By Diana Dobson
It’s quality over quantity for the Larsen Sawmilling Showjumping Championships Premier Show being held at Showgrounds Park this week.
Horses, ponies, their riders and support crews are travelling from Hokitika in the south to Hikurangi in the north for the popular show.
One of the biggest drawcards to the annual January show is the Trans-Tasman Young Rider Test, which will run over all three days.
New Zealand has named Lucinda Askin (Ashburton), Matt Irvine (Takapau), Oliver Croucher (Rotorua) and Nakeysha Lammers (Taranaki) to line up against Aussies Jamie Priestley, Jessie Rice-Ward, Madeline Sinderberry and Jessica Tripp. All will compete on borrowed horses with points accumulating over the show.
Kiwi chef ‘equipe John Cottle is a big fan of team events for the nation’s budding stars.
“We don’t get enough of these team events – anything like this is great otherwise we ride only as individuals,” says the former Olympian who has previously been chef and trainer for the team. “This competition is very strong now. I think the Australians had 150 applicants for the team.”
But he has every confidence in the New Zealand team.
The riders themselves are all very excited and sure they can do well.
“We have a great team of riders, and so do the Australians, so it will be a very exciting event,” says Lammers, who was in the team last year. “It is such a fun event and a great experience being part of a New Zealand team.”
Askin was also in the team last year.
“It is such an honour to be able to compete with the silver fern on your jacket,” she said. “I am very excited.”
She has previously ridden for New Zealand in a junior team to South Africa in 2011.
Croucher is making the step up from reserve last year to the team.
“I’m stoked,” he said. “The only other young rider team I have been named in was the silver and black challenge at the Young Horse show last year.”
Irvine was over the moon to get the call-up.
“It was tough competition for the four spots,” said Irvine, who has also just been named on the short list for the Youth Olympic Games. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the phone call.”
This is Irvine’s first young rider representation but he previously rode for New Zealand in the Children’s FEI team in 2014.
Steffi Whittaker (Canterbury) is the reserve.
“It is a thrill to be selected,” said Whittaker, who has previously ridden for New Zealand in the FEI Children’s challenge in 2014, was reserve to go to Europe with the ESNZ British Pony Society International team in 2015, represented New Zealand in Morocco at the FEI World Jumping Final in 2016, and in the South Island young rider team to take on Victoria in both 2017 and 2018.
The annual Trans-Tasman Young Rider Challenge is always hotly-contested between the nations, with Australia taking the honours last year and New Zealand in 2016.
Australian John Vallance is designing the courses.