The Pony Club Eventing Championships were A BIG DEAL in the 1970s and ’80s, and if you look through the previous winners (listed below) you will see lots of familiar names. But now, the event seems to have slipped from the top of many pony clubbers’ lists of goals.
General Manager of NZPCA, Samantha Jones, says that the competition “is still the pinnacle of our calendar for eventing.” She also believes that the numbers of entries this year were very similar at the last South Island-based Champs (Oamaru, 2012).
Back in its heyday, the area trials were fierce competitions which had to be conquered before you could get to the Champs. Even Sir Mark Todd wasn’t able to make the Waikato team, although the Nicholsons and the Fifes were regular team members. Blyth Tait rode a number of times for Northland but wasn’t able to win either the DC or the A1 competitions. There were teams from most regions, from Northland down to Otago and Southland. This year there were just four full teams (two in each age-group) but bolstered by another four alternative teams, which were made up of five riders – or in two teams’ cases, just one AI with an extra in either Dorothy Campbell (DC) section or the Sir Mark Todd Championship (MT). The team with the four lowest penalty scores wins, but there must be at least one MT, one DC and one A1 score counted, plus the next lowest score from one of the three divisions.
Why are there less competitors than in the past? Samantha says that the costs and time involved for many getting to the South Island this year may have been a barrier. But there are other things at play. Pony clubbers now have more choices, and many are specialising in just one discipline. For instance, the expert ponies in the Mounted Games competition may never set eyes on a water jump! It should be noted, however, that in the eventing champs’ heyday, there weren’t the equivalent championship events in jumping, dressage and games. ‘Champs’ meant eventing: we all knew that without having to have it spelt out.
There have been changes to the Champs’ format over the last few years, to cater for changing levels of participation. The AI Cup continues to be for 17-21-year-olds, and the Dorothy Campbell (“DC”) Trophy for 16 and under. The Sir Mark Todd Challenge Trophy (“MT”) was introduced in 2010 for 14 and under. The A1s jump 1.10m courses (with three show jumps being up to 1.15cm), the DCs 1.05cm and the MTs 95cm.
This is the second year of a three-year trial running the A1s over 1.10m heights. Before that, they were lower. In the 1970s, though, they were higher. There will be reviews to see if the the heights are still “current for our riders.” The main review will be after next year’s champs in Northland.
The organising committee certainly put in a lot of work to make this year’s event a success, and Robbie McLean’s cross-country was of a very high standard.
Neil Mosley, the Technical Delegate for the event, has officiated all around the world. “This is the best cross-country that kids at this level will ever see; it’s a fantastic course.”
There was comment prior to the cross-country that the course was too tough, and Neil confirmed that they did “soften the water slightly, putting in an alternative, but no-one took that option.” He went on to say that he believes coaches can get a bit wound up about the technicality of the course, to the detriment of the children.
Neil also wondered why there were not more children competing. The Springston Trophy teams event, held in October at the same venue last year, was very popular. “We had six to seven teams in the Springston Trophy who had riders that should have competed here. Many are local. Why did they not try out for these champs? What is the problem?”
Those are questions that the Pony Club board and management must be pondering too. From every observation, it seemed that those involved had the time of their lives. They learned a lot, especially about general horsemanship, and looking after horses at a competition. Some did not complete the cross-country, but not a disproportionate number. There were a few falls, somewhat soft ones, with no serious injuries. The pride that shone through when children talked about how they had jumped clear was inspiring.
Samantha Jones confirmed that the feedback was very positive. “Those that have come have really enjoyed themselves.”
NZPCA President, Heather Grant, made a good point in her official speech. “You will go home and the one thing you will remember above everything else in the years to come is the fellowship you experienced.”
Prydes Easifeeds sponsored the event, and their representative Tina Field echoed this sentiment. “These memories and friendships will last you a lifetime.”
Both of these women are right. As well as the experience of challenging yourself over a new cross-country course, or riding in a different dressage arena, the best part about Pony Club champs is the wonderful time you have as a member of your team and the people you meet who share your equestrian passion. For those who compete, and for those who organise, that is what Champs is all about.
Geraldine Rae, secretary of the organising committee, agreed. “Like any event, half way through organising it you wonder ‘why am I doing this’, but then at the end when you see the smiling faces, whether they are winners or not, then that gives you the answer of why we do it.”
Anne Atkins, the Chair of the committee, was very proud of what they had achieved. It has taken two years of work by many people.
Barbara Woolhouse is the President of next year’s organising committee and, along with Heather Deane who is the event’s secretary, was at the North Canterbury venue to observe and extend an official invitation to all pony club riders to come to their event next year (April 20 – 23) in Whangarei.
Course designers are Kate Wood and Megan Finlayson, and teams will stay in the hostel at Whangarei Girls’ High School. The two Northland riders who participated in this year’s Champs are keen for lots of riders to come. “People will have a blast” said Ashleigh Butler. “We’ve got hills, it’s tough, the ground is really good, and it’s very open. It’s a really nice course!”
We hope that pony clubbers do take up the challenge. We’re sure you won’t regret it. It may even change your life.
60 years of history
Champs began in 1956, and during those 60 years the Teams competition has been won more times by Waikato than any other area: a total of 12 victories. Taranaki is next with 10 wins, followed by Franklin Thames Valley, who’ve won nine times. South Island teams have won seven times.
There are some famous names among the winners, and it’s interesting to see that Charisma won the Perpetual Challenge Cup for the best DC dressage score in 1980, ridden by Sharon Dearden. Sharon and Charisma also won the Knox Thompson Perpetual Challenge Cup for A1 dressage in 1981 and 1982. Another notable name among the dressage winners is Colin McIntosh (father of show jumper Samantha McIntosh) on Peter Pan. And, in 1969, the DC Trophy was won by Maurice Beatson!
All A1 and DC winners are listed below:
|A1 Challenge Cup Winners||DC Trophy Winners|
|1954: M.M. Meredith, Yoeman|
|1955: Ron Cropp, Vanity Fair|
|1956: J P Chambers, Harbour Light||P Morris, Vanity Fair|
|1957: Judith Simons, View Halloo||Joan Kelly, Tinker|
|1958: Susan Talbot, Limonite||Diana Cunningham, Harvest Moon|
|1959: Beverley Reid, Chelsea||Stuart Mitchell, Comet|
|1960: Leslie Dunn, Hollyport||Kirsty McKenzie, Harmony|
|1961: Diana Cunningham, Harvest Moon||Jennifer Dunn, Sari|
|1962: Diana Cunningham, Harvest Moon||Kirsty McKenzie, Akbar|
|1963: Jennifer Dunn, Hollyport||Jane Wilson, Sir Winston|
|1964: Diana Dunn, Young Blaze||Anne Bartlett, Neptune|
|1965: Fraser Wilson, Rick||Sharon Mills, Monte Carlo|
|1966: Annette Baxter, Delmont Lad||Peter Gasson, Geronimo|
|1967: Annette Baxter, Delmont Lad||Christine Hyland, Sir Winston|
|1968: Carol Harrison, Cavalcade||Susan Coop, Gaiety|
|1969: Vaughan Wilson, Blue Jewel||Maurice Beatson, Golden Cloud|
|1970: Paul Dooney, Student Prince||Christine Hyland, Ali Baba|
|1971: Kaye Cottle, Echo||Kathy Otto, Touche|
|1972: Alister Robertson, Spider||Tony Harris, Dubonnet|
|1973: Alister Robertson, Spider||Nicoli Fife, Mexico|
|1974: Joy Cooper, Renovate||David Allardice, Zibib|
|1975: Jeanie Attrill, Safari||Marie Wilson, Arakai Lad|
|1976: Deborah Potvine, Charlie Brown||Lynley Fife, Tumbleweed|
|1977: Jenny Perkins, Troubadore||Stephanie Millward, Kallista|
|1978: Warwick Graham, Joe 90||Lynley Fife, Tomalin|
|1979: Hamish Cameron, Lucky Chance||Julie Finlayson, Shamrock|
|1980: Joanne Abram, Raszarda||Julie Finlayson, Shamrock|
|1981: Joanne Abram, Raszarda||Judith Charleston, High Rate|
|1982: Annabel Mossman, Kestrel||Alenka Cross, Sarahn|
|1983: Robert George, The Entertainer||Mandy Roberts, Eclipse|
|1984: Susan Tomlin, Jonathon Grace||Jackie Cole, Callen Light|
|1985: Judith Charleston, High Rate||Charlotte Young, Ryvaad|
|1986: Shelley Creelman, Fernleigh Lad||Erica McNamara, Sarahn|
|1987: Wendy Buckett, Checkmate||Emma Carr-Smith, Chateau|
|1988: Amanda Smale, John Henry||Toni Murdoch, Brogan|
|1989: Rochelle Budden, Guess||Julie Withers, Nikolas|
|1990: Geoffrey Jamieson, Envoy||Julie Withers, Nikolas|
|1991: Virginia Loisel, Entrepreneur||Katie Hallam, Mandalay|
|1992: Rachael Whitaker, Focus||Kallista Field, Minuette|
|1993: Jaala Bolton, Wetherby Mr Micawber||Carolyn Renall, Double Brown|
|1994: Claire Tompkins, Master Peace||Karla Jamieson, Glengarrick|
|1995: Heelan Tompkins, Master Peace||Edward Pattinson, Spykadelic|
|1996: Heelan Tompkins, Master Peace||Edward Pattinson, Spykadelic|
|1997: Heelan Tompkins, Master Peace||Harriet Wilson, Kung Fu Boy|
|1998: Rosie Haszard, Dayspring||Anne Davies, Sarki|
|1999: Jean Tompkins, Arragato||Andrew McIvor, Saxony|
|2000: Hillary McGregor, Malawi||Kelly MacClure, Redhill|
|2001: Sarah Dalziel, Jandals||Nicola Kahn, Flying Star|
|2002: Petra Eatson, Wallstreet||Chloe Davidson, Redhill|
|2003: Hannah Gloyn, Fitterwochen||Pippa Holdom, Ice Cold|
|2004: Amanda Bellerby, Benefactor||Jacqui Dunn, Secret Kingdom|
|2005: Kelly Wells-MacClure, Flyway||Carissa McGregor, Indian Rebel|
|2006: Juliet Wood, Just Joop||Kirsity Bale, Thunder Mountain Little Ben|
|2007: Lydia Truesdale, Papillon||Emma Cameron, Tiga-D-Boo|
|2008: Sarah Lauder, Telephonic||Jemima Snook, Pinball Wizard|
|2009: Lauren Currie, Wishful Thinking||Chloe Kennedy, Boots n All|
|2010: Courtney Newton, Arabian Nightlife||Alex Clarke, Black Jazz|
|2011: Samantha Felton, Ricker Ridge Pica Boo||Renee Faulkner, Boots n All|
|2012: Anna Hinton, Sexy B||Loran Mathis, Flintoff|
|2013: Nicole Lansdown, Royalty||Loran Mathis, Flintoff|
|2014: Loran Mathis, Flintoff||Renee Faulkner, Rubinstar HH|
|2015: Jessie Fitzjohn, Whats the Buzz||Ellysha Eastell, Voluminous|
|2016: Aiden Viviers, Giselle II||Beth Wilson, Alto et Audax|