It was ‘make or break’ at the NRM National Three-day Event this year for Amanda (‘Muzi’) Pottinger’s gallant little thoroughbred, Just Kidding. The 2016 winner has now added the 2018 title to his name, after outstanding performances in all three phases at what was without a doubt the toughest Taupo in years.
Not only was Chris Ross’ superb cross-country track bordering on four-star difficulty, but the trying wet conditions added significantly to the challenge.
But Muzi and ‘Ferg’ grabbed the lead on dressage day with a super 70.77% test, increased their lead with the fastest clear cross-country round, and they held their nerves show jumping today, rolling a single rail and tapping a few others but finishing 2.5pen clear of second-placed Nick Brooks and For Fame.
It was an emotional win for Muzi (26), as it was Ferg’s last chance to prove he’d overcome his water jump issue, which developed at Taupo two years ago when he submerged himself on his way to winning that first CCI3* title.
“He was only 9 [at the time] so it was worth persevering. It has taken two years, it’s been tough, and up and down, but we have got there. Yesterday was either the make or break of his career… if he hadn’t jumped into the water, that would have been it,” she says. “It was a big milestone.”
“He’s now only 11, and he’s ready to go four-star.”
The Havelock North-based business analyst is now aiming for a tilt at the Adelaide three-day event in November. “He’ll have a bit of time out, but not for too long, as Adelaide is quite early in the season, and I want to start ahead of the game.”
Show jumping has sometimes been Muzi’s achilles heel, but while today Ferg rattled a few, it was a confident round, belying his rider’s nerves.
“I’m sorry for making everyone so nervous! I was nervous! When I had the rail, I said to myself, for goodness sake, just get going. The rail was totally me, and I just thought, why would you ride like that? Then I thought right, now we mean business,” she says.
“I was also really conscious of time because I’ve had time faults in the past. I knew I didn’t have much up my sleeve either; I was practising the tighter turns a bit more, but that made me a bit more frantic probably, as I am not so good at that. It is all practice, and it is good to practice under pressure to see where your strengths and weaknesses are, especially before an event like Adelaide. I needed some pressure on.”
Muzi’s mother Tinks, who was ringside cheering her on, is a former winner of the Wills Trophy herself (in 1985, on Graphic). And Muzi laughed that the win was her mother’s day present for Tinks “especially as I didn’t buy her anything!”
Celebrations tonight won’t be too wild, as it’s back to work tomorrow for Muzi, who works for dairy farming company, Bell Group. “I have to play catch up, as I haven’t really been there for the last two months. From February until now they barely see me in the office; I do a lot of work from home. They are a really good company letting me do that. In the next two months, I put in the hard work and actually get things done before the season starts again.”
As for Nick Brooks, he was ecstatic with second place, in just the horse’s third three-star and first three day event at this level. “What a horse. It was a lot of work but I am very very happy with our performance this week. He is just coming into his own, he is just starting to grow a brain now he is 10. It’s been a great year.”
Nick credits this success to the tight team around him: “My inner circle. Clarke Johnstone absolutely helps me so much. My little sister Tash is my best mate and is always there. We are very tight. My partner Callum is very very supportive and Mum, she’s the best one ever. Emily my groom is great at micro-managing such a quirky horse to be in the best possible place for him to do his job. I am really lucky. I am taking the day off tomorrow, I needed a day off to recover from this! It has been a huge week, so I want to thank my colleagues at Vosper Law, who pick up the slack when I am away playing ponies.”
Nick also wanted to thank course designer Chris Ross. “He’s a serious talent, he has a huge future in cross-country design. That being said, I lost a bit of sleep on Friday night! He gave us a huge job this weekend and obviously that played a big part, but all the questions were able to be answered. He is a clever designer in that he really pushes you, but he makes jumps that are clear for the horses and so makes a very fair test. My horse read every single fence the whole way round, and understood what to do.
“I think Chris gave us exactly what should be for a national open championship.”
As for the next season, Nick just wants to keep the horse happy and well “and keep going on the fun journey that we are going on. Puhinui is definitely in the plan at the end of the year, but I have learned in the last 10 years that you don’t plan very much further on than medium term goals. He is a huge talent so I am really looking forward to the next couple of seasons on him.”
Jessica Woods was third on her lovely mare Just de Manzana, and Bundy Philpott fourth on Tresca NZPH, both of these combinations show jumping clear.
Jess is planning a trip to compete at the Melbourne three-day event, while Bundy too is eying Adelaide with her scopey horse. “He’s getting a good record behind him now, but I am the slow coach, I need to get faster! Jock [Paget] has been amazing; I have only started working with him since I got put in the high performance squad after my Puhinui win. We will quietly chip away over the winter at me getting a bit quicker and taking off my grannie pants…I think I am just a little bit over cautious at times. I have a show jumping background, and I tend to try to nail each fence probably a little bit too much. Then on landing, I am, ‘oh that was nice, and give him a pat, instead of going ‘come on’.”
Matthew Grayling was fifth on one of the least-experienced horses in the field, NRM Trudeau, who finished full of running.
Trudeau is owned by long-time dressage judge Winkey Foley, who was of course delighted with the result. “Matthew just has to keep going on with him. The horse has it all there. I just think it is working with his brain as he is a horse that has a very smart brain, he is very clever. He outwits Matthew a few times!”
Matthew says: “Now I just have to make him better. Faster. Stronger. We have got the basics reasonably established now. It is nice having a horse where you have a bit of a partnership going and he starts to trust you and you get on pretty well.”
The first six places in the Bates CCI2* were unchanged after show jumping, with Samantha Felton going clear to take the win on Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ.
Angela Lloyd had a rail but hung on to second on Lyrical, and Bryce Newman was third on Bates Game Keeper. Three young riders filled the next three places: Lucy Turner fourth on Carbon, Beth Wilson fifth on Alto et Audax, and Elise Power sixth on Arctic Cielo.
Sam says: “Aside from the weather, it has been an awesome weekend. I’ve been doing a lot of work in the gym, and that has been paying off because I wasn’t that tired on the last round of the three-star yesterday. When you are physically fitter, then your brain can think faster for longer so I was happy to see results there.”
The much-admired Sooty is still only seven, and Sam really rates him as a future super star. “We just want to take it at his pace, and produce him properly. He is still pretty green at this level; this is only his fourth, I think.
Sam was also second in the CCI1*, on her promising Ricker Ridge Riley, at his first three-day event. “He would have been one of the youngest horses there, he only turned six in January. It was a big ask for him but I was stoked how he came out today and he felt amazing.”
Sam is going in for surgery on Tuesday. “I broke my pelvis five years ago and it has grown a spur on the hip joint, so they are going to shave that off. I think the hip joint itself is not great, so they are going to fix it all up and then the cartilage repair is the main thing. I won’t be able to ride for three months, so the horses will have a holiday.”
Fiber Fresh CCI1*
Samantha Mynott and CHS Ripleys Dream seized the win with a clear show jumping round, when the three combinations ahead of her faulted.
Sam has been back in New Zealand for about a year after spending some time in the UK, working with Jessie Campbell. “It’s been a hard year getting everything back together, building the horses back up, and the horse I bought back took a while to adjust to New Zealand. Getting more horses was hard, but we are getting there.”
Sam is coached by Lizzie Green and Tracy Smith, and she has had the ride on seven-year-old Hanoverian by Rascalio, who is owned by Chris Sorrell, of Spurs of Counties, since late December.
“It was another step up for him, he has never done this level before but we came in knowing he could do a good dressage and he could jump well. I would have been happy to be in the top 10!
“He was great on the cross-country, it was a tough course and it was the biggest one he has ever seen. I was a little worried about the time with him as he hasn’t done a lot but he was awesome. He finished well and answered all the questions, and there were no ugly moments.”
Sam too is heading for surgery this week: “I broke my wrist last year in June but they missed the break in my scaphoid bone. They have to take a bone graft from my hip and I will out for about three months. I asked them if I could wait until after Taupo, so my surgery is on Thursday.”
Wairakei Resort CCN105
Angela Lloyd and Raucous added the national three-day title to the one-day title they won at Kihikihi, with a clear show jumping round. “It’s fantastic to win both, such a really good start to his career,” she says.
A holiday is next for the horse. “He has done quite a lot this season for his prep up to this event, and then he will come out and do a couple of 105s next season. He still has to get a bit more mileage and then I will go one-star. He is a big baby. He is quite cautious and he likes to understand what he is doing.
“He didn’t mind the weather, he is pretty hardy and hasn’t even been clipped yet.”
Angela was surprised when she used the NRM scales at the event to weigh the 175cm Raucous, who came in at 710kg! “I thought he was big, but that’s huge!”
Kirsty Guilfoyle was second on Ash Haven Diva, and Jessica Woods third on Kings Soleil.
Megan Finlayson won the open one-star class on Greensleeves, and Jess Woods the open 1.05m class on LV Encostalot.
|NRM CCI 3* Open National Championship|
|1||Amanda ‘Muzi’ Pottinger||Just Kidding||36.4|
|2||Nick Brooks||For Fame||38.9|
|3||Jessica Woods||Just de Manzana||49.8|
|4||Bundy Philpott||Tresca NZPH||54.3|
|5||Matthew Grayling||NRM Trudeau||65.8|
|Bates CCI 2* Championship|
|1||Samantha Felton||Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ||28.1|
|3||Bryce Newman||Bates Game Keeper||36.7|
|5||Beth Wilson||Alto et Audax||40.4|
|Fiber Fresh CCI 1* Championship|
|1||Samantha Mynott||CHS Ripleys Dream||32.8|
|2||Samantha Felton||Ricker Ridge Riley||34|
|5||Vicky Browne-Cole||Zip It Up||35.1|
|Wairakei Resort CCN105 Championship|
|2||Kirsty Guilfoyle||Ash Haven Diva||29.2|
|3||Jessica Woods||Kings Soleil||31.4|
|5||Lizzie Green||Comanche II||34.2|
|AMS Saddlery CCI 1* Open|
|2||Clay Harris||All In Time||46.1|
|3||Francesca Silver-Carter||Case in Point||46.3|
|4||Denise Rushbrook||Astek Gadzuks||46.9|
|5||Niamh Rayne||My Hallucination||48.6|
|Taupo Veterinary Centre CCN105 Open|
|1||Jessica Woods||LV Encostalot||21|
|2||Eden Doull||Noble Value||28.1|
|4||Graham Fox||Oranoa Tobasco||32.8|
Thoroughbreds in Equestrian Sports Series:
- Amanda Pottinger, Just Kidding
- Shannon Galloway, Day Walker
- Kirsty Sharapoff, Shoot the Breeze
- Emily Cammock, Shaw Lee
- Kate Flemming, Mendelsshon
- Bryce Newman, Bates Game Keeper
This season all Eventing series classes run under ESN eventing rules were eligible for TiES points. 188 thoroughbreds are registered to compete in eventing and most of these thoroughbreds received eventing TIES points.
Charlton Stud: Best Mare: Just de Manza, ridden by Jessica Woods. Breeding: warmblood cross by Just de Pomme
Best performed pony club rider: Lucy Turner, on Carbon, from the Halswell Pony Club in Canterbury
Silver Spurs teams competition: 1. North Island (Bundy Philpott, Donn Edwards-Smith, Angela Lloyd, Bryce Newman). 2. South Island (Kirsty Sharapoff, Emily Cammock, Lucy Turner, Brent Jury).
Best Presented (Caseley Trophy): Beth Wilson, Alto et Audax.