New Zealand Black Oceania representative Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Rui compete in the cross country of the DVS Home Ventilation CCI4*-L Championship class at the New Zealand Three Day Event Championships at the National Equestrian Centre in Taupo on Saturday, May 11, 2019. Credit: Diana Dobson/The Black Balloon

Samantha Lissington is the queen of cool when challenging a tough cross country track but delay the arrival of her UK visa and she’s a bundle of nerves.

“It’s been such a waiting game just getting everything in order for our departure,” say the 27-year-old Matangi eventer who with husband Brayden is about to embark on a two-year mission to the UK . . . with four horses in tow. “Initially we were just taking two but we’ve decided to take a big leap of faith and bring the young horses as well.”

The worst case scenario is that they have to sell the young ones within six months, but the best case is that they get to keep the team of four by gathering together more people who want to join their journey. “This way the young horses become a bit of an insurance policy for me to recoup some costs if need be, without jeopardising the campaigns of the older ones.”

Heading offshore with her will be 10-year-old Ricker Ridge Rui (with new part-owners the Quigley Family, while Samantha fronts the other half), who won the CCI4*-S at the Kihikihi International Horse Trials; eight-year-old Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ (owned by Pip McCarroll and Samantha), who recently won the CCI3*-L crown at the New Zealand Three Day Event Championships; six-year-old Ricker Ridge Valentina (owned by Catherine Jauffret and Samantha), and six-year-old Ricker Ridge Ricochet (owned by Samantha) who won the Young Event Horse Championship at Taupo last month.

“It’s a little frustrating as we should already be on the ground and riding by now,” said Samantha.

Initially the team were meant to fly on June 12 but that was changed and brought back to June 5 leaving things a little tight for Samantha’s UK visa. Part of the application process was biometric testing but with no appointments available in Auckland until June 6, she had to fly to Wellington just to get her fingerprints done.

“It’s a two-year working holiday visa that is meant to be straight forward but everything took longer than it should have and I was on edge the whole time.” Without an email to confirm she had the visa – it was promised within five days – Samantha wasn’t game to send the horses on ahead, and instead had to wait for the visa to arrive via snail mail.

So now, the whole team – Samantha and husband Brayden included – will fly today (June 26) going via Melbourne, Singapore and Abu Dhabi before touching down in Heathrow and heading to Virginia Thompson’s base in the Cotswolds. It is costing $16,500 plus taxes and duty to transport each horse.

“I am so excited now that we are finally off but I’ve been pretty anxious up to this point. It’s perfect that we are going to Ginny’s base. We are good friends and she knows the lay of the land. She will also stop me from making any dumb mistakes!”

Samantha and Brayden are looking forward to what they are describing as “the biggest adventure” of their lives. Brayden recently left his job with New Zealand Football. As the Futsal – the official indoor version of football – Development Officer for Waikato Bay of Plenty, Brayden introduced the first leagues across the region in 2012. There are now 300 teams ranging in age from under-9 to open, contributing to a sport with 30,000 registered players throughout New Zealand. A nine-year veteran for the national team, Brayden has his sights set on helping New Zealand qualify for the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

However, there is just one spot available for Oceania and to make the worlds New Zealand must beat the Solomon Islands – a big ask against a team who has made the last three world cups. And while he has the next worlds on his radar, he’s not sure how much longer he will continue to play.

“I am getting a bit old and can’t keep playing as long as Sam can keep riding,” he says with a laugh.

Meanwhile his wife most certainly has the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on her horizon. “We would be silly not to have a crack at Tokyo,” she says. “Anyone with a horse at that level should be keeping it in mind because we all want the strongest New Zealand team at 2020 that we can possibly have, so the more combinations we have aiming for it, the better quality our team will be.”

Samantha is tilting Ricker Ridge Rui to Burghley and Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ to the eight and nine-year-old class at Blenheim. “Those are two of our big goals of the season.” And while there has been a whole lot of thumb twiddling contemplating the smaller stuff, it is now finally D-Day for the Lissingtons.

By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison