New Zealand’s best performed eventer at the Rio Olympics, Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation, return to top level competition at the National Equestrian Centre, Taupo, this weekend.
They have had a gentle build up in lower level classes this season, following injury in the Nations Cup at Aachen last year, which prevented them competing at the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina.
275 competitors from throughout the North Island will contest the annual spring short format event, sponsored this year by Rotorua business Oro Equestrian. Six levels of competition are being staged, with the top classes run under FEI (international) rules.
Chris Ross (Helensville), course designer for the long format three-day event in May, is designing the cross-country tracks for the top classes, with 17 combinations entered in the CCI4*-S and 26 in the CCI3*-S. Visiting British Ground Jury Member Janet Surr is officiating for these two classes.
As well as his stunning grey gelding, Johnstone (Matangi) also rides Deo Volente in the top class, a horse he brought back from the UK and has high hopes for. He will be challenged by a strong field including former Olympians and young guns.
Donna Edwards-Smith (Te Kauwhata) has three rides, while veterans Matthew Grayling (New Plymouth) on NRM Trudeau and Heelan Tompkins (Rotorua) on Oranoa Greyson are producing relative newcomers..
Former Young Rider champions Beth Wilson (Papakura) and Abbey Thompson (Te Kauwhata) are also cutting their teeth at this level, but the one to watch is Monica Oakley (Karaka) on Acrobat following a sensational season last autumn.
Renee Faulkner (Papakura), who won the Barbara Thomson Memorial Trophy for the best performed Young Rider in the Eventing Super League last year, rides Rubinstar HH, who was bred to do dressage but prefers to jump!
The dressage and showjumping tests take place on Friday and Saturday, and the cross-country on Sunday. Admission is free, and dogs are welcome, but must be on leads. Food and drink stalls will cater for all comers.
By Virginia Caro
Photo: Libby Law Photography
In addition to the CCI4*-S and CCI3*-S the event is also running CCN3*, CCI2*, CCN2*, CCN105, 95 and 80 short format classes. Auckland based cross country course designer, Mike Guilfoyle, is making his debut designing at the NEC Taupo as part of his official development programme. This event is one of two assessments that Mike requires to become an FEI listed course designer.