She’s the one! Emily Hayward wins the Young Rider crown

Emily Hayward and Yandoo Lady Gold were on fire to take out the Big Red Cup

Emily Hayward and Yandoo Lady Gold, Young Rider of the Year winners (image: Christine Cornege)

Emily Hayward is no stranger to winning – she’s famously won multiple jumping series back-to-back, has both Junior and Pony Show Hunter Horse of the Year titles, and won the Aspiring Rider title at HOY an impressive three years in a row.

But the Big Red Cup, awarded for Young Rider of the Year, has been on her radar for a while now, with three previous attempts, and it was pretty much her sole focus for the season.

She and her lovely mare, Yandoo Lady Gold, have had an ultra-consistent time in the Young Rider classes – and lead the FMG series by a country mile. But winning a HOY title isn’t about consistency, it’s about pulling out the best performance on the day, and Emily did that in emphatic style, with the only two clear rounds of the class.

The Young Riders mostly had a hard time of Werner Deeg’s track in the Premier Arena, with rails, stops and a couple of eliminations. There were plenty of double-digit penalty scores, and we had to wait all the way until the second-last of the 29 starters for the sole clear.

Emily genuinely did make it look easy, and she was joined in the second round by five four-faulters, plus seven riders on eight faults.

In round two, which was bigger but somewhat shorter, three riders went clear: Steffi Whittaker on Ngahiwi Cruise, Nakeysha Lammers on Resolution and Kimberley Bird on Cera Cassina, which had the latter two tied at that stage for first place on four faults apiece.

Then in came Emily, not the slightest bit bothered by the pressure, and cantered around as cool as the proverbial cucumber, clear again for an outright victory.

“She’s been so consistent, and this was one of my goals from the start of the year,” says Emily. “I’ve really focused on her fitness as well, because it’s a two-round competition, and she coped really well.”

Te Awamutu-based Emily (18) has now finished school to ride full-time, and hopes to go overseas for a while before going to university. “I want to have options for later,” she says.

Yandoo Lady Gold (Warlord II/Taffy) is currently on the market, but Emily says that may now be reviewed.

Kimberley was bridesmaid for the second time (having been runner-up in the previous day’s Lady Rider), Nakeysha was third, Nicola Hammond fourth on Carlo I, Steffi fifth and Blake Davis sixth on Giggles.

Emily Hayward and Yandoo Lady Gold, Young Rider of the Year winners (image: Christine Cornege)