It was a chaotic scene at the endurance horse inspection this afternoon, but emerging from the mayhem were two New Zealand horses with a PASS besides their name and smiling riders and crew.
There was one Chinese rider, an Italian and a Mexican who didn’t make it through the horse inspection. There was also a Dutch reserve horse who was spun.
Jenny Champion from Masterton presented Barack Obama, and the 20-year-old horse looks great, especially with the black and white ribbons in his tail.
Philip Graham from Oxford, Canterbury, had his 15-year-old gelding Rosewood Bashir in fine form, also with the ribbons in his tail.
Philip, a 63-year-old beef and cattle farmer, rode at the 2006 WEG, and admitted to being nervous before this competition. “If you are not nervous, you shouldn’t be here,” he said. He’s planning an early night, after a nice dinner as the competition starts at 6.30am in the morning and there is quite a bit of preparation to do before he joins the 140 or so competitors at the start line.
“I just want to get round, and keep safe at the start, and see how it goes from there,” said Philip. “When you have that many horses starting together, you just have to keep safe. It is so important otherwise you can wreck it in the first two kilometres.”
There will be some challenges for Philip and his horse. “The humidity, and all the accumulated stress that has gone on in the last three weeks to get here, that will be our challenge, but we are as well prepared as we can be.”
This is 53-year-old Jenny’s first championship and she was relieved to get through the first test, the horse inspection. “It is always the worry, to get through that first vet check but he is as sound as a bug.”
Jenny’s focus is to get through the first loop, and to cruise along but she also wants to avoid the mayhem at the beginning. “I’ll back off and get through and then just see how we get on really,” said Jenny. “He can be quite a hard horse to ride, he can pull and bound, especially at the beginning when he can be a bit of a handful.”
Unfortunately for Jenny, she hasn’t the funds to bring the horse back to New Zealand but has found him a lovely home with a woman who lives about an hour from Tryon. “We’ve met some fantastic people here, they have helped us all the way. This lady is special, and she is going to be part of the crew tomorrow too.”
It will be an early start for that crew, there’s talk of a 3am start to get the horses checked and sorted for the competition.
Let’s hope those alarm clocks go off at the right time, but I suspect the riders may be light sleepers tonight. Good luck!