHT Antonello have it in hand but if today is anything to go by, he won’t be letting his guard down until the scores are up.
The pair is looking for their qualifying scores toward the World Equestrian Games in Tryon next year and says there is great team spirit among all the Grand Prix competitors. “We’ve nearly got four of us cracking 70 [percent] and the camaraderie between all of us wanting a team for WEG is so cool.”
Waikato’s William Millar and Raukura Satori MH took third place (66.118) while Portuguese stallion Ali Baba and Jody Hartstone were just behind them for fourth.
Logan Massie figured his sister’s horse Double J Beyonce would do well in the Harney & Sons Five-Year-Old of the Year title class . . . and he was right.
“She’s a very competitive and quick jumper,” said the 23-year-old.
To be fair, he did take over the ride on a horse who was already going well. Unfortunately younger sister Georgia is out with a broken tail bone after falling off a young horse at home, so being the good big brother he is, Logan stepped up.
‘That was a big class today with a lot of nice young horses,” said Massie. “Going into the jump-off I asked Georgia, who was warming me up, if I should win or just school her horse . . . she said win!”
They were second to go in the 13-strong jump-off so had to set a good benchmark for the pretty smart combinations to follow.
“The ground was a bit wet but it jumped well. Lex Peddie designed a good course out there.
The horse is by Double J Repicharge, out of a JK Holstein mare and was bred by the Massies at their Dannevirke farm.
“I think she will be a good six-year-old next year,” he said.
Massie is no stranger to HOY titles, having won two Young Rider crowns and a Pony of the Year one too.
The mare will now head to the Series Finals with her new rider.
Harney and Sons Five-Year-Old of the Year (part of the East Coast Performance Horses Breeding Series): Logan Massie (Dannevirke) Double J Beyonce 1, Emily Hayward-Morgan (Te Awamutu) Delicious HM 2, Daniel Blundell (Ocean Beach) Charlie NZPH 3, Amanda Wilson (Hikurangi) Showtym Burrow 4, Helen Kippen (Ocean Beach) Commander NZPH 5, Monica Oakley (Waipukurau) Festival 6.
In the pony categories large entries and stiff competition characterised all three title classes.
The Williamson name is well known in dressage circles but it was Wendi Williamson’s daughter Rebecca who was making a splash over in the showhunter ring, taking out the Category C Pony of the Year title.
Wendi is currently campaigning overseas and, due to the time difference, had gone to sleep before the class, so would have woken to the good news.
Auckland Dio student Rebecca, 14, was excited to win with her new pony, He’s Pryceless. The pair competes in dressage and showjumping as well, and was off to compete in the Level 1 dressage straight after the prizegiving.
Rebecca was surprised to win and proud of the pony, who she has only had for about three months. “This is only my fourth show on him, so I’m very happy.”
Second in the Category C title class was Harriet Laing riding Triple Star Picture Puzzle, third was Olivia Adams on Sweet Cappuccino and fourth was Georgia Alexander with Gold Class.
Maddie Smith and Starlight India turned in a near flawless performance to earn them the crown of Category B Pony Showhunter of the Year.
Second place in the Category B title class went to Anna Nalder riding Acclaim, Hollie Falloon was third on Phoenician Soho and Amelia Newsom was fourth with Moon Spirit Jitterbug.
In the tiny Category A Pony Showhunter of the Year Maddi Davidson, 12, from a deer and beef station near Te Awamutu, was over the moon to take the title with her dun pony Rhythm N Gold.
Maddi has done all of the work on the pony herself since she got it three years ago.
Trainer Leigh Taylor said it was a very special win and the rider had put in the hard yards. “The rider has really stepped up to the mark and it’s the first title for the pony…the pony has a great jump.”
Second in the Category A class was Bria Fitzgerald and My Scooter. Hollie Falloon had a great show, placing third on Fortification Penhellagon and adding to her Category B title class placing, and fourth was Rosa Wilkinson with Glynmerlyn Magical Miss.
Kinnordy Go Girl, ridden by two different members of the Thomas family, made it back to back wins in the Junior Showhunter of the Year class.
Galley, as she is known at home, is owned by Trudi Duncan, and has been campaigned by the Thomas family from Rotorua for several years. Tristan won the title last year and this year it was sister Claudia, 15, who emerged on top.
The combination had good form heading into the show, having won Open and Junior title classes at the North Island championships.
Mum Rachel said the family was grateful to Trudi for loaning such a special horse and wanted to thank her. “Without Trudi, Claudia wouldn’t be riding at HOY.”
Claudia was thrilled to win. “She was so good and smooth, she just feels like such a schoolmaster…I want to thank Trudi for letting me ride her, she doesn’t mind how we go, and that makes me a lot less nervous.”
In second place in the Junior was Isobel Vokes and Bizzie Beware, Megan Pearce and Waitangi Twitter came in third and Mollie Moffett and Kiwi Dula were fourth.