After a two-year selection process, five of New Zealand’s top young Western riders have been chosen to travel to the US to compete in the American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup.
The biennial competition will be held in College Station, Texas, from June 28 to July 8 and will see the team compete in a variety of classes including showmanship, horsemanship, trail, ranch riding, cutting and reining.
The riding team members are Hollie Bruce (15), of Hawera, Terri-Anne Irvine (16) of Waimiha, Sally McPherson (17) of Akaroa, Olivia Pearson (17) of Wellington and Amanda Voice (15), of Ranfurly.
For the World Cup, the team will compete against around 180 young people from more than 15 countries, and will also have the opportunity to participate in clinics and seminars.
While many of the team members have been riding as long as they can remember, Hollie Bruce has only been riding for five years.
“Mum was grazing her horse with a lady who did Western. I thought it looked quite cool and got into it,” says Hollie.
The show season runs through the summer and allows Hollie to travel all over the North Island competing.
“Everyone is pretty close, and good friends. We have three youth camps a year, so everyone knows each other.”
It is at these camps, as well as from observation at approved National Quarter Horse events, that the selectors make their decisions for the team.
“I’m really excited. I was a reserve on the last World Cup team, so it is really cool to be selected as a rider for this one”.
One of the rules of the competition is that riders use horses they have never ridden before.
“Wherever the host country is, they provide horses. So everyone that competes is on a strange horse.”
To prepare for this, riders swap horses at training camps. But when it comes to competing overseas on someone else’s horse, it can be down to luck of the draw.
Akaroa-based Sally McPherson found this out at last year’s trans-Tasman event, with the 17-year-old Rangi Ruru student not having a great result.
“I got a bit more of a green horse. But I was happy with how I went for what I was working with,” she says.
Sally has been part of the American Quarter Horse association of New Zealand development squad for four or five years. With her mum deeply into horses, it was inevitable that Sally too would end up riding.
“I got my first pony when I was four, then got into Western when I was seven.
“We had a family friend who did Western, and we went to one of the shows. Mum thought we should give it a go.”
That was 10 years ago. After last year’s success in making the trans-Tasman team, Sally is really excited to represent New Zealand and go to Texas.
“I can’t wait to see the big hub for Western riding in America. Being able to compete there is amazing!”
In the future, Sally hopes to go into the amateur programme of the American Quarter Horse Association of New Zealand, which will see her continue to be able to compete in trans-Tasman events.
The team member from the most remote location is Terri-Anne Irvine, who is home-schooled at Waimiha, in the King Country, where she has no cellphone reception and poor internet.
“I really miss going to a face-to-face school, but being at home allows me to have more time in the saddle in between schoolwork,” she says.
Terri-Anne is kept busy with five quarter horses and a paint. She is honoured to have been selected for the team.
“The youth squad is quite a close group, and I am very privileged to have met some people along the way that I will cherish and be close to forever.”
The five young women, along with reserve rider Adam Carlisle, team leader Imogen Perrett, coach Vicky Evans and manager Jan Robinson will make the journey to Texas in June.
Fundraising is an important part of the equation, though; each of the team members is making efforts to raise money for the trip, so keep an eye out for raffles and other opportunities to support them.
The team is also seeking sponsorship.
Head to the American Quarter Horse Association of New Zealand Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/aqhanz.co.nz/ if you would like to help out with fundraising, and to follow the team’s journey.