National SJ Champs – who will win?

The National Show Jumping and Show Jumping Show is on from February 1-3 and promises to be an exciting competition

There are plenty of current national title winners coming back to defend their titles at this weekend’s Tavendale & Partners National Show Jumping & Show Hunter Champs in Christchurch. They have all been carefully preparing their horses to give it their best shot. 

Nicole White and LC Samson

Invercargill’s Nicole White will be back with LC Samson, the horse she won the National Grand Prix title on last year when the horse performed very well in the testing muddy conditions that prevailed on the last day. Nicole is predicting better weather this year, and is also predicting a hot competition. 

“The Grand Prix riders in the South Island are very strong at the moment,” she says. “The placings have been shifting round quite a lot. Steffi Whittaker has been doing really well, Chris Harris has had some really good rounds, Lucinda Askin has also been going well too. Then there is Tegan Fitzsimon who has just come back from the North Island after an unreal win in the World Cup, so everyone has a top shot of getting it.”

This is probably the last time that we will have the chance to see Tegan and Windermere Cappuccino together, as the sale of the horse overseas looks imminent.  The horse is a serious talent and while her share of the sale proceeds will be life-changing, it will be a sad time for Tegan if this is the last time the pair compete together. She is keen to post a good result with him and will also be competing in the class on her other top horse, Double J Monarch. 

Tegan Fitzsimon and Windermere Cappuccino (Image: Christine Cornege)

The pony jumping is always lots of fun to watch. The Fiber Fresh NZ National Pony Championship is run as part of the Country TV Pony Grand Prix Series. Rosa Buist-Brown won last year’s title on Junior Disco, and this year is competing on Ellen Vanin Untouchable, a pony that she has only been riding a short time. The pair have looked very promising at recent shows including a third in the Pony Grand Prix at the recent South Island championships at Waimate. 

Rosa Buist-Brown and Ellen Vanin Untouchable competing recently at Mcleans Island

She has some hot competition, however, from all over the South Island. Southland’s Ella Wylie and MF Spot Me will be there, as will Otago’s Noah Coutts on the coloured stallion Bizzie Canoodling. Christchurch’s Sophie Geddes and her two ponies also have excellent form coming into this competition. 

Another current National title holder who will be competing again this year is Queenstown’s Lauren Buckley on Icey Storm. Last year, Lauren and her off-the-track thoroughbred won the 1.20m championship, but this year they are setting their sights on the National Pro-Am title which is always a very competitive class. The class, sponsored by Dunstan Horsefeeds, Equifibre and Moa, is over 1.20-1.30m and will be contested on Saturday. 

Lauren Buckley, Icey Storm

Lauren has shown some excellent form lately, but will be up against last year’s National Pro-am winner, Christchurch’s Kirsty Sharapoff, who will be back to defend her title. The class will be Kirsty’s only focus for her versatile thoroughbred Shoot the Breeze, who competes successfully in several equestrian disciplines. Eventing is Kirsty’s priority, so she has made the decision to enter in just one class at this show. “He’s got a long season ahead, all the way through to May, and because he can do everything, it is a little bit too easy to say ‘I can do this, this and this’… so now I am trying to be a little more targeted in what I am entering.”  

Danielle Maurer’s Madam Coco won the 1.30m national championship last year, but the Aucklander isn’t making the journey down to defend her title. One of New Zealand’s top show jumpers, Cantabrian Rose Alfel, will be one to watch for in this class, riding Cadenza NZPH. Unfortunately Rose’s World Cup horse, My Super Nova, has been out with an injury for some time, and isn’t yet competing – though he is now back in work. Rose was delighted to have her first bareback sit on him the other day. “He was very good, he got a little wild but he is quiet again now, and is doing a few laps of the racetrack with Dad’s racehorses. We will hopefully be back next season!”

Another serious contender in the Hygain National 1.30m championship is Hokitika’s Rebecca Wardle on WS Paradise. The pair have produced some great results lately and are a real talent.

Nicole White has a good chance in this class too, riding her mare Lil LeRoux. “She has been jumping really well lately, so hopefully she can step up and do something cool,” Nicole says. 

Another one to look out for is North Canterbury’s Carissa McGregor with her scopey Blytheburn Coruba. The pair were winning at the South Island Championship recently and Carissa has high hopes for her young horse, who is a real character. “The 1.30m championship is his target. We’ll give it a good crack. He has really good form coming into it, he has had a ribbon at every show this season! He is feeling really good.”

Carissa McGregor, Blytheburn Coruba

Selwyn’s Harry Feast is planning to take a team of four to the Nationals. “My plan is that Double J Bouncer will probably jump the Grand Prix. I’ve got a six-year-old, plus one who will do the 1.10-1.20m championship and possibly one in the 1.20-1.30 champs.  A bit of a range really!” 

Harry had a lot of success with his top horse Bouncer last year but admits that so far this season hasn’t been so good. “It’s been a bit hit and miss and he has had a few minor injuries, but he seems to be coming good again, so hopefully…”

Harry Feast, Double J Bouncer (Image: Pegasus Communications)

The classes for the national titles are decided have a different format to most show jumping classes. The overall winner is the combination who does the best from two days of competition, with the first rounds held on Friday, February 1 and the final rounds on Sunday February 3. Harry thinks this format is a good test of a consistency. “It is quite cool that you can win on the first day but you still have to go and have another good day on Sunday.”

Saturday is the day for the series class, with the highlights being the age-group series, and the Young and Junior rider competitions. 

The Dunstan Horsefeeds & Equifibre Junior Rider class is a hard one to pick the favourites but the big grey, Icebreaker II, has many fans, and his rider Tayler Nalder (Cust) always rides to win. Other North Canterbury Junior riders include Georgia Allison, who will have the cute Paintball in the class, and Brianna Bailey, who rides Bridgemere Havana. Peita Milne is making the trip down from Nelson to compete on Global PH Licorice. 

Tayler Nalder and Icebreaker II

Sophie Scott is one of the few North Islanders who regularly travel down for the show, and she will be competing in a number of classes including in the FMG & NRM Young Rider on Lakota. She’s got some hot competition with Steffi Whittaker and On the Point Eve, as well as Rangiora’s Grace O’Sullivan on Cosmopolitan, to mention just two of the classy field. 

There are also good entries in both the pony and hack sections of the show hunter classes as well, with Horse of the Year qualifications up for grabs as well as National titles.  

Helen Ensor, Zactac Carnival competing in show hunter classes at the National Equestrian Centre, Mcleans Island

No big show would be complete without some great alternative entertainmen; as well as a terrier race planned for Sunday lunchtime, there will be a fun competition on Saturday night. Nicole White is one who is up for whatever is planned. “It is always fun, and I love getting the kids out doing fun things and getting them involved.”

President of the show, Gus Taylor, with his terrier

There’s no gate charges for spectators. The show is held at the National Equestrian Centre, opposite Orana Park, McLeans Island, Christchurch.  It will be running Friday through to Sunday, and there are plenty of trade and catering stands.  There will be a live stream of some events and we will share this link in due course.