Mikayla Herbert hoped, at the most, for a ribbon today in the Ultramox Lady Rider of the Year. She’d have settled just for a clear round. So the 22-year-old vet nurse from Te Puke was almost speechless with delight to have clinched the biggest win of her career in one of the biggest title classes at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show.
“He has never jumped that good ever before! I can’t even put it into words how overwhelmed and grateful I feel!”
Mikayla and her gigantic nine-year-old gelding Grand Caballo were the only pair to leave all the rails up and complete the two challenging tracks within the time limit.
Four combinations were clear in the first round, and they came back for the second along with the three fastest of the six four-faulters, plus Tegan Fitzsimon and Double J Monarch, who’d had just a single time fault.
Tegan was clear in the second round, along with Amanda Wilson on Showtym Cassanova and Nakeysha Lammers on Resolution – but the latter two were each carrying four faults from the first. The three riders on zero faults had all, unfortunately for them, added to their score sheet.
So for Mikayla, the last rider into the ring, the challenge was simple – ideally, leave all the rails up and win.
Grand Caballo, not the most orthodox nor the easiest-looking ride, flung himself into the job though, and came through when it counted, clear and just within the time.
Mikayla works full time, and has had the 18.1hh for two-and-a-half years. He is by Indoctro out of Strawberry, being a full brother to Olympic Cup holder Fiber Fresh Veroana, and was bred by Ike and Kylie Unsworth.
“Nobody wanted him because of his size, and he’d just sat in the paddock, but Ike approached me and suggested I give him a go, because he’s a good horse. I started jumping him, and fell in love with him.”
Mikayla says that the horse, known at home as Huck, is the classic gentle giant, scared of his own shadow at times, with a “precious” personality.
She’s had success with him in the 7YO and Young Rider classes, but this is by far the biggest win of her career. The goal now is the World Cup (NZ) series. “I certainly have no intention of selling him.”
Tegan and Double J Monarch were second, Nakeysha third, Amanda fourth, Sarah West fifth on Oaks Centurion and Jasmine Sketchley sixth on Bravado Ego Z.
Matamata’s Vicki Prendergast and her homebred mare Selena C won their first Horse of the Year title when they took out the Pro-Am Rider of the Year.
“I never win anything,” she says. “It’s wicked!” She owned it today though, with the only clear in the seven-way jump-off.
Riding is very much a family affair for Vicki and her two daughters who are also competing at the show in pony show jumping and show hunter. Vicki is also very proud of the fact she bred her six-year-old mare who is by Cardento VDL and out of Sofee.
Queenstown rider Grace Perry was second on Kiwi Spirit, Siobhan Ryan and Natalie were third, and defending champion Sally Clark had an unlucky rail on Victoria’s Secret, to settle for fourth.