Last year it was Katherine Van Tuyl who won the prestigious Kihikihi CIC3* with Double J Sunshine, but the pair will not compete this year, as ‘Sunny’ has only recently recovered from an injury. However, there are 18 competitors in with a chance of winning the Waipa Home of Champions CIC3* Forest Gate Trophy, and their biggest challenge will be to successfully complete John Nicholson’s cross-country course, always a highlight for the brave!
Only three men are tackling that challenge this year: Matthew Grayling on Giddyup, Brent Jury on SE Hedging and Andrew Daines on Spring Panorama. Among the women competing, Donna Edwards-Smith has two strong contenders with DSE Tangalooma and DSE Mr Hokey Pokey. She leads the ESNZ Super League by 48 points on her lovely palomino. Samantha Felton also has two entries in the CIC3*, the seasoned campaigner Ricker Ridge Escada and the mare Ricker Ridge Divine Right, who is stepping up to three-star for the first time.
In the Trust Waikato CIC2* for the Waiteko Trophy, there are 28 in the field, including the very successful Olympic combination, Balmoral Sensation and Clarke Johnstone, who are building up to competing at top level again. Other combinations in this class who usually compete at 3* level are the National 3-Day Eventing Champions, Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding, and Eventer of the Year leaders-until-it-was-abandoned Jackson Bovill and Visionnaire. Also entered are some young combinations on their way up, including Vicky Browne-Cole and Eli and Maddie Crowe and Waitangi Pinterest. Maddie leads the Equestrian Entries Pro-Am Rider Series. Abigail Long has Enzo in this class too; the pair currently lead the Mitavite Young Rider series.
The Wade Equine Coaches CIC1* for the Ferndale Salver Trophy is a large field, with 39 entered. Husband and wife Tom and Christen Lane will go head to head, Christen upping her chances by having two horses in (Cobra De Capello and Kinnordy Rhani). Kate Herdson is also in this class; she is currently second in the PGG Wrightson Junior Rider Series, behind Christchurch’s Lucy Turner and Carbon, who are unfortunately not competing at the moment after an injury to the horse. Another entry prominent on the current leaderboards is Alex Anderson who heads the TruTest Amateur Rider Series with her lovely Gina VT Bloemenhof.
There are another 38 entries in the Horselands CIC1* non-championship class, including Jessie Fitzjohn and Whats the Buzz from Canterbury. A number of South Islanders have made the trek north to test their skills against this formidable track.
The largest field of all is in the JLT CNC105 for the Tait Trophy (50 entries) and in the Vosper CNC105 Open there are another 62 including the mighty Quimbo, ridden by Charlotte Sellar.
There has been an unconfirmed story circulating that John Nicholson has been known to test out his cross-country fences by jumping them himself on a local horse. Now that has got us speculating that just perhaps he and Quimbo ….
UK judge Les Smith will be at the event in an official capacity as Chair of the ground jury for the CIC3* class. He’s on the British Eventing Board and has a wealth of experience in the sport, including as a competitor at 4* level.
Kihikihi is one of the key selection events for those hoping to get into the Oceania Eventing Senior and Young Rider teams to compete for New Zealand at the Melbourne International Three-Day Event, June 8-12.
We will be bringing you full coverage with our team of reporters and photographers. Dressage is on Friday, with the cross-country on Saturday and show jumping on Sunday.