Course designer Roger Laplanche travels New Zealand and Australia testing and challenging showjumpers of all ages and stages, but there’s one show he really looks forward to . . . the Land Rover Horse of the Year.

The semi-retired farmer who has for more than 40 years been a volunteer in the sport hails  from Lyalldale, just out of Timaru, and he’s back in 2024 as the main arena course designer.

“The show has grown into something quite fantastic,” says the FEI Level 3 designer. “It is a huge gathering of people with that common love of horses from throughout the country. It is incredible.”

He tips his hat to long time show organiser Kevin Hansen, who stepped out in 2015 after running it for 18 years. “He has been a colossus as far as LRHOY goes – he changed it from just a show to something very special.”

Every show Roger designs at brings with it different pressures and considerations . . . but LRHOY has an extra edge. “I am lucky to have been a part of it for a large number of years. It is the pinnacle and for each rider the show is very special.”

One of the important things for Roger when considering a course is the ground conditions, the equipment and the standard of horse and rider he is building for. Roger is a rider from way back, having grown up competing in both showjumping and eventing. “I enjoyed both but showjumping is my passion.” He had a huge variety of horses over the years. “Some were very good and some were very bad!”

He enjoyed super success with his A grade jumper Glentarkin but never made it into an arena at the Horse of the Year Show.

Roger, who received the Pilmer Plate Lifetime Volunteer/Officials’ Award in 2023, has built on both sides of the Tasman including at the Sydney and Adelaide royal shows. “That was enjoyable,” he says. “What really stood out to me is that our riders are certainly of the same calibre if not better than the Aussie riders. They don’t have ponies at federation events, which was a bit of a shock to me. They have a junior division though which is very ordinary compared to our pony riders who are quite competitive.”

As much as he would love to build at an Olympic Games or World Champs, he says it is very tricky for New Zealand designers to make that leap. “It’s not what you know but who you know! You need those European or North American contacts to make it happen as there are a lot of level 3s throughout the world who compete vigorously for those jobs so we are restricted to Australasia.”

Which isn’t a bad thing in his eyes and he’s now counting down to the 2024 Land Rover Horse of the Year Show.