2018 National Eventing Championships

Kihikihi Horse Trials will host the National Eventing Championships again this year from 6-8 April, over John Nicholson’s highly acclaimed cross-country course. Last year was the first time these prestigious titles had been contested at Kihikihi, but it is a fitting venue for the country’s top short format championships.


The Forest Gate Trophy, the oldest in the ESNZ cabinet, goes to the winner of the top class. It was presented by the NZ Horse Society (now Equestrian Sports NZ) in honour of founding father Duncan Holden, who lived at Forest Gate, in Central Hawkes Bay, and has been contested every year since 1957.


As the sport grew, other levels were introduced and championships established at each level. The Waiteko Trophy, presented in 1961 in honour of co-founder Dick Pilmer, whose Wairarapa property was called Waiteko, is contested at 2* level. The 1* champion wins the Ferndale Salver, presented by Margaret Harris in 1980, and the 105cm champion the Tait Trophy, presented by Blyth Tait in 2008.


Both the 1* and 105cm championship classes will be restricted to 50 starters who must not have more than two qualifying scores at the level above. Non-championship classes will also take place, as well as the usual team event. The 1*, 2*, and 3* championships are run under FEI (international) rules, with overseas judges officiating, which is always interesting.


This year Annabel Scrimgeour, from England, is a member of the ground jury. She has judged internationally for 30 years, including at Badminton and Adelaide, and in Canada and France. After competing internationally in dressage and eventing she progressed to training other international riders, including Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, and also schooled top class steeplechasers for nine years.


Renowned course designer Pierre Michelet, a former French international eventer, is the Technical Delegate. He designs the Pau CCI4* course in France, and was the Rio Olympics course designer, as well as for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy. So it is a huge compliment to John Nicholson and the organising committee that he has agreed to officiate at Kihikihi


Waipa District Council, who supports the development of Kihikihi Domain as a premier equestrian venue, will sponsor of the Waipa Home of Champions CIC3*. Weatherbeeta are sponsoring the CIC2*, and long time sponsors Wade Equine the CIC1*, while JLT Bloodstock Insurance are sponsoring the 105cm championship.


Kihikihi is the course everyone wants to ride, and the “Forest Gate” is the trophy everyone wants to win. The list of winners is indeed a history of the sport. The cream of the country’s elite eventers will be vying for the coveted titles, so expect exciting action over the revamped cross-country course set to test the mettle of these supreme equine athletes.


Virginia Caro