Colin Price had a magic few days back on familiar territory at the Mitavite Springston Trophy in Rakaia, Canterbury. Colin is, of course, very famous for being Tim Price’s dad. Or perhaps he is more famous in his own right? In his role as General Manager of Mitavite, Colin has considerable influence within the equestrian industry, not just on how horse feed is marketed and distributed, but also from a sponsorship decision-making point of view.
Colin was originally from Canterbury, but now lives in Australia, having worked for Mitavite in both locations. He has attended plenty of events here in New Zealand as a pony club parent, including a number of Springston Trophies.
“I’ve been to about five or six, way back when we had the boys competing,” he says. “I know what it is like, I know what the parents go through coming to the Springston Trophy. They want to see their kids doing well. There are lots of lessons to be learned. It is one of the few team opportunities in equestrian sport, and friends you make at Springston will last you a lifetime.
“Springston Trophy is great, there is always lots of tension, lots of fun, lots of joy, lots of disappointment – it epitomises the whole sport.”
It is perhaps no coincidence that Mitavite took a naming-right sponsorship for the event, and also put a lot of money into the cross-country course development. The new, 600-square-metre water jump benefited from this cash injection, and is now known as the Mitavite Water Complex.
Colin spent quite a bit of the wet cross-country day watching competitors negotiate their way through the Mitavite water. “We know it costs a lot of money to build a cross-country course. We put some cash into it. Yes, it is the Mitavite Water Complex now; it is branded, with the name actually carved into the timber so it will be there for a while yet.”
The course is certainly something to be proud of, in Colin’s opinion. “The region has a fantastic facility now. It is a good, serious track. Some of the curving lines downhill challenged a few – they had to ride well. When I was going around Springston courses all those years ago with the boys, it was about being bold and brave; now it is about having control and riding your horse well.”
The talk of being bold and brave soon moved to talk of Tim’s Springston experiences. Colin recalls one of the first times Tim rode in the competition, in Geraldine, aged about 12.
“He had a little pony called Beaudene who was a really good show jumper but also had a great little nap in him. When he did decide to nap, the only thing you could do was get off him, give him a whack and then get on again. One hit on the bum, get back on again and away he would go. Tim was going great guns when, about half way around the course, they had to head back towards the floats and then turn away, and the pony did one of his naps. Tim promptly got off, between fences, whacked Beaudene once on the bum, got back on and galloped off to continue the course. He got into all sorts of trouble. The manager – who shall remain nameless – was absolutely furious! Under the rules then, he didn’t get eliminated though.”
While this year’s Springston Trophy was on, Tim was competing at Boekelo in Netherlands – and not just competing, but winning! He was the individual victor of the CCIO3* as well as being a member of the winning New Zealand team in the Nations Cup. Colin got up to watch a lot of the cross-country on livestream, but didn’t actually watch Tim go as he didn’t want to jinx it. “I knew that if he didn’t go clear and do what he wanted to do, then I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. That track was a huge challenge and it was a great effort. However, all he wants to do is get home to his son, Otis. This is his last event for the year and he wants to look after Otis while Jonelle has a go at Pau. Her mare is really in top form so she is going to be very competitive.”
Colin spoke at length to Tim after the Boekelo cross-country had finished. “He was thrilled and the horse pulled up really well. He said to say hi to everyone at the Springston Trophy. He has very fond memories of this competition.”
While Tim rode for the Oxford team ‘back in the day’, he also had quite a close association with View Hill, including with club coach, Liz Thomas. “Tim actually gave Liz a horse before he went off to England and she had great pleasure telling me yesterday she loves the horse and still rides it every day.” Tim’s Oxford Pony Club had a team competing this year, with just four riders and, says Colin diplomatically, “will have gained valuable experience.”
As well as being the naming-rights sponsor and investing in the cross-country course, Mitavite also arranged to have one of the brand ambassadors, Clarke Johnstone, come to the event on Thursday to talk to the competitors and do course walks. “Clarke’s horses are amazing and he is an elite performer. Yet he can come down and talk to the kids for the day, engage with them and they respond beautifully. He said his wrist got sore signing autographs.”
Another of Mitavite’s riders, Rose Alfeld, was at the competition on Sunday and helped Colin present the prizes.
“Rose, apart from being a top emerging rider, is a really excellent coach and is teaching a lot of kids show jumping. In the future, she will be a serious competitor in show jumping,” says Colin.
“We have [Mitavite] brand ambassadors in all disciplines and some of them are competing, some are coaches. They have to be influential in their discipline. They have to basically interest people in our product and show people what it can do. In some way or other they have to influence people’s buying decisions.”
So, at the end of the day, there was a happy sponsor, a great cross-country course which should last for years, a successful event and a bunch of children who had learned a lot. “We as a company are committed to education and training, and here at the Springston Trophy it is an opportunity to promote that message,” says Colin. “We are not here just to sell a bag of horse feed, we are here to educate the children, and this is a great way of doing it.”
There would have been plenty of happy horses after the prize giving too, as vouchers for bags of feed were distributed among the trophies and rosettes!