New Zealand’s endurance team heading for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games leave for France this afternoon.
The riders – Georgia and Andrea Smith (Mangaweka), Alison Higgins (Nelson), Braden Cameron (Wellington) and Susie Latta (Otago), with chef d’equipe Tony Parsons (Taupo) – leave on Wednesday afternoon, with their horses heading out later in the day.
The Smiths are the first mother and daughter combination to represent the sport at an equestrian championship together, and at 17 years old, Georgia is believed to be the youngest on a national endurance team.
It is the second time Higgins has ridden for New Zealand at a World Equestrian Games.
Palmerston rider Susie Latta has had the longest trip, with her horse Tkiwa starting the journey north on July 28 to head to the transport base in Karaka. Latta, from the Nenthorn Valley in Otago, lives 50km from the nearest shop and 100km from “anywhere”.
One of the biggest challenges for the riders has been to raise about $60,000 each, the amount needed to take their horses to Europe and bring them home again. Each has organised fund raising activities and sold products to help fund their trip.
Six months ago, Susie Latta told her bank manager that she wanted to make the top three endurance riders in the South Island.
And now, the 44-year-old will make her début in the New Zealand team at the World Equestrian Games.
“I thought that (making the team) was just way too big a goal,” she says.
“To make the team is just out of this world for me.”
Riding Tkiwa, her home-bred arabian-standardbred cross mare, Latta won the 160km South Island Championships earlier this year, and were second in the final WEG selection race at Taupo.
Joining her as grooms at the Games is a team of three comprising husband Logan, Pauline King from Cust, and Helen Graham, from Makikihi.