Six weeks ago, Lisa Cubitt didn’t think she even had a horse to compete at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show.
But then Onewhero rider Jacqui Wright sent her talented grey Matawai Sentana to Lisa’s yard, to prepare for sale. Though he’d been successful up to Pro-Am level, the 10-year-old quickly stepped up with Lisa, winning the Grand Prix at the Brookby Show at their first outing.
And today, at just their fourth show together, Lisa and Matawai Sentana took out the Ultramox Lady Rider of the Year crown, after a fierce and nail-biting competition.
The last HOY title Lisa won was also the Lady Rider, back in 2015 with her long-term partner Amaretto, before spending two years overseas.
“So I’m overwhelmed, and quite emotional really,” she says. “Last time I won was a thrill, but it was on a horse I’d had forever and knew really well. This was so unexpected. It’s just as exciting, but in a totally different way.”
Matawai Sentana is by Senator VDL, out of a Fernhill Stud mare called Kiwi Classic, and Lisa says he’s quirky and quite a worrier, but clearly has buckets of class. “It’s been a real team effort. Our groom Natalie Rowles was given the job of becoming his best friend… his happy place. And that’s worked really well for him.”
The aim going into HOY was simply to put in some “solid” performances in the big classes, but now with a title under their belts, the pair are going to have a tilt at the Olympic Cup on Sunday.
Thirty women started the Lady Rider today, with 11 who had four faults or fewer coming back for the second round.
The clears were from Lisa, Katie Laurie on Esteban MVNZ, Rosie Commons on Athena GNZ, Emily Hayward on Belischi HM, and South Islanders Tegan Fitzsimon on Double J Monarch and Kimberley Bird on Cera Cassina.
There were just two clears in the second round, and these were from two of the four faulters; Steffi Whittaker on the lovely stallion Eros K, and Alexa Randall on LC Tango.
When Lisa collected a rail rather dramatically at the second fence – Matawai Sentana appearing to slip and cannon right through the oxer – she realised her only option was to go hard and fast. The pair finished on a four-fault total in a time of 52.58, which was two and a half seconds quicker than Kimberley and her mare Cera Cassina, who finished second.
Tegan was third, Emily fourth, Steffi fifth and Alexa sixth.