The New Zealand team heading to the FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games in France later this year is unlikely to have a dressage representative with the withdrawal of Vanessa Way from contention.
But the other disciplines should be well represented, with the Kiwis sending a full complement of eventers; the endurance team will be named in late May; and there may be one or more showjumpers on the squad.
Taranaki based Way and KH Arvan were the only combination on the country’s “A” dressage squad. She has announced that KH Arvan is being retired from dressage competition as he has failed to recover fully from a wind operation on his throat.
“He hasn’t been feeling himself since the North Island Championships in January,” said Way, who trains with world-leading dressage trainer Carl Hester in the United Kingdom.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better horse … there is no horse as generous as he is, and he has taken me to the other side of the world and back, and three times to Australia. He has done me proud.”
Fifteen-year-old Arvan, a hanoverian by Anamour and from the Dynamit mare Demure, has been with Way since he was two, and together they have won every major title from novice through to grand prix.
“In 11 years he has never let me down and I want to finish on a high.”
They are doing just that, having won the New Zealand Grand Prix Championship and North Island titles, and just last weekend finishing as reserve Dressage Horse of the Year.
“I want to remember him like that … and I want everyone else to remember what a wonderful horse he is.”
Way said as soon as Arvan heard the music for his last class at the NRM Horse of the Year Show, he lifted as if to say “I know this, I can do it”.
Earlier in the show, the stress for Arvan of competing in tests had been obvious to Way.
“He will never be sold, and will be used to help me teach pupils.”
As soon as Way made the decision to retire the horse, she says it was a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.
“I have loved my season, and so enjoyed it, particularly the support of Bill Noble (who won Dressage Horse of the Year with Airthrey Highlander).”
Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris fully supports Way’s decision.
“Arvan hasn’t recovered as well as was hoped from a wind operation and Vanessa knows only too well just what sort of marks are needed to be competitive at championship level. It is a wise choice.”
Harris is confident she will see the top dressage rider back on a national team in the future.
“She has two very nice young horses coming through so she will be back,” she says. “Vanessa is targeting the Rio Olympics with one of those horses, and looks on track.”
However, it does mean it is unlikely New Zealand will have a dressage representative at WEG this year.
“While it is a shame to not have Vanessa and Arvan at the World Champs, we do have an exciting group of young riders and horse combinations coming through the dressage grades that will be competitive in the future.”
Way extended a heartfelt thanks to all who had supported her, and promises that her next generation of horses will be competitive on a world stage.