By Rebecca Harper
It was laughter and champagne at the in-gate for competitors in the Dunstan Horsefeeds and Equifibre Pro-Amateur Rider Series finals class, with three combinations in the running for the series crown.
Spectators were entertained by an action-packed four-horse jump-off that had the series go down to the wire, with Waiuku’s Karen Riddle eventually emerging victorious.
Louise Bowie and Kiwi Hammer were the only combination to go clear in the jump-off. How she managed to stay on the horse after a jump that didn’t quite go to plan was anyone’s guess, but stay on she did, to loud applause.
The finals win moved Lou up to second place overall in the series, but Karen Riddle and LC Talent managed to hold on to their series lead by just three points, after placing fifth in the final.
Karen led heading into the final, but knew that both Lou and Devon Van Tiel were snapping at her heels. “I knew we were all in the running and one of us would win, so I had the champagne on ice in a truck by the in-gate.
“It has been such an amazing series that the actual outcome didn’t really matter. The comradery and support among this bunch of people has made it such a fun series to be part of, and that’s the most important part of our sport – we all do it and have a great time together. We’re always screaming at each other in the jump-off to go faster.”
The fulltime rider has had the luxury of having three horses to choose from to start in the Pro-Am classes this season, all bred by Steve Cohen from LC Horse Farm.
“I have been incredibly lucky to have more than one horse, which has taken the pressure off the horses, as I have always had a ride for this class.”
LC Talent, a nine-year-old mare by Lindberg des Hayettes, has been the mainstay in the Pro-Am series, while stallion LC Telepathy is her top mount, recently coming fourth in the Silver Tour final at Takapoto. The third horse she started in Pro-Am classes was LC Unforgettable. “Unfortunately I didn’t change my ownership for her, so I didn’t get her points.”
Karen says she is grateful for the opportunity to ride the horses and, in lieu of payment for riding the horses, she was given shares in them, which allowed her to be eligible for the series. “At the time I probably wasn’t too enthusiastic about it, but a series win later it is probably quite cool…when I got given the horses my first port of call was to ring Jeff McVean and ask him how to ride them, so I should thank him.”
Meanwhile, Lou was shaking her head and praising her horse after pulling off the class win.
“I’m lucky I stayed on, it’s pretty awesome, he’s a special horse,” she said of Spunky, as he’s known at home.
The Makuri farmer and mum of two has had the horse, who is now nine, since he was a foal, when she spied him at Fernhill Stud. “I am thankful to Graeme and Ash Hart for breeding my superstar…I saw him on a hill with his mum when I was staying at Harts and I said to Graeme ‘I need that horse’. Graeme pretty much weaned him a week later and sent him on a truck down south.”
Since having children and buying a new farm, horses have taken a bit of a backseat for Lou, who only has Spunky now. “He looks after me, he really tries his heart out for me.”
The combination have had a consistent season, also taking out the Pro-Am at the North Island Championships and fourth in the title class at HOY.
Dunstan Horsefeeds and Equifibre Pro-Am Series Grand Final: Louise Bowie (Pahiatua) Kiwi Hammer 1, Sally Clark (Dannevirke) Victorias Secret 2, Elle Phillips (Hamilton) Raibeart Bruis 3, Devon van Til (Rangiora) Winterberg 4, Karen Riddle (Waiuku) LC Talent, Kathryn Alabaster (Havelock North) La Luna Rossa 6.
Dunstan Horsefeeds and Equifibre Pro-Am Series: Karen Riddle (Waiuku) LC Talent 91 points 1, Louise Bowie (Pahiatua) 88 points 2, Devon van Til (Rangiora) 87 points 3, Sally Clark (Dannevirke) 70 points 4, Emma Gaze (Waikato) 62 points 5=, Jeremy Whale (Bay of Plenty) 62 points 5=.