Olympian Jock Paget to Join Land Rover Horse of the Year Line-Up

9 Mar

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New Zealand’s premier equestrian showpiece Land Rover Horse of the Year is preparing to host to its biggest ever line-up next week, following news Olympian Jock Paget has thrown his hat in the eventing ring.

Paget joins headline acts eventing ‘power couple’ Tim and Jonelle Price and Olympic great Blyth Tait in Hawke’s Bay where they will compete for bragging rights at the Show’s new Land Rover Burghley Day.

Jock is excited to be back in the saddle at the country’s top equestrian event after returning home from the UK to take up a role with Equestrian Sport New Zealand as a High Performance Coach.

“It’s always good to be able to measure yourself against the best riders you can – a little bit of healthy competition goes a long way!”

Paget will take the mount of Samantha Lissington’s progressive 7 year old gelding Ricker Ridge Riley, owned by herself, Dale & Nanette Felton.

Jock’s career highlights include becoming only the second rider ever to win the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials on debut – alongside Sir Mark Todd, a second at Burghley and claiming a team bronze at the London Olympics.

But horses haven’t always been in Jock’s blood – the 31 year old remarkably only started riding at age 18 after a stint as a bricklaying apprentice in Sydney, before he discovered rodeo.

“I got into rodeo saddle bronc riding with a bunch of mates.  It was always a fun weekend camping under the stars in a swag, we’d ride broncs and go back to work on Monday laying bricks – it was an awesome way to spend the weekend but I knew there was no future in it,” Jock recalls.

From bricklaying to rodeo to Rio, Jock admits his rise to New Zealand’s riding elite has been built on a mindset he picked up laying bricks.

“Like building a wall, you measure twice and cut once, I guess I’ve applied that to horseriding, it’s all in the detail – if you’re going to jump a jump and then land and turn left, jump it so that the horse lands on the left leg.  Precision and planning ensure efficiency in anything that you do.”

Training New Zealand’s High Performance squad from his Taupo base is proving a rewarding day job for Jock, but Olympic dreams are still on the radar.

“Tokyo would be amazing… I’m hopeful my horse Angus Blue will recover from injury and in the meantime I have a couple of exciting young ones coming through,” says Jock.

While Tokyo might be a long way off, Jock admits he’s taking every competition in his stride, and Land Rover Horse of the Year is just the challenge he craves.

“Course designer Chris Ross is such an innovator at his craft.  He’s very up to date with the trends around the world, he’s built courses at top level events like the Rio Olympics and is very experienced.  I’m expecting a really challenging course, a lot of forward riding and steep angles.  He’ll test a range of things and the winner will have to have their horse in peak form.”

The Land Rover Horse of the Year Show attracts in excess of 50,000 attendees across the week of competition, making it the biggest equestrian event in the southern hemisphere.

Principle sponsor Jaguar Land Rover General Manager Stephen Kenchington says interest in this year’s event has been unprecedented.

“Securing four Olympians to ride at this year’s event shows us we’ve got the platform right, now we just hope the public will get behind our top internationals by coming out and showing their support.

“We’re proud to be associated with this event and look forward to a week of top level competition.”

Event Director Dave Mee agrees this year’s headline acts are having a positive trickle down effect.

“It’s heartening to see that New Zealand’s pinnacle equestrian event has the horsepower to rein in such an excellent field. Hawke’s Bay can expect to see world-class competition at its absolute best next week and for us, that’s incredibly exciting.”

Dave Mee reports rider entries are up by over 400 compared to 2018 and ticket sales are tracking considerably higher than previous.

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