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HOY 2017 Deconstructed!

23 Mar

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HOY 2017 Deconstructed!

Horse of the Year is over for another season and it certainly will go down in history as one of the wettest HOYs ever. While the weather provided a disappointing backdrop, the show went on to crown the big show jumping titles on Sunday with Karaka’s Lily Tootill walking away with the prestigious Olympic Cup.

The crown jewel of HOY, the Olympic Cup is the class that show jumpers all over New Zealand dream of winning, and it was young Lily’s time to shine with her fabulous horse Ulysses NZPH. Fondly known as Ronald at home, the chestnut gelding bred by NZPH stud jumped well in very wet conditions and went double clear to take the win. The field was impressive indeed with twenty-one of the top combinations in the country lining up, and 2016 winners Helen McNaught and Carnutelabryere showed their consistency coming in second behind Lily. Helen had her big win of the week with the Aarts’ family’s LT Holst Aunty Annette taking out the Silver Fern Stakes on Friday afternoon.

Earlier that morning the Farmlands Pony of the Year was announced with South Island combination Steffi Whittaker and Moonlight Glow the only double clear. International course builder Werner Deeg built tough but fair courses under the conditions, taking into account the rain and wet ground.

The dressage title was hard fought and beautifully won by Abbie Deken on her gorgeous KH Ambrose, who was all smiles as the combination skipped around the Land Rover Premier Arena for their victory lap. The decision to cancel the cross-country phase of the eventing was made early Saturday morning due to the dangerous conditions and wet grounds making ambulance access difficult and meant that there was no Eventer of the Year crowned for 2017.

While the mud made for cancelled classes and shuffled timetables, it also heralded a massive mud fight on Saturday much to the delight of riders and spectators. The innovative Wilson sisters of TV series ‘Keeping Up With the Kaimanawas’ fame instigated the filthy fun and many joined in for a good laugh. Tractors were working overtime to pull trucks and cars out of the camping grounds but an overwhelmingly positive vibe stuck around despite the wet weather. It’s only the second time Horse of the Year has seen that much mud in the nearly twenty years it has been based in Hastings and though it makes for a difficult competition, trade was booming and did a great day on Saturday while it was too wet to ride.

Though Saturday may be remembered for the cancellation of the cross country and other show jumping classes, it also heralded dessert chef Adriano Zumbo’s debut at the event. His dessert degustation was a huge success with the VIP tent packed full of those keen to experience his creations alongside Harney and Sons Fine Tea. The five course dessert menu was beautifully complemented by delicious teas and the feedback was truly fantastic.The team is now looking forward to debriefing and getting stuck into the 2018 show.

Superstar Chef to Host Dessert Degustation

Join us at Horse of the Year, New Zealand’s premier equestrian event, for an afternoon of indulgent desserts and New York style tea with internationally acclaimed dessert chef Adriano Zumbo.

Australian’s most celebrated patissier and star of Zumbo’s Just Desserts, Adriano Zumbo is looking forward to his first visit to the Horse of the Year show in Hastings. As part of an incredible sponsor activation, Zumbo will be designing a dessert degustation accompanied by Harney and Sons Fine Teas on Saturday March 11th. The afternoon will certainly be one to remember, with a dessert menu designed by Zumbo showcasing his unique flavour combinations, exciting textures and signature bold colours and created by Orton Tailored Cuisine.

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 an appearance on MasterChef which introduced the croquembouche to an international audience and made macarons a household name.

HOY event director Dave Mee says to have someone of Zumbo’s standing appear at the show alongside the pool of talented riders is fantastic. “HOY is more than just a horse show, and we are always looking at how we can enhance the show, whether it’s the arena, stables or attractions to give our riders and spectators a better experience.” Mee says.

The show adds Zumbo to a list of new initiatives offering spectators plenty of things to see and do while at the show including new bar areas, wine tasting and an al fresco living space allows HOY to showcase the best in food, wine and lifestyle as well as equestrian.

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. The dessert degustation will take place in the VIP lounge at HOY at 4.30pm Saturday 11 March, with limited tickets available. To purchase tickets visit

What: Harney & Sons Dessert Degustation with Adriano Zumbo presented by Orton Tailored Cuisine.

When: Saturday 11th March 4:30pm – 6:00pm,

Where: VIP Lounge, Horse of the Year, Hawke’s Bay A & P Showgrounds

Ticket includes:

  • Access to VIP Lounge
  • 5 course canape dessert degustation created by Adriano Zumbo and prepared by Orton Tailored Cuisine.
  • All-inclusive beverage package including 1 glass of champagne and Harney & Sons Tea and coffee
  • VIP parking
  • $79 per person (does not include GA entry to the show) or $105 per person for both GA ticket to showgrounds and Harney & Sons Dessert Degustation ticket.

Olympians Headline 2017 Horse of the Year

The 2017 Horse of the Year show looks set to be one of the most competitive yet, with entries up on the 2016 event.

Olympians headline the most prestigious titles of the show, the show jumping Olympic Cup, 3* Eventing, and the Dressage Grand Prix, which have grown significantly from 2016, and will make for exciting and competitive viewing.

The growth in numbers has also filtered down to the other classes, and shows the popularity of the event and the high regard in which it is held in by riders throughout the country.

Dressage entries in general have increased substantially for the 2017 show and for the first time ever Horse of the Year has had to consider capping some classes to keep numbers within capability. Record numbers for this section indicate a strong growth for the discipline which may have been spurred on by the success of Kiwi rider Julie Brougham, who scored the highest ever percentage by a New Zealand combination at the recent Rio Olympics. Defending his 2016 win will be John Thompson riding JHT Antonello, though the two previous winners will have some stiff competition. Tthe ever professional Vanessa Way will also be on her A game with NRM Arawn.

The crown jewel of Horse of the Year, the Olympic Cup, will definitely be maintaining its reputation as the biggest prize in New Zealand show jumping. Currently holding 25 entries, the order for the class always changes slightly between entries closing and the date of the event, but even without those changes it will be a class act. There’s a definite representation of both experienced combinations and young riders stepping up however show jumping is all about leaving the rails up in the quickest time so it would be near impossible to predict a winner. World Cup round winners from the season will be present, including young talent Samantha Morrison and Biarritz, Natasha Brooks and Kapattack, and Lucy Fell on Tinapai. Young Lily Tootill in her first season at this level will be starting the class on Ulysses NZPH, with whom she won the Dannevirke World Cup round in January. And naturally, Katie Laurie will be as competitive as always with two rides, the beautiful Dunstan On The Point Eve and the winner of the Waitemata World Cup round, Dunstan Casebrooke Lomond.

Olympian Maurice Beatson will also be contesting on both Schimmel Warrior and Mandalay Cove, as will the reigning Olympic Cup champion Helen McNaught on Carnutelabryere. There are plenty of less experienced but none the less noteworthy combinations seeking the grand prize, too: Daniel Blundell will start Lavello after recent success at Grand Prix level, and the impressive and ever consistent 17 year old Emily Hayward-Morgan will ride AP Ninja. Also planning on lining up is Rio eventer Clarke Johnstone with show jumping mount Quainton Labyrinth.

Though he may be giving Rio mount Balmoral Sensation a quiet year, Clarke is planning on an anything but quiet Horse of the Year show. In 2016 he won the 3* Eventing Horse of the Year title on Balmoral Sensation before the two flew to the United Kingdom to further prepare for their Olympic debut.  Clarke felt that the electric atmosphere, busy showgrounds and public pressure at HOY 2016 played a big part in their Olympic build up and will be returning to defend his title, this time riding Wolf Whistle II.

The eventing will be an exciting event with a massive 24 entries in the big 3* class, including current Super League series leader Donna Edwards-Smith riding DSE Mr Hokey Pokey. Eager to give her a run for her money will be Virginia Thompson and Star Nouveau, sitting in second on the series leader board after a super win in the 3* at Puhunui Three Day in December. Young rider Jackson Bovill has had some impressive placings with Visionnaire this season and he will be hoping for a good ride at HOY. Also entered is Samantha Felton who will be busy with three horses in the 3*, one in the 2* and another two entered in show jumping classes throughout the week.

With just four short weeks to go, anticipation is certainly building and entries have definitely reflected rider enthusiasm for the show. The 2017 Horse of the Year is set to be a very exciting event indeed – tickets can be purchased here:

HOY First Timers

HOY First Timers

For many riders, Horse of the Year has become a real ‘bucket list’ item that sits high on a list of goals that equestrians dream of achieving. Whether it’s the speedy show jumpers or the stylish show hunters, the brave eventers or the beautiful dressage riders – everyone wants a chance to compete at the show that is the epitome of equestrian in New Zealand.

Fifteen year old Ellen Davis has some particularly special memories from Horse of the Year. While 2016 was her first year competing, she visited the show as a spectator in 2013 and in 2015. During the 2015 HOY she met a grey pony named Tallyho Mozart who would go on to become her first show jumping pony. Together with Mozart, Davis found herself ready to compete at the big show in 2016 and recalls how nervous she felt beforehand.

“I just love the vibe of HOY and how all the disciplines come together for the week. I also loved working as a photographer there and working alongside some amazing photographers like Libby Law and Kelly Wilson,” Davis describes. Apart from competing, the highlight of 2016 for her was watching a friend compete in the speed slalom event during the Friday Night Extravaganza, and she’s looking forward to her second year competing at the show. “Riding in the Premier Arena is still a goal of mine that I can’t wait to achieve!”

For Natalie Solly, HOY is quickly becoming a family affair. Her two young daughters (pictured) have qualified for their first Horse of the Year in the showing discipline, with Amelia on her pony Waimea First Edition, and Imogen on Coroview Kingston. Solly describes her girls’ excitement at being able to compete at their first HOY – especially considering they have only been back in New Zealand for three years and acquiring their ponies only recently. The girls learned to ride while living in Asia, interacting with ponies in India and Thailand without ever being able to own them. Having their very own ponies was a driving force for the family’s decision to come home to New Zealand, and their mum is very proud that they’ve qualified for HOY after such a short lead up.

Imogen and Amelia Solly Juliet Dagnall Equestrian Photography

“They’re excited, a little bit nervous too! Although maybe that’s more me,” Solly admits – she holds the very serious position of leading her daughters and their ponies in the Lead Rein and Welsh showing sections. It’s a big commitment from the family; they will be travelling all the way from Kerikeri to compete and recently had their trial run at the big showing Nationals down in Fielding.

There’s always been more to the show for equestrians than just competing, of course. Hannah Comrie knows first-hand the amount of work it takes to get competition ready for HOY: for the past three years she’s attended not as a rider nor as a spectator, but as the groom of top dressage competitor Wendi Williamson. In 2016, Comrie felt that she wanted to experience the show as a competitor as well and was able to take her show jumper Peti Peti Spitfire to compete in their first 1.20m. She bounced back and forth from her busy show jumping arenas to where Williamson competed her horses in the dressage. This year, Comrie is planning to stick to her dressage duties with Williamson aiming to compete for the Dressage Horse of the Year title.

If you have a story about your first time at HOY, get in touch by emailing

Photo provided by Natalie Solly – credit Julia Dagnall Equestrian Photography


An Olympic Flavour

International Flavour at HOY 2017

Horse of the Year is one of the most prestigious equestrian events in the southern hemisphere, and as such attracts notable names from all around the globe. 2017 will see international officials from Australia, Japan, Germany and the Philippines.

Dressage is one of the biggest disciplines showcased at the show, with the likes of Julie Brougham and John Thompson raising the section’s profile around the world with their international achievements. This year 4* FEI judge Jane Ventura flies in from Victoria, Australia, bringing with her recent experience from large shows in Tokyo, France, Italy and Spain. Incredibly passionate about dressage, Ventura has judged in Australia for more than 30 years and has begun to lend her time to educating future judges. The dressage section is also welcoming Vittorio Barba from the Philippines as part of their team of officials as well as Susie Hoevenaars as a judge.

In eventing again officials are hailing from all corners. A technical delegate and a steward – both very important roles on the officials team – are both flying in from Japan, and in several years will both be reprising their roles at the 2020 Olympic Games. Sukhdev Rathore will be visiting from India to take part in judging the eventing, though he often takes on other official roles in his work across India.

The showing discipline will also see judges flying in from the UK and from Australia. Though showing is big in New Zealand through frequent and popular A&P shows, it’s also a very popular discipline across the ditch as well as in the UK and parts of Europe. David Bartram and Chris Lawton have a long trip from the UK while Di and Harry Tunnicliffe will take part as the Australian judges.

Competitor wise, as always it’s unlikely that only Kiwis will be left to contest the impressive prizes on offer. Several top Australian show jumpers are proving interested at flying their horses over to take part, including recent Olympic candidates. Following Clarke Johnstone’s success at the Rio Olympics after his win in the 3* Eventing Horse of the Year title in 2016, there have been rumours that some Australian eventers are also keen to give the big title a crack. The popular mounted games section has also attracted interest from foreigners, teams coming from Australia and the United States to compete. While nothing is ever certain with horses, an international pool of riders always adds a bit of interest and creates a bit of mysterious competition amongst the riders.

International course designer Werner Deeg returns from Germany to build the big tracks jumped in the Premier Arena. His first trip to design at Horse of the Year was in 2016 and he came away pleased with the quality of the show, and of the horses and riders. Likewise, those who rode his courses enjoyed the challenge, with six days of exciting competition unfolding for the show. With previous experience at the European Championships and Spruce Meadows, Deeg boasts an impressive CV. Key to him is that the course reflects the horse’s natural movement, making his courses technical yet ground covering and jumped off a fairly forward stride.

Internationals Vittorio Barba

Vittorio Barba – International Dressage Judge

Clarke Johnstone Tells us why he loves HOY

16 Jan

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Clarke Johnstone Tells us why he loves HOY

Olympian Clarke Johnstone tells us why he loves Horse of the Year and how it helped him prepare for Rio 2016.

For more videos or behind the scenes footage follow us on Facebook and Instagram! @Horseoftheyear


Horse of the Year Invites Local Schools to Participate in New Art Competition

14 Dec

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Horse of the Year Invites Local Schools to Participate in New Art Competition

8th December 2016

Schools all around the Hawke’s Bay region are being invited to put down their pens and pick up their paint brushes to take part in a new initiative that aims to get local school children involved in Horse of the Year (HOY).

The ‘Horses in Hawke’s Bay’ Art Competition is open to all Hawke’s Bay primary schools for school children in years 1-6. Students will have the opportunity to be part of HOY by sharing what the event means to them and the region through the creation of their own banner.

HOY marketing manager Nigel Chenery is pleased with the uptake on the new initiative, saying that it’s the kind of competition that will grow organically year after year.

“We’re looking forward to having the schools involved at Horse of the Year. It’s such a massive event for the community and we really wanted to give local kids a taste of the show. It will be great to have their creations on display at HOY in front of thousands of riders and tens of thousands of spectators.”

Schools must register their interest for the competition by the 16th December, with banners needing to be completed early in term 1 next year. Students are encouraged to get creative with the theme ‘Horses in Hawke’s Bay’ with the only requirement being that it must include the HOY 2017 logo. There is a limit of two entries per school with banners and non-toxic paint provided to all registered entries by the 30th January 2017.

Participating schools will be invited to attend the show on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th March to see their banners on display as well as to experience all the show has to offer. The banners will be judged by a guest panel of judges, including leading riders, with the winning school to receive a unique HOY equestrian experience.

Local activation coordinator for HOY, Penny Andersen says that the plan is to have around 30 schools registered by the closing date. Andersen is looking forward to the community engagement the competition will bring. The response so far has been good with a number of schools already signed up.

Registrations for the inaugural Horses in Hawke’s Bay Art Competition close on the 16th December – you can email to find out more or to register your school.

The Horse of the Year is on from the 7th – 12th March 2017 at the Hawke’s Bay A & P Showgrounds.



Hawke’s Bay Locals Invited to Experience Horse of the Year with Special Residents Offer

14 Dec

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Hawke’s Bay Locals Invited to Experience Horse of the Year with Special Residents Offer

1 December 2016

Hawke’s Bay locals are being given the opportunity to experience NZ’s premier equestrian event, the 2017 Horse of the Year, with a special resident’s only offer courtesy of local partners.

The 2017 event, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is promising to be one of the strongest shows yet, with a number of elite riders already registering their interest and some great new initiatives planned to entertain the crowds.

Olympian and current eventing title holder Clarke Johnstone is once again looking forward to the show and its atmosphere, which he said helped enormously in his preparation for the 2016 Olympics at Rio. In addition, the return of fellow Kiwi Olympian Jock Paget to New Zealand shores, the Event Horse of the Year title will surely be well contested.

Well-known celebrity sisters the Wilsons, of Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas fame, along with top show jumpers Katie Laurie and Helen McNaught-McFarlane are all looking forward to the show, with McNaught-McFarlane enjoying the ‘real family feel’ and variety that HOY offers.

Event organiser Dave Mee is enthusiastic about the breadth of talent to be showcased at HOY 2017: “To be involved with an event that has so much passion, talent and athleticism is exciting. The horses and riders that compete are amazing; they’ve worked so hard to get to HOY.”

When asked what he’s looking forward to most, he doesn’t hesitate to consider the initiatives his team are working on to involve the local community with the show: “I think anyone who attends the show will be surprised by the scale, the atmosphere and what’s on offer…there is so much going on. The Friday night show will be spectacular, and the cross country phase of the eventing on Saturday is always so thrilling. And Sunday showcases the best of the best in the show jumping and dressage – not to mention the shopping. It’s a great week and there’s something for everyone.”

Of course, the show is almost as famous for its shopping as its sport, with over 150 trade sites including an all new lifestyle area catering to the whole family. The sites span a wide range of equestrian, food, fashion, home and lifestyle and more. Economically the event contributes more than $12 million GDP, so it isn’t just stallholders who benefit but also local businesses.

Hastings and Napier residents have the opportunity to purchase 2 adult any day passes for the price of 1 until the 15th January 2017 with a special residents only offer.  To purchase tickets visit, search “Horse of the Year”, and enter the unique code RP17, under “Residents Offer”. Please note that terms and conditions apply.

The Horse of the Year show is held at the Hastings A&P Showgrounds from 7th to 12th March 2017. It will see over 1500 riders and 1800 horses compete.

For more information contact Dominque Visini or visit

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