The Kelt Capital Horse of the Year Junior Equitation Team arrived in South Africa on Tuesday morning after a 26 hour journey - 11 hours Auckland to Hong Kong, three hours transfer then 12 hours to Johannesburg. We were met by our delightful hosts Angie Meredith, Lynda Kirchmann and Brian Noach, and whisked away to private Game Lodge in two Mercedes vans. The lodge was sumptuous but sympathetic to the High Veld environment, with a thatched roof, large deck looking out over the bush/savanna, cool floors and ceiling fans. That evening and the following morning we went on safari in open-backed Landrovers, and saw plentiful antelopes, wildebeest, baboons, buffalo, warthogs, ostriches, and even elephant and rhino roaming freely within the 13 000 hectare reserve.
The next day the weather turned, and we drove back to Johannesburg in a terrific electrical storm before checking in to Farm Inn - a lovely stone and thatched roof resort with numerous lions and other animals in adjacent enclosures creating interesting night-time noises. The team comprises Chloe Akers, Stacey Anderson, Rachael Bentall, Letice Carey and Amber McGovern-Wilson (reserve). Cherie Carey is the manager, and Stephen Bentall the Chef d'Equipe. The accompanying parents Jayne Akers, Sue Batchelor, Denise Bentall and Adrienne McGovern-Wilson, and the NZ Judge Claire Simpson stayed separately in town.
A cocktail party was held on the Thursday night to welcome the teams from the UK,Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with a formal welcome from Tony Lewis, Chairman of the South African National Equestrian Federation who showed great support for the competition. The hospitality was superb.
On Friday all the teams enjoyed the day together at the Sun City theme park, returning to Farm Inn for dinner and a managers meeting.
The competition itself began today with an In-Hand showing class, won by the Australian Team, followed by a dressage test, won by the UK Team. The Kelt Capital Horse of the Year Team came third and second respectively, and are thus in third place overall at present, with two further classes to go tomorrow (Rider class, and Working Hunter). Letice Carey had a very good day, coming second in the In-Hand showing, and first in the Dressage. The loan horses were generally good, with some exceptions, but it is certainly a test of a rider's skill to adapt quickly to an unfamiliar mount and bring out the best in it.
The Kelt Capital Horse of the Year team is in good spirits, greatly enjoying the interaction with the other international teams, and intends competing strongly tomorrow as we can still win the competition. Regards, Stephen Bentall.