Awesome Awatere Pony Club

Jessie Fitzjohn accepting the Springston Trophy from Chris and Trish Redwood
Jessie Fitzjohn accepting the Springston Trophy from Chris and Trish Redwood

The Awatere Pony Club is awesome. The small club consists of seven members, although this number seemed to have grown on the last day of the Springston Trophy as in the official speeches at the prize giving, it was said to have ten members! Whatever the number is, the Club put on a great event.

The Club put on one of the biggest pony club events in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the biggest. Over 180 horses and ponies descended on the small towns of Ward and Seddon in Marlborough, towards the top half of the South Island.

The Club gets its name from the Awatere Valley which encompasses both towns. Seddon has 507 residents with Ward a little bigger, with 930 people (Census 2013). Ward is about 80 kms north of Kaikoura, Seddon a further 20kms north, and Blenheim another 25 minutes up the road. The Awatere region has a number of large farms, including the main access to the NZ Government owned Molesworth Station, the largest in New Zealand at 186,648 hectares.

So for a small club and two small towns, hosting the Springston Trophy was A Big Deal! Trish Redwood was the bright spark who decided it was a good idea. “Two years ago I put my hand up and said we would do it. I then went back to the Club and told them!”

img_1671Trish and her husband Chris own the property, Marfell Downs, where the cross country was held and Trish thought it was probably better than they suggested it first given they had the cross country course already on the property. The course had been there a few years, originally built by Robbie McLean, and used for local events. Trish thought that “it was time for a public airing” for the course and came up with the idea of hosting the Springston Trophy event, as they would really like to see eventing revitalised in the Marlborough area.

“We moved fences, renovated others and built some new ones including the water. We also got wind that the old Pony Club Eventing Championship course at Nelson had to be moved and jumps were available for re-homing, so we grabbed that opportunity too.”

img_1685Robbie came back to do the revamp of the course and design some new ones, including the water which proved tricky for some. There was also a lot of planning going into the decoration. Around most of the jumps, especially those in fence lines were beautiful wild flowers and spring flowers. 10,000 bulbs were planted months ago by hand. Tasha Midgley, a landscape architect, and Verve Flowers, the Marlborough flower farmers, came up with the concepts and made sure that they used flowers that wouldn’t grow too high, producing a seed mix to suit. The end result was spectacular.

Fence judges came from the various pony clubs participating but check out the flowers! Best decoration yet
Fence judges came from the various pony clubs participating but check out the flowers! Best decoration yet

img_1689The “tight eight” committee obviously had a lot of influence in the community. Children were recruited to do various jobs including graphic design. The Ward school took on providing the catering, and their food was superb, available for sale for the public as well. Horses and ponies were hosted on many farms, and people opened up their homes for accommodation.

The event was also well supported by sponsors.  Marlborough Equestrian Barn sponsored the dressage phase, and Dunstan Horsefeeds sponsored the show jumping, and both organisations had trade stands and donated products for the prizes. Dustan also provided a lunch on Thursday prior to the course walk.

Sarah and Denise were there for Dunstan Feeds
Sarah and Denise were there for Dunstan Feeds

There was also good support for the event from Pelorus Trust, the Redwood Trust and the Rata Foundation.

The neighbouring Blenheim Pony Club also stepped in to help and organised the show jumping day with Grant Burnett the co-ordinator for the day. In accordance with the Springston Trophy rules and history, each competing pony club has to provide fence judges.

Some of the Redwood family at the presentation along with other committee members
Some of the Redwood family at the presentation along with other committee members

Trish said that they also had a lot of help from the Guardians of the Springston Trophy. Ian Muirson in particular “has been brilliant.” He basically gave them the blueprint and helped out wherever they needed it. He also assisted throughout the event and was on hand to present some of the prizes.

The country is good rolling country, with some of the track going up some quite steep inclines, so there were a few tired horses towards the end of the course, especially those that had previously done most of their eventing on the very flat McLeans Island.  Some of the riders were a bit tentative coming down the hill as well so it gave them a great experience overall.

img_1696Neil Moseley, one of the Technical Delegates for the event, rated the course “as one of the best courses in the country.” He also was very happy with what he had seen during the competition. “It showed the class of riders in the South Island. They are very competitive. Some of our best riders overseas learned to be competitive at the Springston Trophy.”  Tim and Jonelle Price as well as Caroline Powell all have fond memories of the times they competed in the Springston Trophy, and Tim even shared our post on how the event was going, with a very supportive “Go View Hill” on his Facebook post. Tim spent a lot of time at or competing with View Hill pony clubbers, being from the Oxford Pony Club.

Zoe Rockett (nee Redwood) was out capturing the cross country action
Zoe Rockett (nee Redwood) was out capturing the cross country action

As to the future use of such a beautiful course, Trish is keen to see it used as much as possible. They are hoping to run clinics and have more events there.  Trish and her husband Chris have six children, and only Paddy is interested in competing in eventing. He is currently a very popular and dedicated horse breaker and trainer and has some good facilities set up on the farm. The other two boys are involved in horses two, Vincent plays polo and Innes is a farrier. Zoe, an architect, was also very involved in the event organising, despite not being overly keen on horses.

Amy Gibbs flying over one of the last fences, after cantering through the gap in the onion crop. The Redwoods planted this piece in grass, rather than onions, so there was a good track for the horses.
Amy Gibbs flying over one of the last fences, after cantering through the gap in the onion crop. The Redwoods planted this piece in grass, rather than onions, so there was a good track for the horses.

So well done to all those who made this year’s Springston Trophy a memorable one. As Geraldine Rae, the Vice President of the New Zealand Pony Club said in her speech at the prize giving; “I will never drive through Seddon and Ward without remembering what went on this weekend and without thinking of how much respect I have for this Committee and this community.”

img_1717Awatere Valley is not just a most beautiful place (well worth turning off the main road and seeing the beautiful country on the way to the coast and did I mention the vineyards?), with a small but vibrant pony club, a fabulous cross country course just waiting to be used, it has a great community and hosted a Springston Trophy that those who attended won’t forget in a long time.