Pony Club Eventing Champs: pinnacle of pony club?

Some famous names on these trophies
Some famous names on these trophies

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.

NZPCA Board member, Emma Barker and GM Samantha Jones at the Eventing Champs
NZPCA Board member, Emma Barker and GM Samantha Jones at the Eventing Champs

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 discussing the finer points of the water jump at the Eventing Champs
Neil Mosley discussing the finer points of the water jump at the Eventing Champs

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 for the 2016 PC Eventing Champs
Geraldine Rae, secretary of the Organising Committee for the 2016 PC Eventing Champs

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