When Redcliffs Bill entered the arena on Saturday afternoon to compete in the Equissage Pony Grand Prix at Woodhill Sands, the crowd saw a Kaimanawa pony who looked a bit different from the rest, with his long mane and his stocky appearance. They watched curiously to see how he would go over the huge track. Their curiosity was even further piqued when the commentator said his rider, Georgia Bouzaid, was from Waiheke and that this was her first attempt at the premier level of Grand Prix.
The pair set out and everything was going very well, and the crowd was really appreciating how hard the little bay pony was trying for Georgia. They flew over all the jumps, and were approaching the last combination looking like they could possibly pull off one of the rare clear rounds. But then it was all drama, as Bill put an extra stride into the double and totally unbalanced Georgia. Lucky for her, the flags were close to the final jump and she clung on long enough to only touch down on the ground just through the flags. The judges consulted the photographers at that jump for verification, so it was an anxious wait for Georgia and her supporters to find out whether she was clear or eliminated.
“CLEAR” was the call: smiles all around from the big crew on hand to watch the pair.
The jump-off was an exciting finale with seven making it through, and Emma Watson soon set a time that would be hard to beat on Pink (aka Fun House) with no faults. Georgia elected to go for the clear round, and Bill was very comfortable with that, doing a great job at all the fences. While their time was just over 8 seconds slower than Emma’s, it was still good enough to finish second, as the other ponies had rails or issues.
The delight among the support crew was considerable, with lots of cheering, hugging, tears and laughter.
Georgia herself seemed a bit shell-shocked by it all but was very happy with her best friend Bill. “He is just amazing, he tries so hard for me.”
Kelly, Georgia’s mum, was so very proud of her daughter. She talked about how hard Georgia worked with Bill, and how keen she was on riding and competing. “She’d live in her float if she could!” The family home is on Waiheke Island, and the popularity of the lovely place does pose some problems, especially over the Christmas period when the population (and traffic) trebles or quadruples. That causes a few issues for the riders, including Georgia, who have to share the roads with holiday makers. Georgia, aged 14, also trains at the Waiheke Pony Club grounds in Oneroa, and travels to school at St Kent’s on the ferry daily during the school term.
Bill is Georgia’s only pony, and they have been a partnership for about six months. Bill was part of the 2014 Kaimanawa muster and it was Northland’s Kate Hewlett who ended up with him for the Kaimanawa stallion challenge. “He certainly was a challenge,” Kate recalled. “He tested me more than any other horse. He is smart at everything. Every day he would bring a new trick. You would fix that and then he would come with a new one the next day.
“I have had a lot of horses but I have never come across one so clever and talented. He really uses his brain.”
Bill also had some challenges of his own to overcome, including nearly dying during gelding, when it took some time to stop the bleeding. Kate and Bill appeared at the demonstration at the Horse of the Year Show, where part of their routine was jumping over barrels. He has always enjoyed his jumping, and went on to compete with Jayden Horsfall, clearing 1.56 in a high-jump competition.
Kate wasn’t sure whether to sell Bill but then Georgia came along and it was obvious they should be together. “He loves Georgia. On the very first day he chose her. It was the first time anyone has been able to walk up to him in the yard and catch him. The next day she walked out to the paddock and caught him. He had never done that before, he picked her and he loves her.”
We loved the pair, and we are looking forward to seeing them compete at the Horse of the Year. Good luck, Georgia & Bill!