The Taupo National Equestrian Centre played host over Wellington Anniversary weekend to the Dunstan Horsefeeds ESNZ Endurance 2020 North Island Champs.  The course was set and before the event even began the prize stage was set with wonderful feed products from Dunstan Horsefeeds taking centre stage.

Waikato Endurance Club were the hosts for this event and other sponsors included Syncroflex, BJ Merino, Lake Karapiro Lodge, TopStock International, AMS Saddlery and AWEC Endurance Club, Ruahine Endurance Club and NPC Health, Majestic Horse Floats, Putaruru Lucerne, Britta Booth Equestrian, HaHa Wine, and NZ Quality Waters.

The event, saw near perfect conditions for riding, with mild temperatures playing a role in a very good completion rate over the weekend, and an empty vet treatment area for the whole weekend. 

The first event for Champs was the Dunstan Horsefeeds 160km Championship.  The start list gave an indication of how the ride would most likely play out, and so it was, with last year’s title holder, Pip Mutch on Mauku Bella and Susan Reid on Kowhai Martini taking the lead from the outset.   Putting in a solid and steady performance these two built up a steady lead throughout the day.  A gallop finish saw Pip and Bella crossing the line first, taking the win and also Best Conditioned for the event in a time of 10:46:20, 14.85kph. A slight gait irregularity unfortunately but Sue and Kowhai Martini out at the last, leaving the way open for Sandra Warren and Craig Royston Zarita to take second place just over two hours later, followed by Andrea Smith on Glenmore Tornato In the horse’s first attempt at this distance.  Completing the senior field Mike Bragg, the oldest rider of the weekend at 77 years, and Miro Blaze of Glory took a well-earned and emotional fourth place, with teammate Daryl Owen on Miro Bonique taking fifth.  Junior rider Ana Whitehead and Dundevale Nazecca as the sole JY entry put in a consistent performance to take the JY 160km win and also Best Conditioned in a time of 12:58:01. 

Also on Saturday, starting at 4am was the 100km event.  Again the start list gave the clue to the expected running of the class, with some horses doing the distance for the first time.  Vicki Whitehead was first across the line, riding Craig Royston Zaria for the win in 6:33:20.  Trudi Thomas-Morton on her horse Shirley Valentine were next in to safely take second place, with the Murray Smith, Louisa Muir and Ola Schreurs completing the field.  In the JY class for the distance Grace Blyth and Supre Zerlina finished comfortably in 7:26:34

CTR was strongly contested this year.  The CTR Open 60km Championship was contested by Emma Watson on Supre Carissa and Perry Clark on Mozzie.  Finishing less than a minute over the optimum time and with superior heart rates the win went to Perry Clark and Mozzie. 

One of the biggest classes of the weekend was the CTR Intermediate 40km.  Heart rates told the story for the placings in this event.  Paula Watson and Tres Bein LS finished just 15 seconds over the optimum time, but were beaten into second place by the heart rate score of the ever impressive Makahiwi Phoenix and Maureen Davie.  Time faults differentiated third place from fourth, with Magda Dunowska and Aurora Midnight Diamond claiming third place from Anna Graham on Aspen Hills Sihra. 

Ashlea Watson and Candy, uncontested in the Junior CTR 40km Championship, finished with time faults but great heart rates kept the overall finishing score low for a deserved win. 

The Novice 20km CTR saw Stella Hansen on 2 Sox taking the win, again with heart rates telling the story.  Cristina Rax-Johnson and Kowhai Pizzaz claimed second,  ahead of Antoinette Arnott on Firefly and Sue Drinnan on Arahi Patience.

Sunday’s riding started at 3am with the Syncroflex 120km Championship.  A late change of rider saw Patricia Ireland starting in the Senior 120km class on Jane Ferguson’s horse Daagir.  A relationship was soon established, which saw the pair successfully through all loops and into first place in a time of 8:14:41, comfortably ahead of second placegetter Jenny Champion on Tararua El Dente. Daagir was also awarded Best Conditioned for the event.  Riding together throughout the day, Georgia Smith on Glenmore Style ish  and Sian Reid on Glendaar Splash of Fire finished comfortably for third and fourth.

The Taupo terrain has been renowned in past years for a relatively high non-completion rate, lameness often telling a tale of hard ground.  Saturday’s classes this year were notable for having only one vet out.  As often happens the second day of competition saw more non-completions, but none for metabolic issues.  The BJ Merino JY 120km Championship saw three young riders take to the field. Lameness saw Emma Watson leave the field at the end of the third loop, and Ana Whitehead at the end.   Picking up the ride on Miro Dusty Trails a week before the event, Fiona Stephen rode to instruction and judged the pace well, in her first attempt at the distance, to win the class with impressive ride stats and Best Conditioned as well.

A course error by some of the 80km riders left Shane Dougan and Tararua Red as the winners uncontested in the NPC 80km senior event, with all others in the field riding successfully for completion. 

This year’s Intermediate 60km Championship was a two horse race between Phil Goldsmith and Goldie Rox, and Maureen Davie and Makahiwi Phoenix.  With a championship win under the girth already for the weekend another shot at the 40km track was a piece of cake for Phoenix, taking a comfortable win in just over four hours (coincidentally almost the same ride time as the previous day’s 40km win).  A great result for this impressive mare.  A successful finish for Phil and Goldie Rox also saw them take second place.

Thanks to all crew and officials over the weekend and congratulations to all riders for a relaxed and successful Dunstan Horsefeeds ESNZ Endurance 2020 North Island Championship event.

  Daryl Owen

Photos by Dave and Cerian Owen

Pip Mutch riding Mauku Bella (left) racing Sue Reid and Kowhai Martini
to the finish line to win  the Senior 160km

Ana Whitehead and Dundevale Nazecca (left) winner of the CEI YJ 3* 160km
riding here with Andrea Smith on Glenmore Tornato

Pip Ireland and Daagir, winners of the Senior 120km

JY 120km winner, Fiona Stephen and Miro Dusty Trails

Maureen Davie  and Makawihi Phoenix winning the Senior 60km