It was warm, sunny and humid at Puhinui on dressage day, which probably wasn’t too pleasant for riders in hot jackets and boots, but made for a very nice day for spectators watching in the shade.
The Honda NZ CCI3* was held in the late afternoon, and with 12 starters, enjoyed a stronger field than it has in a number of years.
Amanda Pottinger is becoming well known as a bit of a whiz on the flat, and with a very tidy, supple test from current National Three-day Champion Just Kidding, it was no surprise that she took an early lead, scoring 47.5pen, and held it throughout. The flying changes weren’t perfect, but other than a bit of a loss of balance here, the test was searingly accurate, and you’d imagine very hard to fault.
She was first with the British judge, Tim Downes, and second with each of the others, Margs Carline (NZL) and Faith Ponsonby (IRE), for an average of 68.33%, which seemed a bit of a low mark for such a fluid performance.
Amanda was thrilled with her horse afterwards, though modestly admitted she could have ridden a few parts of the test better.
“He was faultless today, supple and soft and so rideable. Being a thoroughbred, he can get hot in an atmosphere like this, but he came into the arena and felt like he grew about a hand, pricked his ears, and got on with the job.”
Amanda shared her unusual warm-up routine, which consists of cantering ‘Ferg’ in a jumping saddle in the morning of dressage day. “He gets so tight and tense and nervous…. he forgets to breathe. So, over a few years now I’ve worked out that if I take him out and just canter around on a long rein, and not do any dressage on the morning of the test, he relaxes and breathes again and it loosens all the muscles. It sounds a bit weird but it’s the way that works for him.”
Diane Gilder and her big handsome thoroughbred Your Attorney were also very polished, with lovely calm changes, though he wasn’t always completely solid in the contact. They now sit second, on 48.9pen, and with his reputation as a fast and super-reliable cross-country jumper, should be set for a great performance tomorrow. They were first with Faith, second with Tim, and third with Margs, on an average score of 67.37%.
Diane was beaming with delight afterwards. “It’s his best score this season, and this is the time to do it,” she says.
Firm crowd favourites are Donna Edwards-Smith and eventing’s golden boy, DSE Mr Hokey Pokey. He’s so obedient and willing, but was a tad tense in his walk today and doesn’t enjoy the big movement of some of the other horses, in his trot work particularly. Still, it was a pleasant test, and scored 50.3pen to slot into third. Margs had them first, but the pair were third with each of the other two judges, scoring an average of 66.47%.
In fourth place is Samantha Felton with a fluid, consistent performance from Ricker Ridge Escada, for 54.3pen, while Campbell Draper showed lots to like with Mr Mancini, who has a beautiful way of going but was let down a little by a whoops in the counter canter and some tension in the changes. They scored 54.9 for fifth place.
Sarah Dalziell-Clout and Benrose Super Star were second out, and were perhaps a little harshly marked for 56pen in sixth place, as the test was tidy with no obvious errors.
Brent Jury did a good job on his eight-year-old SE Hedging. The rangy chestnut is obviously not yet established at this level, and he is very young to be at three-star, but held it together sweetly until he got a little unsettled by the counter canter serpentine towards the end. They scored 57.8pen for seventh place.
Abby Lawrence was another who was going well until the flying changes, when Song got rather fast and strong, and then fair galloped up the long side in her extended canter. They scored 60.6pen for eighth place.
Defending champions Virginia Thompson and Star Nouveau didn’t manage much of the walk section of their test today, which was a pity, but had some lovely canter work and scored 61pen for ninth place.
Jackson Bovill’s Visionnaire was a bit tense today as well, scoring 62.6pen for 10th, and Renee Faulkner’s Rubinstar HH showed some gorgeous trot work but came a bit unstuck in the canter, particularly with the changes. They scored 63.6pen for 11th place.
And though Kirsty Sharapoff and Shoot the Breeze had some lovely moments, unfortunately the counter canter serpentine was not on the agenda for ‘Merv’ today, and things went a bit haywire after that. They scored 66.3pen to sit 12th, so will be looking for a great jumping performance tomorrow.The riders agreed that Titch Massey’s three-star track is going to take some riding.
“It’s challenging all the way through,” says Amanda. “The questions are all fair, but there are plenty of places where we’re going to have to make decisions, which isn’t always easy, particularly when you’re on a horse who is tiring.”
She and Donna both predicted the time would be a difficult target, though Diane, with her leggy thoroughbred, was quietly more confident on that front.
Titch’s track follows the same basic flow as in previous years, but the second half in particular has a number of new fences, notably a big bounce down by the marae complex, followed immediately by another three-part combination. “It’s quite an intense section,” admits Titch.
He was feeling a bit of extra pressure, due to the FEI course designers’ seminar taking place in conjunction with the event. It is being run by British course builder guru Mike Etherington-Smith, and has 30 participants, including Australian Olympians Shane Rose, Clayton Fredericks and Stuart Tinney.
“There’s definitely a bit more on my shoulders, having everything critiqued,” Titch says.
He predicted “at least someone” will get the time in the three-star tomorrow. “But I will be surprised if they all get around clear.”
The iSpy Horses CCI2* has a disappointingly low entry of just 13 this year, which nobody seems quite able to explain – yes, there are several who have moved up to three-star recently, but they don’t appear to have been replaced by younger horses moving up from one-star. Combining the open two-star class with the Young Rider two-star, which has only five starters, would seem sensible. Still, it’s a competitive enough field; on paper any of them are good enough to win it.
The leader after dressage is Megan Finlayson with her well-performing Greensleeves – though there was a fair bit of disagreement between the judges.
Tim Downes from Great Britain had her miles ahead, on 72.5%, but she was fourth with Irish judge Faith Ponsonby and just fifth with Margs Carline (NZL), for an average of 68.47% (47.3pen).
Both Margs and Faith had Ashleigh McKinstry first on Pioneer Brass Monkey, but she was third with Tim, while Abby Lawrence and Charlton Yamani were second with Tim, third with Faith and fourth with Margs. But Ashleigh and Abby wound up on identical scores to slot into second equal place, on 47.9pen.
Madison Crowe and Waitangi Pinterest, probably one of the favourites going into the event with some great recent performances, are fourth on 50.2, and Dannie Lodder fifth with Balmoral Henton, on 50.6. Brooke Campbell rounds up the top six with Freddy Dash, on a score of 53.8.
In the Honda NZ Young Rider CCI2*, Sarah Young has a very comfortable lead on Leo Degas, first with all three judges on 46.6pen. Lucy Turner and Carbon are second, on 52.2, and Kimberley Rear third on Delta Legacy, on 57.3.
In the Veterinary Associates CIC1* class, Maddy Crowe and the delicious Lucius GNZ have a slender lead, just 1.2pen ahead of Angela Lloyd and Lyrical. Lucius is an 11-year-old by Lansing, with a beautiful way of going, so it’s no surprise he found favour with two of the three judges, who had him in first place, on 44.6pen.
Angela’s seven-year-old Lyrical is out of the same mare as her former three-star ride Song, and by Landioso, and has been beautifully produced. She was first with the judge at M, but second and third with the other two, scoring an average of 45.8pen.
Christen Lane is sitting third on Kinnordy Rhani, on 47.2pen, and Andrew Daines fourth on Giacattolo, on 47.7.
In the Devi Heating Systems CCI1*J there were 18 starters, and at the head of the scoreboard after dressage was Vicky Browne-Cole and her pretty grey thoroughbred Eli, scoring 70.68% for a penalty score of 44.
Greer Caddigan, who is the current leader of the Mitavite Young Rider series, is second on Gymnastik Showdown, on 45.8pen, Fenella Carter third on Absolou, some way back on 51.1. Beth Wilson sits fourth on Alto et Audax, on 51.4pen, and Sophie Alexander is fifth on World Famous, on 51.8pen. Rounding up the top six are Kate Herdson and the handsome Eon, with 51.9pen.
The NZ Horse & Pony magazine’s CCN105 has a massive entry of 45, and top of the pile with some super marks from judges Andrew Bennie and Liz Sanders are Donna Edwards-Smith and her lovely young Hanoverian, CHS Ripleys Dream (Rascalio/CHS Wild Dream). The pair were given 80.22% by Andrew and 75.87% by Liz, for a penalty average of 22.
Just behind her in second is Alex Anderson with her imported warmblood mare, Gina VT Bloemenhof, with a penalty score of 23, and Kyle Calder is third on his TB/Clyde cross, Apteryx, on 25.9.
Sarah Young is sitting fourth on Equador MW, with 28.5pen, Abigail Long fifth on My Tom Tom, on 29.2pen, and Zoe Ander rounds up the top six with 30.5 on Princess Rebecca.
The addition of a full three-day class at 95cm level is an innovation for Puhinui this year, and what a wonderful opportunity for a wider range of riders to experience this glorious venue.
With 38 starters, it was a long day’s judging for Helen Christie and Susan Grayling, and they have two riders in equal first spot: Leisa Keightley and her TB Black Attire (Pentire), and Christine Jeffs and her Hanoverian mare Spellbound (Sam Remo), both scoring 73% for 27pen.
In third equal place on 28.1pen are Bev Mulder and her stationbred Mr Strauss, and Jessica Woods and LV Larnie, a Hanoverian by Landro L.
Lisa Chapple is fifth equal on Stiloso Whataretheodds, with Christen Lane on Henton Armada, both scoring 29.5pen.
The cross-country gets under way tomorrow morning, starting at 8.30am.