Land Rover Horse Of The Year 2024, Tomoana Showgrounds, Hastings, New Zealand. Sunday, March 10, 2024
Emma Gaze rides Shuttle Bug to win the Speed Horse of the Year/ Sunday, March 10, 2024 Copyright Photo: KAMPIC / Jaimee Whittaker

Waikato radiographer Emma Gaze has a thing about speed. For more than half her life she has been competing at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show and nearly always competed in the speed classes. While she’s often been placed, she’s never won a title . . . until this year.

Much to the delight of her mum Wendy, Emma finally won the Farmlands New Zealand Speed Horse of the Year. She’s been knocking on the door for a while and  has had a brilliant season.

The mum of three from Ohaupo and her homebred Shuttle Bug headed home the 21-strong field with their 57.15 second effort, with Amy Gibbs (Marlborough) aboard Steffields Candidate second in 61.99 and Sophia Blackbourn third aboard LT Holst Zalato Blue on 65.28. 

“It is very special to win,” says Emma. “When I walked the track I knew it suited Shuttle Bug with its short roll backs which call for the horse to be quick and sharp. I knew Shuttle Bug was my ticket to that rug.”

The gelding is the last of the Bush Bug line, with the mare dying a couple of years back at 32. Until this season Shuttle Bug has been her spookiest mount. “He did a lot of mileage at the lower heights just because he was so spooky and unreliable but this year he has come into his own.”

The combination recently won the Bronze Tour at the Takapoto Classic so came into LRHOY in good nick.

“This season has seen a bit of a shift in my own riding,” says Emma. “I knew I had to trust myself . . . to stop watching others and just ride to my strengths. It’s paid dividends.”

The speed classes are a favourite of her mum Wendy who is always ringside to support and watch Emma – generally helping with the horses or the children. “She loves the speed classes.”

The show was a cracker for Emma who was also second in the Premier Stakes aboard Kowhai Bug in just his second Grand Prix of the season.

“I so wanted a HOY rug – well, I got one a few years back in the Pro-Am but I wanted one this year. I pushed in the Lady Rider with Kowhai Bug and it didn’t pay off. We were the fastest but I butchered number 11 unfortunately.”

Emma and Wendy have some exciting young ones coming through, so it will certainly be a ‘watch this space’ for the bug-sters. “It is always an unknown and takes time, but you just have to keep your head down, keep working and hope it pays off.”

Their horses are never for sale. “Mum and I just love them to bits!”

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