New Zealand has named its endurance team to compete at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in France later this year.
Equestrian Sports New Zealand announced the team this morning, a mix of riders from both islands, and of youth and experience. Mother and daughter Andrea and Georgia Smith (Mangaweka) are joined by Alison Higgins (Nelson), Braden Cameron (Wellington) and Susie Latta (Otago).
The Smiths are the first such combination to represent the sport at an equestrian championship together, and Georgia, at 17, is believed to be the youngest.
It is the second time on a WEG team for Alison Higgins, 45.
New Zealand will also have eventing and vaulting teams at WEG, with the possibility of showjumping and para-equestrian representatives too.
ESNZ high performance director Sarah Harris and the endurance team’s chef d’equip Tony Parsons are very excited by the prospect of their five-strong team.
“These are riders who have all come up through the squad system and shown good form over recent seasons,” said Parsons. “There is a really good mix of experience and enthusiasm.”
The horsepower under all five riders was impressive, but Parsons is picking Andrea Smith, 43, who rode the WEG test event last year, as the individual to watch.
“Her horse (Glenmore Tariq) is a real star and she has the quality to match that talent.”
Glenmore Tariq – Max – is 11 years old, 15 1/2hh purebred arabian gelding bred by the Smiths. They leased his sire, Shalom La Ish, and his dam, Four Winds Tayr, was the first purebred mare the Smiths owned. She is in foal again at rising 25.
Georgia Smith’s ride, Glenmore Vixen, is a nine-year-old anglo-arabian, also bred by the Smiths by Shalom La Ish, and out of a half arabian, half thoroughbred mare.
Susie Latta, 44, rides Tkiwa, an 11-year-old half-arabian, half-standardbred mare she bred herself. Tkiwa, who won won the recent South Island 160km Championships, has clocked up more than 2700km in endurance.
Nelson based Alison Higgins rode at the 201o World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. She has had the ride on Northwinds Apollo, an 11-year-old purebred arabian gelding by El Nazeer, since last year. Northwinds Apollo is owned and trained by Chris King, of Rangiora.
Information gathered at last year’s endurance test event is proving a valuable tool in preparation for the championships.
“It is not going to be a straight foot race in Normandy, which is great for teams like us,” Parsons said. “It’s going to require plenty of mental toughness, too.”
The best three scores count for the team tally.
It’s been a tricky run for the endurance riders. The national championships were abandoned at Easter because of dreadful weather, and a final selection run at Taupo was arranged for three weeks later. That meant some riders just missed out, unable to juggle other commitments and keep their horses in work.
But one of the biggest hurdles for the riders has not been making the team. Rather it will be in the required fund-raising to get their horses to France, and hopefully back. Each rider needs to raise around $60,000 – but some have already said they will probably have to sell their horses in Europe.
“These riders get minimal funding,” Parsons said. “We really do think, that for the long-term development of the sport, we would like these horses to come home … but that won’t be possible for all of them.”
For Sarah Harris, the strength of the team is an indicator of how far the endurance programme has come in the last two years.
“Two years ago we only had one combination qualified for the Endurance World Champs, so we are thrilled to have the ability to send a team like this to France,” she said.
She reiterates Parsons’ belief in Andrea Smith.
“She and her horse are the most exciting prospect ever sent offshore from New Zealand endurance. She could definitely go top 10 – it is a big ask, but I believe they could do it.”
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games run from August 23 to September 7 in Normandy, France.