Springston fever is starting!

All the View Hill pony clubbers at the Springston Trophy in 2016 (Image: Jane Thompson)

One of the best competitions on the eventing calendar in the South Island is the Mitavite Springston Trophy and it takes place next weekend!  South Island pony clubs have been preparing for months, with riders and their horses competing over the winter, fine-tuning their performances to peak next weekend.

The small team of volunteers on the organising committee for this year’s hosts, Rakaia, have called in a few “wise oldies” to help out with what is going to be a huge event: 39 teams will be battling for the win. A lot of hard work has taken place, and course builder Richard Crowe says that riders will be surprised by the amount of change in the cross-country track – only about one third of the old course remains. “We have 26 new mobile jumps which we are using across all the grades, a lot of new permanent fences, and we’ve also added mounds and done a lot of earthwork,” Richard says.

Richard Crowe

A major feature is the new water jump.  “It will have at least ten new jumps going into it,” says Richard. The Rakaia course has had a lot of use over the last few years, with the pony club holding an event there every year.  The new mobile fences have been built to last, and Richard is expecting to see his granddaughter jumping them at some stage in the future.

Richard not only rode at the event himself back in the early 1980s, but also proudly watched his two daughters, Maddie and Chloe, on the winning Rakaia team in 2004. Maddie went on to represent NZ as a junior rider at the Melbourne 3-Day Event and was the winner of the National CCI2* class at the Taupo 3DE last year.

Maddy Crowe and Waitangi Pinterest showing great style (Image: Take the Moment)

Richard obviously knows how important this event is to the riders, and has produced a course which will be well up to the occasion. “I have made it a challenge, especially for the seniors, but the standard is very high: there are some good horses and riders at the moment here.”

He and Technical Delegate Lindsay Carruthers have come up with good options for those not wanting to take on the trickier combinations. There is a pony club rule available for course builders to use, where rather than add more distance (which can encourage the riders to go faster and therefore ride dangerously), the easy option comes with a 10-point penalty but loses little time. “I have black flags in use, and have tried to make them stop and think about the course and their best options,” says Richard.

Also on hand to help the riders think about what would be best for their horse and their experience will be Olympian Clarke Johnstone, who is going to lead a course walk on Thursday.  This will be a great opportunity to benefit from Clarke’s considerable knowledge, and Richard hopes that all riders and coaches will take up the opportunity to walk the course with him.

Clarke Johnstone and Richard Crowe hanging out at HOY last year. They’ll be hanging out again on Thursday at the Springston Trophy

The official team welcome is on Thursday at 12.30pm, complete with a barbecue lunch sponsored by Synlait, Anzco and Five Star Beef. The Celebrity Course Walk with Clarke Johnstone is at 3pm, and is open to riders, coaches, managers and sponsors. Senior riders and coaches are invited to do a course walk prior to that (at 1.30) with Clarke.  The course itself will be open to the public at 4pm. Dressage starts at 8.30am on Friday, at the Rakaia Domain, and cross-country on Saturday at 9am on the River Bed course (entrance off Normanby Road). The show jumping tracks will be designed by Geoff Bryant and the classes will be held at the Domain starting at 9am on Sunday.

Last year’s winners were View Hill Red, who will be keen to hold on to the trophy. They have three teams entered this year and include combinations such as Jordan Kruger on Bamboozle, Lucy Cochrane on Inspector Gadget, Toby Orr on Marco Polo and Jessie Fitzjohn on What’s the Buzz.

NZ Horse & Pony will be at the event, bringing you full coverage.

Jessie Fitzjohn accepting the Springston Trophy last year from Chris and Trish Redwood up in Ward.