Top dressage combos make appearance

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Horse Of The Year

It was quite a moment today as the entire Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds drew to a total halt, to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the Christchurch earthquakes. The abrupt halt of the clatter of showjumping rails, roar of the crowd and sudden silence as hundreds of spectators and competitors joined in unison to honour the earthquake disaster was a moving and sombre experience.

Classes then continued in the Tumu Rural Buildings Oval, with the top echelon of the dressage competitors finally making a show. It was a closely stacked top three in the FEI Intermediate I, with less than one percent in it. Kumeu’s Wendi Williamson took the win on 64.07%, with Te Awamutu’s Christine Weal and her new mount Spielzeit just behind on 63.81%, a course error proving costly. Andrea Bank (Auckland) with Limonit finished third on 63.55% and Jody Hartstone (Raglan) took fourth on her 20-year-old stallion Donnerwind 5, downgraded this season from Grand Prix to Prix St Georges, finishing on 62.96%.

The Grand Prix class gave a taste of what is to come with the two title classes tomorrow and Sunday. Today’s warm up test doesn’t count towards the Horse of the Year title, but was a chance for the combinations to acclimatise to what is the most high octane atmosphere of the season. Reactions varied and many had problems, with dressage horses reacting strongly to the showjumping action next door.

It was former Olympian Louisa Hill (Auckland) who contained her super expressive superstar Bates Antonello for a convincing win on 65.42%. The rest of the class were fairly closely clustered, Penny Castle (Palmerston North) and Gymstar One squeaking into second place on 63.47%, just ahead of Vanessa Way (Taranaki) and KH Arvan. In fourth place was crowd favourite Ottilie Upshall (Rotorua) with Tama Park Bradman on 62.81%. The Young Rider classes was one of the smallest ever held at Horse of the Year, with several scratchings in the lead up to the event.

Just a small field of four presented to the judges, and even they were not on top form. Putaruru’s Kelly Van Dyk nursing an injured knee after an unexpected motorbike dismount earlier in the week on the showgrounds and Cambridge National Young Rider Champion Kate Welten spent the morning battling with a severe stomach bug. In the end Welten managed a safe solid test on board Amajah to take the win on 63.68%, with Van Dyk slotting into second place on Marceau with 62.42%.

The pair have gone head to head all season – and Van Dyk’s second ride on her top hope Wolhkahn went anything but according to plan. The pair were belled by the judge and asked to leave the arena, with the judges deeming the horse to be a danger after it repeatedly reared. South Island Champion Catherine Tobin had to settle for third place, with a few mistakes proving costly, for a final score of 57.19%. The Young Riders have yet to compete in the Individual and Musical freestyle tests to decide the overall Horse of the Year Champion.