Sarah Jocelyn And Curioso
Sarah Jocelyn and Curioso, winners of the Open Show Hunter of the Year at the 2024 Land Rover Horse of the Year. Photo ©️ Michelle Clarke Photography

There’s nothing like the sweet taste of success on a horse you have done absolutely everything on . . . just ask Open Show Hunter of the Year winner Sarah Jocelyn.

Sarah bought her winning horse Curioso as a nine-month-old from a Craighaven Stud auction. “I remember the day so clearly,” she says of the big trip she had made from Wellington to Whakatane. “I went there with an idea in my mind of what I was going to buy . . . and it wasn’t a nine-month-old but I took one look at him and I just fell in love.”

Curioso stood out in a pen of youngsters, not only because Sarah says he was so beautiful but while the others were all skittish, he was calm beyond his years.

He was the first well-bred type horse she had ever bought and she was excited for what the future held. Sarah has produced many a horse over her long equestrian career but has generally sold them to enable her to continue her journey.

Fast forward a whole lot of years and after a successful showjumping career she decided that at 18 it was time to focus Curioso a bit more on show hunter. They had dabbled in it and it was a discipline Sarah still believes sets both horses and riders up to do well. “I enjoyed it and he was very good at it,” she says. “I think show hunter courses are lovely and I take my hat off to a lot of the course builders. They are such a great bunch of people in show hunter too and everyone is made to feel so welcome.”

Fittingly, it was 2024 show hunter Horse of the Year convenor June Berrington who with her late daughter Melonie Purcell had helped Sarah transport Curioso from Whakatane to Turangi where she met them and continued the trip home to Wellington.

This was Sarah’s first full season at show hunter and it couldn’t have been better with them winning both the open title and the NRM Open High Points Series.

“I am so proud of my horse,” says Sarah who with partner Gavin Halkett lives on 100 acres at Mauriceville near Masterton. “He is my mate. There have been tears and tantrums from both of us and many times I have said he would be sold to wherever there are flies and no grass . . . but to win, I am just so elated. I can’t believe what we have achieved together. It is absolutely a dream come true.”

She did tilt him for the open title and opted to save his legs and not start in the amateur. “He is older and I wanted to make sure I didn’t over jump him. He was fresh and frisky going into the week and a bit naughty in his earlier classes but I knew we were there for five days and I needed him to be jumping out of his skin on Friday.”

The track was big and she admits it has been quite some time since he had jumped a 1.15m course. “The nerves were up there!”

They were fourth in the top 10 call back and Sarah said she was rapt with that. “I was pretty dam happy with fourth. I knew the three ahead of me were very good horses and riders and I was accepting that we were there. My aim had been to give him every opportunity to do our very best.”

Waiting ringside while the judges debated was stressful and emotional. “I got a little anxious.”

Gavin, a former professional rugby player, was there to calm her nerves – as he has done all season.

“I couldn’t believe I had won when it was finally called out.” She and her “spoilt child” of a horse headed home the title class nine points ahead of runner-up Jasmine Priest on Meersbrooke Big Ears.

Sarah has no thoughts of retiring Curioso just yet, and he doesn’t seem keen on the either, so expect to see them out again next season chasing more dreams and ticking things off the bucket list.

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