More than 170 horses and riders are converging on Christchurch this weekend for New Zealand’s National Dressage Championships, the first time the event has been held on the mainland since 2009.
Sixteen horses have made the trip across Cook Strait from the North Island for the Bates-sponsored event at the National Equestrian Centre at McLeans Island.
Strong entries have been received in all grades bar the Grand Prix Championship where just three combinations will compete for the Burkner Medal. Established mainlanders Sally Field-Dodgson riding Amberleigh Elite and Lynley Stockdale with Komplete Kaos will be joined by North Islander Wendy Hamerton and Pot of Gold. After the excitement of the Olympic Qualifier in 2011 and the Olympic Games in 2012 it is fair to say the Grand Prix level is undergoing a rebuilding phase with new combinations choosing to stay closer to home until they are firmly established in their work. Last year’s victor, Louisa Hill and Bates Antonello went on to compete at the London Olympics.
The largest Level 6/7 field to ever assemble on South Island soil sees 24 combinations take their place on the starting line in the race for the title. Jody Hartstone has ridden all over the globe and has made the trip south again from her Raglan base with her new young stallion Ali Baba.
“I am coming down for a number of reasons – I have many friends and clients in Christchurch and it’s always a pleasure to show them my stallions. Ali Baba is a young stallion who needs experience in travelling longer distances in preparation for his future career.”
While other North Island riders were put off by the travel to Christchurch Hartstone sees this as part of the adventure: “It’s not that far – 7 hours to the ferry, then another 5 hours to Christchurch - last year in Spain I drove 10 hours on the wrong side of the road to get to a competition, and in the USA we travelled big distances too – even Sydney to Melbourne is a big trek – it’s just part of competing with horses.”
Hartstone has tasted much success at McLeans Island, having taken out the quinella in the Grand Prix Championship back in 2009 with her now retired stallions, Landioso and Donnerwind. Other riders to be making the trip south to compete are Susan Tomlin (Palmerston North) with two horses, Domino MH and Giusto MH, as well as young rider Catherine Tobin and Riverndell Romeo who have recently returned from training in Australia.
But the mainlanders will be putting up a fight before they allow the silverware to return north. Kaiapoi’s Jenny Scotter and Kinnordy Gallium will be looking to add to their trophy cabinet, having already won the Canterbury and South Island titles.
Tracey Johnson (Blenheim) and Apollo 4 have successfully worked their way through the grades and will be looking for another strong performance over the weekend, as will Emma Malcolm (Nelson) and Donnerheim.
Riders under the age of 21 are also prominent in the field with five competing. Joining Tobin is Siobhan Fauth and Hollywood Superstar (Christchurch), Kate Maclean and Oscar Del A Hoya (Omakau), Holly Johnston and Just Hollie (Mosgiel) and Nicole French and Don Freese (Blenheim).
The Tavern Harewood Para Equestrian National Championships are also part of the event. North Canterbury Paralympian Anthea Gunner and her horse Huntingdale Incognito will be competing for the first time since London and will be looking to improve for the business end of the season, when many combinations travel north to Hastings for the prestigious Horse of the Year Show.
Competition commences at 8am Friday through to Sunday with prizegiving scheduled to take place late Sunday afternoon. Entry is free.