Youth wins over experience

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Horse Of The Year

It was well worth the trip from Blenheim for teenager Nicola French. The 17-year-old beat off riders with vastly more experience to win the Level 3 Horse of the Year title.

Her enormous imported German gelding Don Freese packs a powerful punch in the dressage arena, with energetic exuberant paces. Although she finished second in both title classes, her consistency was enough to give her the overall win. “I’m just delighted,” she said, “It has been a really cool show and his training has improved so much even since Nationals two weeks ago.” French had to settle for Reserve Champion at the recent Bates National Championships, with the win going to Taranaki’s Vanessa Way and KH Allandro.

This week the tables were turned and Way had to take Reserve Champion, with a win and a third placing in the title classes. Despite the distance, French travelled home to Blenheim from the Feilding Nationals to get in another week’s training with her coach Diane Wallace. “That really paid off,” she says. “I’ve trained with her since my first lesson as a seven-year-old.” Level 3 Horse of the Year: Nicola French (Blenheim), Don Freese Reserve Champion: Vanessa Way, KH Allandro.