The Horse & Pony Magazine has sponsored the 105 class at Puhinui for a few years now, and this year it was run as a CCI rather than a CIC and was the most popular class, with 45 starters.
Alex Anderson from Taupo emerged the victor in the end, on her imported warmblood mare, Gina VT Bloemenhof (Washington DC Heldenlaan/Samona Van Het Taterkuilenhof – by Remondo). Alex had won the CNC1* class last year at Puhinui on Gina and was delighted with another win at this year’s event, especially as it was only the third start this season for the mare who had been out for some months due to injury.
Alex had a good spot after the dressage, but not the lead. The judges had Donna Edwards-Smith and her lovely young Hanoverian, CHS Ripleys Dream (Rascalio/CHS Wild Dream) in that slot on 22pen. And one of the judges was none other than one of the 2016 Olympic judges. Andrew Bennie was on the Ground Jury at the Rio Olympics and has judged at many four-star events, but this weekend he was focusing on our class! He was joined by Liz Sanders.
Alex and Gina, on 23pen, were right in amongst it after the dressage phase. Alex said she was really pleased with their performance. “Generally she is quite rhythmic, but the atmosphere in the arena got her a bit hot for a while, but she settled into it well. She did end up with quite a few 9’s, the judges liked her canter and her paces.”
Kyle Calder slotted into third on his TB/Clyde cross, Apteryx, on 25.9, Sarah Young was fourth on Equador MW, with 28.5pen. This five-year-old NZ sporthorse (Escudo/Gina) was bred by Mary Wilson. Abigail Long was in fifth on My Tom Tom, on 29.2pen, and Zoe Ander sixth with 30.5 on Princess Rebecca.
Cross country day saw overnight leader Donna Edwards-Smith retire CHS Ripleys Dream at Fence 14, opening up the way for Alex Anderson and Gina who were just one second over the time. That meant they added 0.4pen to their score to finish the two phases on 23.4.
Alex said Gina was very strong on the course, being so fresh, and that contributed to her coming in just one second over time. “She was full of herself, and I spent too much time saying ‘whoa’. She is a really bold horse, sometimes too bold for her own good.”
Kyle Calder was not far behind after his super-fast clear on Apteryx, on 25.9. Sarah Young was a second under time in a well-judged round on Equador MW, and went into third place on 28.5.
Zoe Ander moved into fourth on Princess Rebecca, on 30.5, and Hayley Pickmere had a good round on Makers Mark, to sit just behind her in fifth on 30.6pen. Sylvie MacLean rounded up the top six on My Black Beauty, on 31.
Most of the 105 riders made easy work of the cross country track, with just two eliminations (one for a missed jump), three retirements, and four riders incurring 20 jumping penalties – and of those four, only one had a single time fault.
Come show jumping day the rails started falling for many though, once again emphasising how important this phase is. Only about a dozen put in a clear round.
Alex had a rail in hand with Gina at the top of the scoreboard and needed it as she did drop one rail. Alex had ridden the course earlier on her other horse Danherz, and said he was very tired and needed a lot of leg in the uphill double. On Gina on the other hand, Alex “got the stride a bit long, we just tapped the rail – just a rider error there.”
She finished the round with no other issues and just 1.1pen ahead of second-placed Sarah Young and Equador MW, who jumped clear and finished on their dressage score. Hayley Pickmere and her 13-year-old TB Makers Mark (Istidaad/Whiskey Girl) put in a lovely clear round to move up to third, 1.2pen ahead of Maddie MacLean and her little pinto, The Space Cadet.
Donna Edwards-Smith moved all the way up from 13th after dressage with her recently off-the track DSE Sunset Pass (Yamanin Vital/Janet’s Chance) to fifth place, with double clear jumping.
Rounding up the top six was Rene Ryall and the evergreen Boots And All. Kyle Calder’s two rails proved expensive, dropping him from second to 11th and Zoe Ander had four down to go from fourth after cross country to 26th. Four horses withdrew after the cross country phase.
Alex didn’t have time for a celebration after her win, as it was late by the time they got back to Taupo. “We are going out for a drink tonight though,” she said when we talked to her today.
Just two weeks ago Alex welcomed Gina’s first foal, thanks to an embryo transplant. The colt looks just like his mum and is a cheeky fellow. He hasn’t been named yet, except is being called “time-waster” as everyone spends so much time with the cute baby.
Gina now gets a few weeks off and Alex is lining her up for another embryo transfer process. She plans on starting her in some one-star classes in the autumn and is hoping that they can graduate up to two-star soon.
It has been an interesting journey for both Alex and Gina to get to this point.
“Gina was bought as a dressage horse. She was the cheapest one I saw when I was looking, as she was the naughty mare. I was in England at the time and started training her for dressage. I was only doing dressage then, riding accidents when I was younger had put me off jumping. When I returned, with Gina, to New Zealand, I wanted to do my A Certificate and you needed to jump 1.10m for that. Gina had jumping blood in her so I went for a lesson on her. We started with little logs and by the end of the lesson she was flying over 1m fences, she was super confident and loved it. She wanted to be a jumping horse, not a dressage horse.”
Alex isn’t sure how far Gina will go in eventing, or indeed how far she wants to go. It is a bit of a season by season, event by event thing but she does say she loves eventing, even though it does terrify her at times. “Actually dressage is the hardest phase to do, I used to ride at Level 5 dressage and I never thought I’d say this, but doing an eventing test at about Level 1 is a struggle!”