Top Kiwi showjumper Samantha McIntosh never thought 2020 would be the year of massive change for her.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games postponed and the whole world caught up in the COVID-19 turmoil, she has decided it is time to leave Europe and head to her Cambridge base.
“I am totally gutted the Olympic Games have been postponed, but there was obviously no other option,” she said from her French base. Sam moved to Aix en Provence in December to put the finishing touches to her Olympic campaign with celebrated jumper Gilles Bertran de Balanda. “I had thoughts of an ideal preparation for Tokyo in mind.”
But now, it is a whole new ballgame as international shows are cancelled, borders shut and countries in lockdown.
“With all this taken into account and in agreement with the Plaw family about what our next best steps forward are, I’ve made the decision to be New Zealand based again.”
She is bringing three of her four horses home with her too – her star WEG stallion, 17-year-old Check In 2 will move to Belgium to base with Tal Milstein Stallions where he will start his breeding career. “I am excited to say frozen semen will be available to breeders in New Zealand in the near future,” says Sam.
Eleven-year-old James S, 10-year-old Alaid de Chez Nous and seven-year-old New Zealand warmblood Malarkey will all come home with her. Both James S and Alaid de Chez Nous are competing successfully at 1.45m with youngster Malarkey having benefited with plenty of extra training at home during the lockdown.
“I will be diving head first – hopefully not literally – into working with Takapoto’s young horses.”
She extended a big thanks to Cheleken Equestrian, Jaime (Tiller), Oliver (Croucher) and Shanna (Lee) for all the work they had put into the rising stars.
“Of course I would still love to be part of any New Zealand Olympic and World Champs teams but it will be a home-based operation for the time being with eyes on some Australian trips to supplement the season.”
Sam is so looking forward to being back in her own house in Cambridge. “It has been a life of small apartments, horse trucks and the road for me in Europe since returning here in 2014. One of the best things about coming home will of course be getting to spend more time with my family and close friends.”
She knows she will miss the big shows of Europe but is excited that the level of sport in New Zealand is now strong with some super-talented young riders at the helm.
“However, there are still many titles I would like to have a crack at!”
Sam is a veteran of four World Equestrian Games, with an 11th individual placing in 2002 her best effort and rode at the Sydney Olympic Games for Bulgaria. She also placed 13th in the FEI World Cup Final in 2000.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ