Canterbury has won the NZPCA Eventing Championships teams prize, breaking a ten-year drought and keeping the NZPCA Perpetual Challenge Cup in the South Island for the second year in a row.
Last year’s winners, Marlborough Nelson West Coast were second, just 1.4 points behind. Auckland were third, 8.2 behind.
Canterbury team manager, Sharon Rayne, was nearly speechless with pride. “It’s been an amazing experience, the whole team worked well, rode well and did everything as a team.”
Team coach, Becci Thomas, thinks that one of their secrets to success was having to train in bad weather for the six weeks leading up to Champs. “Practising in the rain has turned out to be a good thing; we did lots of dressage and show jumping!” Having three riders from the View Hill pony club, where she has coached for years, also helped. “I’ve got some inside knowledge, I know those kids and ponies so well.” The other riders are from the Springston, Waiau and Oxford pony clubs.
Tayla Moriarty is from Waiau, an area which was really badly hit by the November earthquakes. “It was definitely hard with the earthquakes, we haven’t been able to do much jumping.”
When talking about their Champs experience, all the riders agreed that the highlight was the friendships they made during the event. “We made special friends with the Northland team, we boarded with them, and beat them at cards too!”
“We’ve made some cool new friends from other teams, they will be friends for life.”
Other highlights include competing at a venue that is quite different from Canterbury. “We don’t have the hills or the trees like this!”
Team captain Jessie Fitzjohn thought that getting there early was a good thing. “We had lots of fun team stuff, from sightseeing to the late-night Maca runs. It’s been cool to hang out.” Sightseeing included a trip to Whangarei Falls and the adventure park.
Gemma Hampson and Pintado Prima Rosa (‘Primo’) won the individual prize in the A1 Championships. Gemma, part of the Waitemata Rodney team, hadn’t had the best preparation, coming down with the ‘flu just before the event. After winning the class with a clear show jumping round, she declared that she was feeling good, though she’d been feeling very ill after the cross-country.
Gemma got Primo when the horse was just 18 months old and not only broke her in, but has done all the work on her. “I know all her quirks. I would like to keep her but I’m a bit big on her, but I will be so sad to sell her.”
Having ridden all her life, Gemma says she’s had “lots of pony projects” and these have helped her fund her eventing passion. “We could never afford those ‘been-there-done-that’ ponies, so I had to produce my own.” From Coatesville, Gemma is having a gap year before she does more studies. “I’m working at Horselands in Kumeu but I also worked at Cheleken Equestrian, and went fruit-picking for a while.”
Gemma’s grandmother, Susan, was at the event – “she’s always been a big supporter” and having a good team coach in Mary Dawkins was also advantageous. Mary has coached Gemma all through pony club, since she was about 11 years old. “She’s always been taller than me,” Mary reckoned.
This was Gemma’s third eventing champs, and initially she was planning on bringing her more experienced horse, Just Imagine That, but lameness foiled that plan. “Primo just had to step up,” Gemma said. And she certainly did!
The pair were lying second after the cross-country phase, and put in a beautiful clear show jumping round. Beth Wilson and Alto et Audax hadn’t put a foot wrong all competition and had been leading since the dressage, but a rail in the last phase relegated them to second. Waikato’s Dayna Fox on LV Little Chief was third, also producing a clear show jumping round, and Todd Magner from the South Island’s West Coast also jumped clear to finish fourth.
Meg Dempster admitted her nerves were “insane” before the show jumping, and she knocked the rail off the first fence, but still finished ahead of the rest of the field to win the Dorothy Campbell Trophy from Ella Simcox on Roo Baloo (Hawke’s Bay/Canterbury team) and Niamh Rayne on My Hallucination from the Canterbury team.
Part of the Manawatu West Coast team, Meg said she tried to deal with her nerves by pretending she was at a local event. “Mum disappeared altogether, she couldn’t watch!” When the first jump fell, Meg’s heart sank. “I had to ride everything else perfectly and keep calm.” She and Pixie Caramel, produced by Tayla Mason, managed that beautifully and it took some time for her mum, Alex, to actually find out what happened. “I never watch the show jumping. I stuck my fingers in my ears and went off to a paddock to talk to some cows,” she said afterwards. One of the other parents eventually phoned her to say she could come back, but she still didn’t know what the result was. “My other daughter phoned me from home and told me. She’s there looking after the rest of the horses.”
This is the fifth time the family have tried to compete at Champs, so to actually win was way beyond their expectations. “One year Anna got to the champs with her horse, but then didn’t even get to start in the dressage!”
Francesca Masfen and Kinnordy Galilee were the winners of the MT Championships with Clay Harris on Swan Lake second and Kirk Magner on Marsden Magic third. Kirk had led all the way into the show jumping but a rail dropped him down behind Francesca and Clay who both produced clear rounds. There were only 2.4 penalties between first and sixth places, so the competition was hot!
Francesca, part of the Auckland team, didn’t think show jumping was her forte. “I get so nervous and he’s got such a big jump, he worries about the combinations.” But it all went well today for the pair who have only been together for a year. Christen Lane produced the horse and also coaches Francesca.
This was Francesca’s first Champs, and she had a great time. “It’s been an amazing event; the atmosphere has been awesome, and I’ve made long-term friends.” She definitely wants to attend again. “I came here to have a good time and ride for the team – I never ever thought I would win!”
Francesca attends Diocesan School and lives in Parnell, central Auckland, so has a bit of a mission to get to ride her horse who is kept out at Christen’s place near Pukekohe. “Sometimes school lets me leave early, as traffic can be a nightmare.”
The prize-giving was somewhat marred by a couple of heavy showers of rain, but it was a great spectacle to see the teams all out parading in their colours. Well done to all the riders, team personnel, officials and sponsors who got drenched, and well done to the Northland Pony Club for putting on a great event.
We will have more photos and coverage to come. Congratulations to everyone, it was a fine competition.