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The Aussies are on their way for what many of them will hope is a raiding tour.

At least 22 of Australia’s top combinations are this week en route to New Zealand for the first part of the Long White Cloud Tour, which starts at the new Ride the Rhythm event in Dunedin in early February and finishes at the 2013 New Zealand Horse of the Year Show in Hastings in March.

The tour is the brainchild of EventPro director Kevin Hansen, who put together seven events to entice the best from across the Tasman.

He’s pretty chuffed with just who is loading horses onto planes to be part of it all and stake a claim on more than $350,000 in prize money.

“It’s so exciting to have this kind of interest in our shows,” says Hansen. “It raises the calibre of the whole competition for everyone.”

He and his team have input into four of the events on the Long White Cloud Tour.

“We want to give the Aussies a good lead-in to the Horse of the Year Show.”

Two of those combinations – Alison Rowlands and Rory Hovell – are using the tour as the start of their 2014 World Equestrian Championships campaigns, and will be heading straight to Europe after their New Zealand competitions.

Also heading this way are Jamie Winning, Jamie Kermond, Sarah Isbister, Emily Hovell, James Arkins, Paula Hamood, Billy Raymont, Sharon Slater, Tyrone Latham, Jack Maunder, London Olympian Matt Williams and more.

Several of those riders are well-performed on this side of the ditch, and pose serious risk to any Kiwi keen to hold on to the nation’s top titles.

Included on the tour are the New Zealand National Showjumping Championships and the Canterbury Championships, which are both in Christchurch, followed by the one star Manfeild Park in Feilding, the three star Taranaki Showjumping Championships in Hawera, and Showjumping’s Holy Grail – the first of the trans Tasman tests – being held at the Church Road Winery in Hawke’s Bay, which is the weekend before the Horse of the Year Show.

And there is plenty of prize money up for grabs too, with two $50,000 grand prix in Dunedin, with $70,000 on the line for anyone who can clear 2.21-metres.. In Christchurch there is the $12,000 prize purse for the 1.4-1.6m national championship, with another $3,000 at the Canterbury Champs. Hawera also has a $3,000 grand prix and of course the tour winds up with the big stakes at the Horse of the Year Show - $200,000 in the Olympic Cup and $50,000 in the Silver Fern Stakes, among others.

The National Championships and Horse of the Year Show also carry huge prestige with the titles that are on the line.

“We had interest from Australia from riders keen to come over for a few events, so have put this together to help them,” says Hansen, who based it on the Sunshine Tour held in both Spain and Florida.

Fingers are crossed on both sides, that the tour will become an annual fixture on everyone’s calendars.