Louisa Hill Draws The Crowd

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Horse Of The Year

The elite of New Zealand’s dressage came out to play at today’s Horse of the Year Show, the crowds significantly swelling as fans gathered to watch Louisa Hill and Bates Antonello, New Zealand’s sole dressage rider to have qualified so far for the London Olympics.

Displaying their trademark elegance, Hill and Bates Antonello did not disappoint, winning by a clear margin on 68.68%, followed by the next cluster of riders separated by less than a couple of percent; Bill Noble and Airthrey Highlander (63.36%), Nicky Pope and Fabarchie (62.55%), Hannah Appleton and Fiber Fresh Zactac (62.36%) and Kieryn Walton and Saraceni (61.60%). With a score of 70% from international judge Peter Engel, it was a solid start for Louisa Hill, and the crowd were equally delighted, showing their appreciation with huge applause as she left the arena.

Louisa however was modest as ever, saying that she was just focusing on riding the horse and asking some questions of him.For fellow Grand Prix rider Nicky Pope it was a fantastic start to the show, her third place as stark contrast to her previous two years, where she was forced to retire after her horse reacted strongly to the HOY atmosphere. This year the pair looked relaxed and unflappable and made it smoothly through their 'bogey corner' overlooking the show jumping arena. Bill Noble and Airthrey Highlander are always a crowd favourite, with many appreciating the horse's unlikely dressage breeding - the striking horse is a Clydesdale cross thoroughbred stallion and much heavier than his finer counterparts.

Also deserving a mention was the much improved combination of Hannah Appleton and Fiber Fresh Zactac Graceful, showing some real moments of harmony and quality.And with an international trip to Australia under their belt, Kieryn Walton and Saraceni have stepped up their game, their fluid test showing plenty of solid promise.

Tomorrow (Saturday) promises plenty of tight competition as the country's best go head to head for the HOY Dressage Horse of the Year title