Reigning World Champion showjumper Philippe le Jeune is to compete at New Zealand’s Horse of the Year Show next month.
Belgian rider le Jeune, who stormed to victory in showjumping’s “Final Four” at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010, is to ride Katie McVean’s horses at the show. McVean is out of the saddle before the birth of her first child.
Le Jeune, 54, will also ride at the Church Road competition the weekend before the HoY.
Show director Kevin Hansen announced le Jeune’s visit at a launch in Hawke’s Bay on Wednesday night attended by more than 130 people including show supporters, media, and representatives from the business world.
“It is dream,” said Hansen. “It is just out of this world to have him here riding top horses in the Olympic Cup. For New Zealand riders to be warming up and walking courses alongside the current world champ will benefit the sport for years. What a thrill it will be for them.”
Le Jeune will start in several competitions at the HoY show, including the Olympic Cup aboard Dunstan Kiwi Iron Mark, and in the Silver Fern Stakes and Norwood Gold Cup.
Hansen also announced that an equestrian delegation would be attending the show from China – a result of the trip he took to the Asian nation last year. Included in the party are business owners, riders, professors and media.
“It is great to see these people here and I believe they will have quite an influence on the 2014 show. If we nurture this relationship, it can only be beneficial for the New Zealand equestrian industry, as well as helping the Chinese in growing theirs.”
The Chinese will ride in a team against New Zealand and Australia in the Country TV Tri Nations. Mark Todd will captain the New Zealand team.
A crack Australian contingent is also expected at the show and will ride in the Tri-Nations as well as the Mitavite Trans-Tasman Test.
In an exciting new development, the cross-country course for the two and three-star eventing has been moved to the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds.
“This is going to be one heck of a day for the thousands of spectators we are expecting at the showgrounds,” said Hansen.
A family fun park will be set up at the Waikoko Gardens, near the lake where the cross-country water jumps will provide plenty of thrills. Also nearby is a corporate area with VIP seating, food and entertainment.
Also launched was The Seventy Percent Club, an initiative by Hawke’s Bay rider Beth Bielski who is determined to help more of New Zealand’s top dressage riders have access to funding to help them compete with success on the world stage.
The NRM Horse of the Year Show runs from Tuesday, March 18 through to Sunday, March 23.