Taupo continues to attract some of New Zealand’s very best equestrians with showjumping Olympian Colin McIntosh and his wife Toni the latest to move to the central North Island town.
The couple have been based in California for the past 15 years, running a very successful equestrian training and competition business. While it had always been on the radar to move back Down Under, it all happened a little sooner than they had anticipated.
About 18 months ago they were approached by someone wanting to buy their business with the view of Toni and Colin remaining on for a few more years to ease them into it. The Menlo Park operation – just 45 minutes south of San Francisco –takes up to 250 horses in training, boasts an 800m sand track and a huge indoor. Over the years, Toni and Colin trained and competed from the West Coast base, while also travelling the world running clinics and buying and selling horses through McIntosh Global Equestrian with bases in California and Germany.
Last year, while in New Zealand, they happened to visit the Taupo Christmas Classic at the National Equestrian Centre. “We were blown away by the improvements made, the number of participants and the member support,” says Colin. “We both felt the indoor arena was a fantastic asset for equestrian sport in New Zealand and wanted to get involved.”
They’ll be there at the show next week (December 19-22) as a major sponsor, supporting the cash-rich McIntosh Global Equestrian Horse 1.3m Special in the indoor arena as part of the entertainment on Thursday evening. “We put a lot of thought into which class we would sponsor at the show and have gone with one in the indoor because I think people will learn to ride better when they do so in smaller areas.”
They’ve also been using the facility for their popular Jump Club Clinics. The Jump Club has been set up as a fun way of training with both Toni and Colin in the arena to help if and when needed. Riders can also bring their own trainers if they prefer. The courses are set to encourage quality jumping at whatever level that may be.
The couple know only too well the pressures and necessities of competing at top level. Colin and Gigolo were at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 as part of New Zealand’s second ever showjumping team alongside Maurice Beatson on Jefferson Junior, Sir Mark Todd on Bago and Harvey Wilson with Crosby. The team placed 12th. John Cottle aboard Ups & Downs competed as individuals. Toni has been consistently placed in the big Grand Prix in the United States including victory in the Sonoma Grand Prix. While she has been sidelined for 18 months with three hip surgeries, she’s not discounting trying to earn a silver fern for a future Olympic Games. Together they have brought many talented riders through to be successful in the competition arena. Colin is the father of top New Zealand showjumper Samantha McIntosh who has ridden at both Olympic and World Champs level.
“Geographically, New Zealand battles with getting people out of the country,” says Colin, “so it needs to be absolutely as good as it can be here. In the last 15 years we have been to shows all over the world and have a broad feeling for what may work here – a New Zealand model of what is internationally successful.”
Both Toni and Colin are relishing working again with Kiwis. “It has been super refreshing,” says Toni. They see the huge advantages New Zealand horses grow up with, generally due to such a unique environment. “They are mentally tough too, which is not always the case in purpose-bred horses offshore. Many are not as tough as Kiwi horses,” says Colin.
And they are looking forward to seeing more Kiwi-bred horses in action at the Taupo Christmas Classic (December 19-22).
By Diana Dobson
12th December 2019