Kihkihi Domain and the surrounding properties owned by the Kay and Nicholson families provided a superb venue for the National Eventing Championships over the weekend, with the weather playing its part this year as well. John Nicholson’s cross-country courses were as imaginative as ever, the going was good, and some great performances resulted.


As the chairman of the ground jury, Annabel Scrimgeour (GBR) said, “You couldn’t have a better place for your national championships. The presentation of the cross-country fences is second to none. John’s questions are original and encourage the horses to jump well.” John said, “It’s not easy being a course designer, but the riders made me look good yesterday.”


The technical delegate, Pierre Michelet (FRA),who was the course designer at the Rio Olympics and the 2016 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, said “This event is a higher standard than a lot of events in Europe, and is a true test.” John himself said Pierre had been very good to him when he was in France, and he was grateful he had taken time out to travel here.



Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation finished the Waipa Home of Champions CIC3* with a stylish clear round, to win the Forest Gate Trophy at their last start in New Zealand before heading offshore to prepare for the World Equestrian Games. They depart on 4th June for England, and will compete at Arville in Belgium and Aachen in Germany as part of their preparation.


Donna Edwards-Smith chased them to the finish with a clear showjumping round on DSE Tangolooma, her thoroughbred by Align (AUS) out of Hilda Hippo (USA), meaning Clarke also had to go clear to win. Clarke said afterwards, “I don’t think I could make him have a rail down if I tried,” but conceded, “There was a lot of pressure. He was feeling really fresh today, which was good.”


Nick Brooks jumped clear but incurred a time penalty on For Fame to pull up from seventh position to take third place at the horse’s second 3* start, having been runner up to Clarke at the Land Rover Horse of the Year CIC3*. Heelan Tompkins had a rail down with Snow Leopard to finish fourth, while Bundy Philpott and Tresca NZPH jumped clear but with 2 time penalties to be fifth.


Results: Clarke Johnstone, Balmoral Sensation, 36.4,1; Donna Edwards-Smith, DSE Tangolooma, 39.9, 2; Nick Brooks, For Fame, 51.2, 3; Heelan Tompkins, Snow Leopard, 52.4, 4.



Defending champions Brooke Campbell and Freddy Dash successfully defended their title to win the Waiteko Trophy and the Weatherbeeta CIC2*class, despite having a rail down. The pressure resulted in rails falling for those in a position to challenge her, with sixth placed Louise Mulholland on Mr McTaggart pulling up to second with a clear round, and eighth placed Matthew Grayling on NRM Trudeau to third.


Brooke said, “At least I knew the pressure was off when I went in, but I was not expecting to win, just going for a ribbon” She gives credit to “the amazing team behind me,” saying, “Donna helps me, and Tracy Smith is my dressage coach, and the farrier looks after his flat feet with special pads.”


The Campbell family were all there to see Freddy, who is a family horse if ever there was one, win his second Waiteko Trophy. He is officially owned by Brooke’s mother Deidre, and was bought to have fun. She did a bit of pre-training, then sister Chanel rode him at training level, before Brooke started riding him when she needed another horse.


Results: Brooke Campbell, Freddy Dash, 38.4, 1; Louise Mulholland, MrMcTaggart, 41.4, 2;Matthew Grayling, NRM Trudeau, 43.4, 3; Kimberley Rear, Delta Legacy, 44, 4; Elise Power, Arctic Cielo, 45, 5; Abbey Thompson, Rockin It, 45.3, 6.



The winner of the Ferndale Salver for the Wade Equine Coaches CIC1* Championship was none other than former group 1 winning racehorse Show Cause who is making a successful change to an eventing career with Kelsey Leahy. The Giants Causeway gelding, now a 12 yr old, has won the City of Auckland Cup, the Avondale Cup, and the New Zealand Cup.


He raced until he was seven, and Kelsey has had him since he was eight. They won the Taupo CCN105 in 2016 and the Equidays Derby recently. As Kelsey’s husband Finbarr, a former jumps jockey and now a trainer, explained, “He earns his keep baby sitting the youngsters at the track. Kelsey spends so much time with him and not with me, but it’s great to be here to support her.”


Kelsey said, “He goes in a snaffle and would rather be slow than fast. We led out the Field for the Auckland Cup a few weeks ago and he was so calm. He goes back to the breeder when he retires.” She added, “He’s been brilliant all weekend, but that was the worst showjumping round of my life.” Now the mother of two girls, aged one and three, Finbarr said, “She deserves this, she works very hard.”


Her good friend Dannie Lodder, who helped sort out their cross-country, had a rail down with Lexington to drop to second place, but said, “I’ll take that” as she left the arena and they had a big hug without getting off their horses. Tayla Mason on Centennial, Shannon Galloway on Day Walker, Sarah Young on Equador MW, and Jeffrey Amon on JA Candy Girl all jumped clear to fill the minors.


Results: Kelsey Leahy, Showcause, 31.6, 1; Dannie Lodder, Lexington, 32.4, 2; Tayla Mason, Centennial, 33.4, 3; Shannon Galloway, Day Walker, 33.5, 4; Sarah Young, Equador MW, 34.3, 5; Jeffrey Amon, JA Candy Girl, 35.2, 6.



It was an all the way win for Angela Lloyd and Raucous in the JLT Bloodstock CNC105 Championship for the Tait Trophy, with the top three overnight placings unaltered after they all jumped clear. Angela said “I was pretty confident as he’s pretty careful, and I’ve been working on it, but he just steps over them really!”


The home bred warmblood/thoroughbred cross is huge, and Angela is small, but she says, “He’s lovely and light, big, but agile and sensitive, with a real engine.” Angela’s partner Tich, course designer at Puhinui and Hunua, said, “We didn’t expect that so it’s quite exciting.”


Jessica Woods on King Soleil, a thoroughbred by Kings Chapel, and Donna Edwards-Smith on DSE Sagacious, another thoroughbred by St Reims, were second and third, with fifteen year old Kaitlyn Freeman on the warmblood Landisohn, by Landioso, rewarded for the long trip from Otaki with fourth place.


Results: Angela Lloyd, Raucous, 29.4, 1; Jessica Woods, Kings Soleil, 29.5, 2; Donna Edwards-Smith, DSE Sagacious, 29.8, 3; Kaitlyn Freeman, Landisohn, 31.4, 4; Daniel Bitchener, Mr Harlerquin, 33.1, 5; Sophie Wilkinson, Astek Gravitate, 33.9, 6.


Virginia Caro