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Photo: Vanessa Way at HOY 2013 by Libby Law Photography

Dressage queen Vanessa Way will be back to defend her title.

The full time rider from Taranaki last year won the GJ Gardner CDI*** FEI Grand Prix Freestyle title aboard her stunning NRM KH Arvan.

He’s her love who she took to Europe in her quest to make the London Olympics. It didn’t pan out, but she based herself with dressage maestro Carl Hester, who has become more than just a trainer to her.

He’s a mentor and mate, and is helping her pave the way towards her next pinnacle event.

Forty-one-year-old Way has done incredibly well at HOY over the years, including twice winning the Dressage Horse of the Year crown, along with most of the grades.

While Way has most definitely ridden the highs and lows of the world of horses in the past three years, she says it has made her stronger.

A year training with Hester has seen her do things quite differently now.

At the 2014 show she is bringing just two horses – NRM KH Arvan and NRM KH Allandro.

“It is going to be a quiet show for us this year but the good part of that is that I get to see my pupils ride and catch up with friends, sponsors and supporters,” says Way.

Fifteen-year-old Arvan will do three tests in the grand prix.

As much as Way loves the atmosphere of HOY, Arvan hates it.

“He is definitely more on target this year, and going better than ever, but whether we can keep that in the ring is another story. He doesn’t overly love HOY. Things there make him so nervous, but he is fit and is good and ready, and if others are better on the day, then that is the sport.”

Also lining up at HOY is nine-year-old Allandro who won all his classes at HOY last year, taking out level five, and remained unbeaten throughout the season. This year they are in level six.

Way has had him since he was two, and is hoping to step him up to baby grand prix next year.

“When we broke him in, we saw this amazing energy, and that is something you need in these higher levels. Arvan has the heart!”