Pony of the Year: Olivia’s aced it!

A relatively inexperienced local rider beat the hot favourite to take out the Farmlands Pony of the Year

Olivia Apatu and Alasaan Arzu, Pony of the Year winners (image: Christine Cornege)

Olivia Apatu didn’t even expect to get placed in the Farmlands Pony of the Year, let alone win the title in her very first season at Grand Prix level.

But after two rounds plus a jump-off, it was 14-year-old Olivia and the pretty eight-year-old mare Alazaan Arzu who stood head-and-shoulders above the rest, just a single rail in the first round marring their scoresheet.

The cream of the New Zealand pony jumping were significantly challenged by Werner Deeg’s sprawling track, though eight riders came home with just four faults in the first round. The majority had 12 faults or more, with five eliminations or retirements after multiple stops.

It was disappointing to say the least to see a bit of rough riding in the Premier Arena, though, and in one case a burst of temper – there is no place for that kind of thing in equestrian sport, let alone at a flagship show with a crowd of thousands looking on.

Just two were all clear, the hot favourite Emma Watson with Maddox Fun House, and Sophie Scott with Benrose Playtime. Olivia was among the four-faulters, and special mention goes to Cantabrian Grace Manera, who rode beautifully on both her ponies, and was very unlucky to just tip the last rail aboard Tallyho Scoundrel.

Ten came back for the second round, and of them only Olivia went clear. Emma probably thought she was home safe, but took a long spot at the very final fence and Fun House had an uncharacteristic rail.

Things didn’t go the right way for Sophie either, as she and Benrose Playtime took two rails to slot into third place.

Meanwhile the crowd was delighted that Olivia and Emma were now on an equal penalty score, which made for a jump-off. Olivia was out first, and took the sensible approach of a reasonably steady clear, which put the pressure on Emma.

Though Emma has a wonderful partnership with her long-term partner ‘Pink’, and oodles of talent and experience, show jumping sometimes just comes down to luck. Though she was a full three seconds faster, two rails came down, and the Somerset Fair Cup belonged to the disbelieving and tearful Hawke’s Bay local, Olivia.

“I didn’t even expect I would get a placing – I don’t even know what I was feeling going into that second round,” she says. “I can’t believe it.”

A tearful Olivia Apatu in her victory round with Alazaan Arzu (image; Christine Cornege)

Olivia thanked Sally Clark and Jesse Linton for their help with her pony, as well as her parents for their support. Alasaan Arzu is unusually-bred, being by the hack Anglo-Arab stallion Alexanderchante and out of a Kaimanawa mare.

Grace was fourth, Emma Wylie fifth on MF Spot Me, and Ally Carson sixth on Tiger Tale LS.