Former champion endurance rider Brigitte Smith switched codes to focus solely on show jumping this year, and it paid off in spades, with the 18-year-old “from out the back of Mangaweka” waltzing away with the Junior Rider of the Year title.
Not only was it Brigitte’s first HOY title, it was her first time riding in the Land Rover Premier Arena, and on a horse who she’s only been riding for a few months, borrowed from her cousin Kelly Smith.
She and Corlinka, a mare by Corland out of Cufflink and bred by Greg and Kim Best, were the only combination of 30 starters to jump clear in both rounds.
“It’s amazing, I’m so very, very lucky,” says Brigitte, thrilled with the win. “She tries so hard, and she’s quick, so I knew if I could go clear [in round two] we’d be pretty good.”
Brigitte’s family name is synonymous with endurance in New Zealand; her mother Andrea and elder sister Georgia made history as the first mother and daughter to be in a New Zealand team at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Brigitte herself is a former winner of the National Junior 160km title, and represented New Zealand in junior teams.
But show jumping is her main love these days, and along with studying for a degree in agricultural commerce, she has a small but talented team of three horses for next season, including the lovely little mare Corlinka.
“I’m so privileged that Kelly has given me the ride on her for next season. There’s no pressure, but we will see how she goes in the Young Riders. If she steps up, that’s cool, but whatever level she’s happy at is cool too, because she’s such a trier.”
Brigitte also has her own 12-year-old Cintaire, by Voltaire II, plus a promising six-year-old by Lansing.
The Junior Rider class was another nail-biter, with nine combinations on four faults plus three on zero coming back for the second in the two-round competition.
Of the four-faulters, Sarah West on ERL Grey II, Emma Watson on Maddox Kiwi Silverkee and Keean Cooper on JT Eloquence all went clear in the second round, with Keean the quickest, which meant the three ahead of them had to be both clear and fast to stay on the podium placings.
Ally Carson on Whiorau Ritchie was next out, and looked great all the way to the final fence, which came down, and her time of 62.88 put her behind Keean and Emma.
Then it was the turn of Samantha Carrington and the stylish Double J Breeze On, yet another talented horse bred by Wendy and Robyn Jacobs, and they took looked on fire all the way until the last, stopping the clock at 64.53 seconds to go behind Sarah.
So it was a simple equation for Brigitte: go clear and win, or go fast and risk a rail. Though the second-to-last had a big wobble, the mare scampered home in an impressive time of 59.71 seconds – the pair would have won even had that rail come down.
Keean was second, Emma third, Ally fourth, Sarah fifth and Samantha sixth. Sarah was awarded the equitation prize for the class, with Emma second.
Meanwhile in ring one, Waitemata’s Elmo Jackson and the Littorio mare Next won the Speed Horse of the Year, 0.54 of a second faster than Tess Clark on the lovely stationbred Cadbury, with Emma Gaze third on Woodland Bug.
In the Pony Speed title class, Emma Watson had some consolation for coming runner-up in the Pony of the Year, with victory on Maddox Fun House. The Morrinsville teenager was nearly a full second faster than second-placed Rylee Sheehan and Galaxy Samurai, with Rosa Buist Brown third on Junior Disco.
In other title classes this morning, Becky Harkerss and CoDicea won the 1.35m championship, Olivia Adams and Sweet Cappuccino the Rising Star Rider, Mitchell McLachlan and The Tontonator one section of the 1.05m pony championship, and Tara Gower and Brandii Snap II the other.