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
TA Teen Taking On
The Big Guns in Olympic Cup
The first entry in the Olympic Cup didn’t come from one of the usual suspects . . . rather a 16-year-old school girl who is staking a claim in the big league.
Emily Hayward-Morgan is having a blinder of a season. At her age, the Te Awamutu teen could actually still be competing on ponies, but instead she’s taking on the big guns of New Zealand showjumping at the 2016 Farmlands Horse of the Year Show.
She’s still too young to compete in the Ultra•Mox FEI World Cup New Zealand series, but is allowed in premier league classes and to date has placed second in the two she has started in.
Hayward-Morgan is leading both the Canterbury Equestrian Young Rider and Telford Junior Rider series, and is handily placed in the Excel Premier League and Equissage Horse Grand Prix series. But she’s the first to point out there is a lot that can happen before the champs are crowned in April.
She moved to hacks at just 14 on the advice of her trainer, Olympian Samantha McIntosh, and has never looked back.
“At first we were looking at getting a good pony but Sam insisted I should go onto hacks,” says Hayward-Morgan, “and that is where it all started.”
And she doesn’t regret the move at all.
It’s just her second season with nine-year-old AP Ninja, but she says they are the ultimate team.
“We have just clicked and got a really strong bond. I think we are good together because we both have the same sort of attitude,” says Hayward-Morgan. “He tries his hardest and loves his job. Everyone thinks he is a bit nuts . . . well, he is kind of, but I like that about him.”
She’ll be bringing three horses to HOY and competing in most of the main classes.
Ninja will do the Olympic Cup, Norwood Cup and Young Rider; Yandoo Lady Gold the Lady Rider and Junior Rider; and Wasabi the showjumping medal equitation and Intermediate Rider.
She says they always like to get their HOY entries in early.
Before showjumping, Hayward-Morgan was a show hunter star too, and can lay claim to a number of titles. She credits show hunter with giving her the skills to get some of her earlier ponies in check.
“When I was young I always had the naughtiest, dirtiest little ponies who would dump me every other day. I think that is where I got my determination from! Show hunter helped me train those naughty ponies too.”
She’s come a long way since then. A recent win in the Grand Prix at the MaxLife Grand Prix Showjumping and Show Hunter Show at Woodhill Sands in Auckland recently was the highlight of a fantastic season so far.
It nearly came unstuck though – as they headed to the last Hayward-Morgan ‘clucked’ and the horse put his ears back and jumped so high she landed on his neck.
“He just hates that sound,” she says.
It’s but a small hiccup on a horse that always gives his all and takes care of his rider.
“Ninja has always been pretty competitive. At the end of last season our goal was to jump in the Young Rider classes, but before the first two months were done, we had done Grand Prix.”
Long term Hayward-Morgan plans to head offshore in the hopes of making it in the “big time” – once she finishes two more years of school.
She’s ridden just once for New Zealand, and that was as a young rider in Korea in April 2015, and she’s dead keen to earn more silver ferns.
But Hayward-Morgan says there is no way she would be able to do any of her equestrian without the “massive support” of her family, and particularly mum Rachel Holdsworth, who gave up riding to focus on her daughter.
“Mum is just amazing.”