Eventing – Raising The Bar
Horse of the Year is used to international visitors, but the 2018 line up is looking particularly diverse. The week-long event in March will play host to a number of global equestrian superstars who will further define the show as a truly international event.
The eventing discipline is looking especially star-studded, with both the CIC2* and CIC3* classes important for rider ratings at the international level. There are few opportunities in New Zealand to gain these points, with HOY providing an excellent chance for riders to make a mark on the charts of the international equestrian federation.
No stranger to eventing at the highest levels, 3*/4* judge Christian Landolt is looking forward to his first time at Horse of the Year, though he already has his own connection to the Hawke’s Bay. In addition to his judging career Landolt also rides himself, and his eventing mount is none other than Toblerone NZPH, bred and born at Ocean Beach stud NZ Performance Horses. Landolt is a regular feature judging at the world’s most prestigious events, including Badminton and Burghley Horse Trials, and was a member of the ground jury at the recent Adelaide 4* where Kiwi Clarke Johnstone triumphed. His experience at the absolute upper levels of the sport will be invaluable to competitors and spectators alike at HOY where the Swiss native will be a judge and member of the ground jury.
Landolt will be joined on the ground jury by Annabel Scrimgeour who also holds the highest qualifications as a 3*/4* judge. Scrimgeour flies in from the UK where she works closely with Kiwi rider Andrew Nicholson and many others at the top of their game. South Islander Helen Christie will head the ground jury as one of few New Zealanders with the top qualifications. Christie has been involved with HOY for years, fitting her home country event into a calendar packed with international expectations, including officiating at the World Equestrian Games.
Finally, eventing brings their superstar line up to a close with technical delegate (TD) Christian Persson. An Olympian in his own right, Swedish visitor Persson is also headed to his very first HOY and couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity. A previous member of Sweden’s eventing team at the 1984 Olympics, Persson has been involved with eventing for decades and has been the TD at a number of major international events.
HOY organisers are looking forward to raising the bar on the eventing discipline.
“The next generation of Kiwi eventers are ready to break into the international circuit, so it’s important to get them in front of international judges, and for them to ride in an international atmosphere,” eventing director Erika Herries says. With New Zealand history steeped in eventing success at an Olympic level, it’s a discipline that deserves to be front and centre of the country’s biggest horse show.
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: https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2017/mar/horse-of-the-year-2017
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo provided by Natalie Solly – credit Julia Dagnall Equestrian Photography
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.
Vittorio Barba – International Dressage Judge