Horse Of The Year 2018
Olympian Clarke Johnstone competing at an earlier Horse of the Year Show. The entire show comes to a halt for cross country Saturday which sees thousands flock to the showgrounds to see the action up close. Photo by Kerry Marshall/KAMPIC

It’s been three years in the making but finally, the gates are about to open at the 2024 Land Rover Horse of the Year Show in Heretaunga Hastings.
The six-day programme, which starts officially on Tuesday, includes New Zealand’s best onshore equestrian combinations duking it out for the top titles across multiple disciplines including showjumping, dressage and eventing, among others.
The Aussies are here with their horses as part of the Oceania eventing teams challenge which has senior and young rider teams chasing glory over three days.
Saturday’s cross country brings the rest of the Tōmoana Showgrounds to a halt and is akin to the greats of Burghley and Badminton with thousands lining the course. The Eventer of the Year will be presented the inaugural Sir Mark Todd Trophy, which is one he won at Badminton in 1994 aboard Horton Point.
But the jewel in the crown is surely the Olympic Cup which will be presented to the winner of the Showjumper of the Year title on Sunday afternoon. It’s the best of the best of New Zealand’s onshore jumpers and never fails to inspire and entrance.
Also on Sunday afternoon is the Dressage Horse of the Year crown which will be decided after the FEI Freestyle to Music class which combines skill with a rather large dose of magic as each combination does their own test to music.
Free for All Friday will see the gates open to everyone from 2pm so the local community can get a taste of just what HOY is all about.  There will plenty to watch with both the premier showjumping and dressage arenas in full action.
Event director Sophie Blake says there is certainly something very special about watching the partnership between horse and rider as they compete at high level in the Olympic sports of showjumping, eventing and dressage.
Thousands from all over New Zealand head to Hawke’s Bay for the annual event, with competitors coming from the full length of the nation – the very deep south to the top of the north.
The show, which costs around $2.5m to put on, has been cancelled three years on the trot thanks to COVID and Cyclone Gabrielle, so everyone is very excited to finally be gathering again. Organisers have put huge effort into ensuring the bar is lifted at this special event.
“It has been a very humbling three years,” says Ms Blake. “Extremely humbling and a real emotional roller coaster. It is an honour to be a part of this community.”
She’s talking about the sponsors and riders who left money in the show in the past three years. “It’s that 100% commitment when most non-industry commercials would have just walked away. People really do have our back . . . and that’s the very heart of our event. It is who and what we are. We are inclusive and aspirational, and people actually get that. Roll on the return of HOY.”

WHAT: Land Rover Horse of the Year Show
WHERE: Tōmoana Showgrounds, Heretaunga, Hastings
WHEN: March 5-10, 2024