Amberley eventer Annabel Wigley spearheads a young but talented team to take on the Australians in the Senior Trans Tasman Competition at the Kihikihi International Horse Trial tomorrow (Friday).
Wigley aboard NRM Enzo along with Christen Hayde (Pukekohe) on Tandarra Sweet As, Simon Gordon (Auckland) on Simply Mitch, and Aussie-based Kiwi Joe Waldron aboard Springvale All Black were named after today's (Thursday) trot-up for the Waipa Home of Champions CIC three star class, which includes the trans Tasman competition.
While none of those named has ever ridden for a senior New Zealand team, Wigley has some top international experience under her belt, including a seventh-place finish at Burghley and being first reserve for the Olympics and in final squads for World Champs. She also recently won the New Zealand Eventer of the Year title.
Gordon has twice ridden for New Zealand at young rider level, while Hayde won both the national one day championships and Puhinui three star last year. Waldron has some solid results to his credit from across the Tasman, including wins in two three star events.
In naming the team, chairman of selectors Andrew Scott said it was the hardest team they'd ever had to pick.
With six in the squad, Scott said he felt for the two – Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata) on Henton Executive and Brent Jury (Canterbury) on SE Big – who would ride as individuals. Wrigley will also ride NRM Frog Rock as an individual.
“You could throw a blanket over the six. The two (who missed out) still have a lot to ride for and can prove us wrong,” he said. “Picking a team like this is much harder than picking the All Blacks because the ones we don't pick still go out and compete!”
Riders will face the dressage phase of the event on Friday, with the cross country on Saturday and showjumping on Sunday.
Scott said the John Nicholson-designed cross country course was certainly up with the world's best. “It's an accumulative kind of course where things just keep on coming at you. Some of those fences would be up to Badminton and Burghley standard. “With a course like this, it's important to keep your horse's confidence up otherwise you'll end up running into trouble later.” Riders would be tested right from the start, and face 36 obstacles over the 4080 metres. “It's just what we want for a trans Tasman clash.”
The Australians have named a very strong team in former Olympian Shane Rose, who has twice ridden at Kihikihi but never managed to claim the crown, along with Natalie Blundell, Christine Bates and Katja Weimann.
Several of the Australian team are trying to stake claims for spots in the team for the London Olympics, while the Kiwi crew are very much looking more to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“I'd like to think one or two of this squad will be there,” says Scott.
The Kihikihi International Horse Trial is one of the nation's premier events, and has attracted nearly 300 entries across six grades.
Entry to the Kihikihi Domain is free, although there will be a gold coin collection at the gate.
Saturday’s cross country will be “the” day for those keen to catch the excitement of the event. The three star class will run through the middle of the day, but there will be competitors on the course from 8..30am through to late afternoon. Spectator Hill offers the best vantage point of the water jumps.
Those keen to be a little more involved can take part in Sunday’s (April 8) 4km Newstalk ZB Fools and Horses Fun Run which rolls over the actual cross country course.
What: The Kihikihi International Horse Trial – incorporating the Senior Trans Tasman Teams Competition
Where: Kihikihi Domain
When: April 6, 7, 8, 2012
Date Added: Thursday, 5th April 2012