A perfect finish to the Pony Club Champs!

The pressure was on for the final day of the Pony Club Teams Eventing Champs, but the leaders rose to the occasion with some impressive show jumping

There is always lots of tension on the final day of any big eventing competition, and at the Pryde’s Easifeed & PGG Wrightson NZPCA Teams Eventing Championship this year, there was plenty, with pressure on the leaders to jump clear.

After all the scores were added up, it was the team from Marlborough-Nelson-West Coast (MNWC) who triumphed in the sought-after teams trophy. In reality, however, the team should have just been called the Greymouth, as all were from that pony club! The riders told NZ Horse & Pony that the secret to their success was their “ever-giving coach” Penny Jones. This is the first time that a team from this area has ever won the title, although back in 1987 the Canterbury-Westland team (as it was known then) did include the pony clubs from the Coast, although very few made it to the team.

The team were so delighted with their win, and gave us so much great information, including their plans to take a big team up to next year’s champs in Northland, so we will write a separate story about this inspirational group of Coasters.

DC Trophy

The winner of the Dorothy Campbell Trophy, Beth Wilson (Franklin-Thames Valley), was overjoyed when she had the perfect finish to take the win on her lovely young horse Alto et Audax. “It’s amazing. It is a big show for us; he is only six and it’s the biggest event we have ever done. The cross-country was big, bold and technical so I was glad to have done some one-star events as preparation.”

“He show jumped really well, we had to jump clear and he did. The highlight was being with my team; we all got on so well and had such fun.”

The talented gelding, known at home as ‘Toy’, is by Northwood Jetstream and was bred by Imogen Neale out of her lovely mare Ping. He was given the best possible start to his eventing career by trainer and mentor to both Imogen and Beth, Angela Lloyd, and is certainly one to watch for the future.

Beth, from Hunua, is now off to the Central Districts ODE before heading to the Taupo three-day event, to ride in the one-star classes with Toy. She is hoping she can win the best-performed pony club rider title at Taupo but she’s got some hot competition, with many of this weekend’s stars heading there too.

Her team mate, Samantha Maguire on Starlight Daytona, was also rapt with her second place; she had led after the dressage. “It’s an awesome result, especially as it’s our first season out competing. I was supposed to bring my other horse but she went lame, and Daytona turned out to be the best. It was a very technical cross-country, and normally skinnies are our problem, but we coped really well. I have never done anything like this before, and now I am inspired to do more.”

Third placing went to Rebecca (Rex) Wardle on Sponge Bob. Rex impressed us with the way she attacked the cross-country course the previous day, and she had the lead after that phase. One rail meant she had to be content with third this time, but look out in future!

AI Championship

There was no room for error in the show jumping phases for the top competitors in the AI championship, but the winner, Aiden Viviers (Wellington Wairarapa) on Giselle II, was cool and calm, and didn’t falter. 

Aiden comes from a distinguished line of eventers. His grandfather, Jim Hoddinott, is still eventing at 72, as well as being the treasurer of Eventing Wellington, and grandmother Margaret also still rides, explaining proudly that she started Giselle at Intro level before passing her on. Aiden’s mum Maria also “follows her children to events”, competing at lower levels in both show jumping and eventing, on a horse out of the same mare as Giselle.

Maria remembers trying out for ‘Champs’ herself at the area trials, though she didn’t make the team. “It was harder to get in the teams in that era,” she says.

The proud mother says she’d “never been so nervous” before Aiden’s show jumping round, even with all her equestrian experience.

Belmont Pony Club should be proud of producing yet another good eventing rider. The club has a distinguished honours board already, with Dan Jocelyn, Megan Heath and Neil Spratt all having learned their trade there. A previous winner of the A1 trophy, Lauren Currie, also comes from there. Megan Heath contacted the family overnight to wish them all the best, as she prepares to tackle the prestigious Badminton Horse trials in a fortnight.

Aiden was all smiles after his clear round. “The first thing Grandma told me was to put the strap in its keeper,” he laughed, asking someone to fix his bridle before Grandma told him off again. Grandma was obviously very proud, however, and confessed that she couldn’t watch the whole round but “knew he had won when the cheering started.”

Coach Stephen Field was very happy with his star rider, even having a few tears in his eyes when the clear round was accomplished, but one of the happiest there was Aiden’s girlfriend Grace White, who also competed.

Aiden is not sure where his riding career will take him in the future, or whether it even goes on hold, as his priority is getting into veterinary school next year and doing well there. 

Second place went to Todd Magner (MNWC). He wasn’t disappointed not to win. “The winner is a great mate of mine, he did a really great job and I am very proud of him.”

Will Moffett (Hawke’s Bay) held his third place after cross-country, making the show jumping phase look easy, and ensuring that it was an all-male trifecta in the A1 championship.

MT Championship

Lucy Cochrane on Inspector Gadget (Canterbury) led from the dressage and never looked like relinquishing her lead. She added no faults at all, jumping or time.  Kirk Magner (MNWC) set the tone for the Magner family, finishing second – which is where brother Todd finished a couple of hours later in the A1 section. Kirk moved up from sixth after dressage, after incurring no jump or time faults. His team mate Gretchen Anderson was third on Tallyho Cleopatra; she had been 11th after dressage but also showed her jumping skills by finishing on her dressage score.

Well done to all who competed, organised, helped and supported. A great weekend of eventing and learning.