Kelly leads the way

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Horse Of The Year

By Lisa Potter

Putaruru’s Kelly Van Dyk had good odds of finishing in the final Young Rider CDI-Y dressage line-up. After all, there were only four combinations in the field, with Van Dyk making up two of those, on her rides Wolhkahn and Marceau.

The Young Rider class at Horse of the Year has been plagued with problems, with mass scratchings leading up to the event resulting in only four combinations starting. Despite the small field, competition was still tight, featuring reigning National Young Rider Champion Kate Welten (Cambridge) and Amajah; South Island Young Rider Champion Catherine Tobin (Wellington) and Riverndell Romeo, along with Van Dyk, the most experienced rider, on her imported German gelding Wolhkahn and Jody Hartstone’s schoolmaster Marceau.

“I’m really pleased at how both horses handled the weekend,” says Van Dyk. “There were definitely some sticky patches but in the end it all came together.” It was far from a smooth run for Van Dyk. In fact, she looked unlikely even to start in the class after an unexpected dismount from a motorbike on the Horse of the Year grounds. A trip to hospital had one doctor keen to put her on crutches for four days – putting an end to her Horse of the Year campaign before it even started. However, after discovering her knee wasn’t broken, just badly bruised and swollen, she got the go ahead to compete. “It was pretty painful and I’ve managed on painkillers, but it certainly wasn’t an ideal lead up.”

Then in her first test on Wolhkahn, judges eliminated the combination, asking Van Dyk to leave the arena, deeming erratic behaviour from the horse as unsafe. “That was a bit of a shock,” says Van Dyk. “I would like to have ridden him through it if I could have but he did the same thing last year.” After regrouping, Van Dyk made a spectacular comeback to win both CDI-Y title classes on her spunky gelding. This time she harnessed his exuberance for an extravagant well ridden test, winning the Individual test on 65.05% and the Musical Freestyle on 65.82%.

Now in her fifth year competing in the Young Rider competition, Van Dyk’s experience showed. Last year she competed at the Sydney CDI with Wolhkahn. “Next year is my last year as a young rider, so it was really good to finally grab the title.” She also enjoyed great success on Marceau, loaned for the season by Grand Prix rider Jody Hartstone. In the CDI-Y Individual test, Van Dyk took first and second spot on Wolhkahn and Marceau respectively, scoring 65.05% on both, with just a fraction of a percent giving Wolhkahn the win. “It’s been really great to learn on Marceau this season. It’s helped improve my test riding having two horses at this level and having an experienced horse, as Wolkie is still quite green.”

For Kate Welten who has dominated at this level all season, suffering from a severe stomach bug all week hampered her focus, with a course error and mistakes in the CDI-Y costing dearly. However a better musical freestyle put her back at the top, finishing just half a percent behind Van Dyk on 65.22%, enough to give her the Reserve Champion title.

Young Rider Champion: Kelly Van Dyk, Wolhkahn Reserve Champion: Kate Welten, Amajah.