Good Friday saw things kicking off at the National Equestrian Centre, Taupo. Many competitors would have left home earlier in the week to ensure horses were well settled ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, two of the South Island horses were late scratchings for the 160 km event due to not being 100% so it was down to Ursula Keenan with Tokopuhe Iceberg and Heidi Bulfin with Stonelea Sparkling Rose to represent the south.

Holding the ride briefing ahead of the pre-ride inspection seems to kick things off nicely and means that people can plan when they take their horse out for a stretch, have dinner and go to bed. The forecast for the weekend was for rain starting at some point on the Sunday so we all had our fingers crossed that it would hold off till the competition was over.

The 16 combinations in the Senior 160 km class headed out at 1 am with the two Juniors heading out 15 minutes later. Loop A was 40 km and they rode this twice in the dark, the leaders coming in just after 3.30 am. The riders were very considerate and didn’t head home in groups larger than 5 at a time so things ran smoothly in the Vet Ring. Meanwhile the few horses in the 100 km Championship classes had headed out at 3 am. Sadly, horses were vetted out right from the first loop. Pip Mutch on Mauku Bella and Sue Reid with Kowhai Martini were leading the pack with Don Sagar on Wai Totara Moon Star hot on their heels. There were a group of riders aiming for a qualification with some making their first attempt and they kept up a steady pace. Amanda McConachy took a nasty tumble out on the second loop when her mare Makahiwi Geneca hit the deck and Amanda was knocked out. Those riding with her showed great sportsmanship to stop and help until the First Aid team (and then an ambulance) arrived and Ruth Dawber brought Geneca back to base where she was found to be none the worse for wear; Amanda however was unable to continue.

The field continued to diminish through every vet check in all the Championship classes with Daryl Owen (Miro Bonique) and Camille Champagne (Miro Lugh) having the bad luck to be eliminated after completing the full distance in the 160 km. Pip Ireland on Sayfwood Oshaarnna was pushing Ana Whitehead on Dundevale Nazecca but succumbed after the 5th leg leaving Ana and Naz to take both the North Island and National titles in the premiere JY class this season. Pip Mutch and Sue Reid treated the spectators to a hard fought gallop finish which Pip and Bella took out. Ruth and Miro Dusty Trails took out 3rd, followed by other first time qualifiers Jane Ferguson on Daagir, Georgia Smith on Glenmore Style Ish, and Ursula and Iceberg also earned their buckles. Mauku Bella was awarded Best Condition.

Lameness took its toll on the horses in the 102 km championship event with none managing to qualify. Everyone commented on how great the course had been and also how well marked it was so I don’t think we can blame the track for the casualties. Analysis of blood samples in the hospital showed that even some of the horses that hadn’t initially shown up as lame with no obvious signs of tying up did have significant muscle damage so the Treatment Vets were kept busy with rehydrating some of the horses to ensure a smooth recovery. The day had started very cold and then the fog set in (at least at ride base) as the sun came up before burning off to a beautiful day.

Novice 80 km classes, as well as novice and intro 40 and 22 km classes were also offered on Saturday with good completions in these events. The CTR Champs saw Paula Watson riding Tres Bein LS take out the Open Championship, Tammy Peacocke and Makahiwi Scimitar was Intermediate Champion, and Megan Perrott with Kyrewood Miss Marlie the Junior CTR Champion. The novice CTR 22 km class saw a few first-time competitors at a National Champs and they revelled in the atmosphere. Particularly worthy of mention was local Dunstan Horsefeeds rep Robyn Hirst who took her duties very seriously and sampled the course in this event with her mare Furstin Feliciano – great to see our sponsor fully participating in the event!

Sunday’s weather was very much a repeat of Saturday and the rain held off till the early hours of Monday. Ten combinations started in the Senior 120 km Championship class and three Juniors headed out after them. Lameness and tying up again hit the fields so well done to those who qualified. Sean Trafford and Prince Eligani SPA led the field from the start and looked marvellous throughout. Pippa Roberts and Wai Totara Rameriz rode their own race for second with Jenny Champion and Tararua El Dente taking third, and Deirdre Bartlett (Craig Royston Xmas Star) and Nadine Barker (Arahi Zinzan) teaming up on the last couple of loops to come in for 4th and 5th respectively. Sadly, none of the three Juniors made it to the end. Prince took out the Best Condition competition despite the distraction of a mare in season during the judging.

The last Championship class was well-contested with 8 Seniors and 3 Juniors. Trudi Thomas-Morton took line honours but Shirley Valentine was lame at the final vet check so the title went to Kylie Whiting and Jahdai Mona Lisa. Isla Mutch rode Sahar Park Moondance along with Pip Ireland and Hyforce SFW Blue-J in the Junior Intermediate Championship and took out the prize so the Mutch women returned home to Kohuratahi as National Champions – quite a pedigree there!

Fiona Stephen riding Arahi Courtship was first in the JY Open 80 km and the cutest combination of the weekend had to be Erin Adams riding Elvis (Misty Lea First Edition) in the 5 km lead rein class.

The whole event ran smoothly thanks to the hard work from the OC (ESNZ Endurance Board and Jo Lankow) with Jo the ever-efficient Event Secretary and ensuring all results were correct. Murray Smith led the way with developing the track (required many trips up there to check out possibilities in the weeks leading up to the event) with assistance from Stu & Marie Wakeling, Don Sagar, Shane Dougan, and Ed Wakeling for marking and unmarking. We had access to some great land and rode predominantly on Landcorp farms – Aratiatia Station and Tauhara blocks. Louisa Muir worked like a demon all weekend catering to feed the officials whilst running her restaurant in Ohakune, recovering from the lurgy picked up while overseas and chose to sacrifice her ride on Saturday to ensure that everything else could be accomplished. Vicky Whitehead, Sue Billigheimer and Deirdre Bartlett made up the Sponsorship Committee and out-did themselves with a great haul of sponsored prizes and class sponsors. Sharon Nisbett worked tirelessly behind the scenes with applications for grant funding, some of which came through thank goodness. The officials, vets and vet writers worked well together to ensure everyone’s day ran smoothly and that horse welfare was paramount. As commented by our Dunstan sponsor Robyn Hirst “Horse welfare is paramount at every stage – something Endurance should be very proud of indeed.”

Louisa with her team of Rosie and Steve put on a magnificent dinner and Marie handled the formalities of prize giving with aplomb – ably assisted by Hanna Whitehead. Winners of the raffles were announced and a good time was had by all. The rain finally came about 1.30 am Monday meaning it was a bit soggy for everyone to pack up and head home, battling the holiday traffic but I think even those who did not qualify all agreed that the 2019 Dunstan Horsefeeds ESNZ National Championships had been a great success.

The full list of sponsors:

  • A Pot of Courage
  • Bee Kind Beeswax
  • BJ Merino
  • Canterbury Endurance and Trail Riding Club Inc
  • Dreams and Schemes Raetihi (John & Amanda McConachy)
  • Dunstan Horsefeeds
  • Dynavyte
  • Equestrian Online in conjunction with Archer Equine & Amacron Equine
  • Equine Super Goo
  • Equisentials
  • Ethical Agents
  • Farmlands Taumarunui branch
  • Feed XL
  • Four Winds Foundation
  • Gallagher
  • Infinity Foundation
  • Kohuratahi Endurance Riding Club
  • Little Pot of Courage
  • M & J Farrier Supplies
  • Marlborough Endurance and Trail Riding Club
  • Massey University Veterinary Teaching Hospital
  • New Zealand Arabian Horse Society Inc.
  • New Zealand Quality Waters
  • NZ Racing Board
  • PGG Wrightson, Taumarunui branch
  • Phoenix Pharm
  • Provida
  • Pub Charity Ltd
  • Ruahine Endurance Club
  • Stallion Plastics
  • Supreme Arabian Endurance Stud
  • Syncroflex
  • Techni Ice
  • The Integral Group Ltd
  • The Southern Trust
  • Toft Endurance
  • Tokoroa & District Veterinary Services (Taupo Veterinary Clinic)
  • Wairarapa Endurance & CTR Club Inc.

By Jenny Weston

Full results at

Pip Mutch and Mauku Bella winners of the Senior 160km

Prince Eligani SPA, ridden by Sean Trafford won the Senior 120km

Winner of the JY 160km  Ana Whitehead and Dendevale Nazecca

Makahiwi Scimitar, ridden by Tammy Peacocke, winner of the CTR Intermediate

Isla Mutch and Sahar Park Moondance , winners of the Intermediate JY 62km