The National Equestrian Centre at Aratiatia, Taupo, hosts the third of three spring horse trials next weekend, Oct.30/31 & Nov.1, with the biggest and best field seen so far. Riders from throughout the North Island, and a handful from the South, will gather to compete in classes at six levels, with the top three levels contested under FEI (international) rules. Entries total 304, with a waiting list operating as withdrawals are received.


The top class, the Epona Biotec CCI4*-S has attracted 21 competitors, including former and aspiring Olympians on the High Performance squad. They will perform their dressage on Friday afternoon, showjump on Saturday, and go cross-country on Sunday.


2019 National Three-day winner, Madison Crowe, Matangi, on Waitangi Pinterest, will be challenged by close runner up Amanda Pottinger, Havelock North, on Just Kidding, but the favourite must be 2016 Olympian Clarke Johnstone, riding Balmoral Sensation, with whom he placed sixth at Rio, the best of the Kiwi team.


Johnstone, who mentors Crowe, also rides Aces High, his backup horse for next year’s Olympic campaign, on whom he won the Puhinui Three-day Event last December, while Eventer of the Year Bundy Philpott, Cambridge, who won the title on Tresca NZPH at Hastings just before lockdown, will be hoping to hold her form


Another to watch is diminutive Beth Wilson, Papakura, on her giant of a horse, Alto et Audax, who won the North Island title at Arran Station, Takapau, a fortnight ago. Wilson is the current holder of the Barbara Thomson Memorial Trophy for the best performed Young Rider in the Super League.


Former Olympian and winner of the Badminton Horse Trials in the UK, Jonathan (Jock) Paget, Taupo, who has just been appointed ESNZ High Performance general manager for all disciplines, will compete Green Eggs & Hammer, a talented European import. Jock says, “He’s a really nice horse, a work in progress, but I enjoy working with him.”


The cancellation of the National Three-day Event normally run at Taupo in May, but a casualty of Covid-19 this year, means all competitors are looking forward to the challenges FEI accredited cross-country course designer Chris Ross, Helensville, has set for them.


There will be no overseas officials, but internationally experienced judges Nicoli Fife and Virginia Tocher from the Waikato and Bill Phiskie from Otago will do the job. Likewise FEI accredited Phillipa Howells, also from the Waikato, will design the showjumping track.

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By Virginia Caro