Antonio Matangi is still pinching herself after winning two show hunter crowns and placing runner-up in a third. “It is pretty surreal to be honest,” she says. “I have no words to describe how I am feeling!”
The 23-year-old from Levin has never won a series before but she and Shoeshine Polish were the leaders of the pack, taking out the NRM Open High Points Series and ESNZ Show Hunter Amateur High Points Series and placing second in the Petticoat Lane Adult Equitation Series.
But it almost didn’t happen. “Just before Christmas it looked like my season had come to an end when I had a really unfortunate fall and ruptured my ACL and tore my meniscus in two places, so I had a month out. Luckily it was over the Christmas break.”
She was determined to be back in the saddle for the first show of 2021. “People probably thought I was a bit mad but it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would!”
Their success is all the more impressive because Antonio says Polly – as the horse is known at home – is a tad unorthodox. “I have to work quite hard to get him to the right spot.”
She has had the 15-year-old for nearly nine years. “He was a showjumper before I got him. I wanted to pursue showjumping but that hasn’t really happened.”
She and her sister went to an event together. Antonio thought there was going to be showjumping there as well as show hunter but there wasn’t. However, that didn’t stop them going out and giving it a go. “We placed in the classes and that kickstarted my love for show hunter . . . and I’ve never left!”
She loves the technicality of the discipline. “You are always thinking . . . not just about yourself as the rider, but also about your horse, how they will get to the fence, how they will take off, and everything else.”
Polly can be a bit spooky but when his head is in the game he is cool, calm and collected according to his owner. “He is a real character and quite the chilled dude . . . when he isn’t spooking at things he shouldn’t be!”
It was very tight across all three series coming into the finals, with no room for anything to be out of place. “I don’t get nerves as to where I am going to place, but more about how I will get to the fence. The amateur (grand final) round was probably the best one Polly did all weekend. It is so good, especially when you consider he isn’t the most technically correct horse. I couldn’t be happier.”
She says she is inspired by the likes of Merran Hain who she rides against in the amateur. “I hope that when I am Merran’s age I am still out there doing it – she is a legend.”
Antonio is currently in her last year of a Bachelor of Business, with a double major in marketing and management. When not studying, she works for her parents. She’s also a keen hunter with eight-year-old My Delta and 12-year-old Marua, on whom she finished sixth in the ESNZ Show Hunter Amateur High Points Series.
“I am so lucky to have had overwhelming support from my parents throughout the whole season. I am pretty dam grateful to have them and my siblings too.”
NRM Open High Points Series: Antonio Matangi (Levin) Shoeshine Polish 54 points 1, Michaelee Head (Cambridge) Miss Mandy 50 points 2, Lauren Mitchell (Kumeu) Craighaven Black Heart 47 points 3, Anna Parsons (Takapau) Snapchat Me 42 points 4, Merran Hain and Lisa Coupe (Gisborne/Cambridge) Untouchable 39 points 5, Macey Gill (Auckland) Aston Martin II 37 points 6.
ESNZ Show Hunter Amateur High Points Series: Antonio Matangi (Levin) Shoeshine Polish 50 points 1, Stephie Smith (Taupo) Disney 45 points 2, Merran Hain (Gisborne) Untouchable 44 points 3, Emily Twort (Kumeu) Cameo KSNZ 43 points 4, Kate Mullins (Ohoka) Cowboy Cool 42 points 5, Antonio Matangi (Levin) Marua 41 points 6.
NRM Open High Points Series Grand Final Class: Lauren Mitchell (Kumeu) Marokopa CJ 1, Lucas Bremner (Northland) LT Holst Francis 2, Anna Parsons (Takapau) Snapchat Me 3, Emily Twort (Kumeu) Cameo KSNZ 4, Libby Wilson (Taupo) Hokey Pokey 5.
ESNZ Show Hunter Amateur High Points Series Grand Final Class: Jacqui Symes (Waipukurau) Takapoto Sienna 1, Kate Mullins (Ohoka) Cowboy Cool 2, Emily Twort (Kumeu) Cameo KSNZ 3, Antonio Matangi (Levin) Shoeshine Polish 4, Kate Ward (Waipukurau) Meersbrooke Fire ‘N’ Ice 5.
By Diana Dobson
13 April 2021