Naomi O’Shaughnessy and Carla Barakat competing in  the  16okm
Photo; Country Road Photography

By Daryl Owen

The 41st running of the Fiber Fresh ESNZ Endurance National Championships was held over Easter weekend at Brooksdale Station, near Springfield in Canterbury.  In the lead up to the event Australian rider Naomi O’Shaughnessy and her horse Castlebar Party Girl had a commanding lead in the Mitavite FEI series, and were one point behind Alison Higgins and Northwinds Apollo for the Championship series.  With Alison entering the 120km on Apollo Naomi needed a good finish in the 160km for the series win.

Sponsors are always a big part of any Champs event.  This year Mitavite came on board to sponsor the FEI series of five events, along with Toft Endurance and ProDosa.  Fiber Fresh, a long time sponsor of endurance, were again the naming sponsor for the National Championship event, and the huge pile of Fiber Fresh sacks waiting at base was a welcome sight. 

The first event at Nationals is always the 160km Championship.  Naomi O’Shaughnessy on Castlebar Party Girl and Alison Higgins on Twynham El Desiree took the early lead, with Carla Barakat moving up in the third loop.  The course at this venue had many changes of footing.  There were boggy bits, and rough, rutted areas.  There was rolling country and road verge.  The flat grassy bits often had a base of river rock underneath and riders had to maintain concentration from beginning to end.  The promised gallop finish didn’t eventuate, with O’Shaughnessy cantering across the line first as Barakat ‘experienced technical difficulties’ behind her. Another Australian, Penny Toft on Delilah te rode a careful ride and finished in third place.  Helen Graham and Sherwood Volos were fourth.

The Junior 160km had three entries.  With one unfortunately being vetted out with one loop to go the finish was between Ana Whitehead on Craig Royston Zaria and Kate James on Chartei.  Ana crossed the line narrowly ahead of Kate to take the win. 

The 100km event also had three entries with two successful completions.  First across the line was Penelope Valk and Mareeka Siraya, with Robyn Hill and Purdark coming in for second.

Best Conditioned for the 160km senior class was awarded to Carla Barakat’s Nina and the Junior 160km BC went to Craig Royston Zaria, owned and trained by Deirdre Bartlett, and ridden on this occasion by Ana Whitehead.  Best Conditioned for the 101km went to Penelope Valk and Mareeka Siraya

The 61km Endurance title was also contested on Saturday.  The winning time this year was posted by Philip Graham on Wolfgang Amadeus.  Deirdre Swain finished in second place on Blacknight Mako with Cathy Nolan and Mr Detroit in third.

Another 3am start for Sunday saw the 120km riders head out.  Again it was Alison Higgins, this time on Northwinds Apollo out in front, along with Philip Graham on Rosewood Bashir.  Riding very consistently these two came home in a gallop finish, with Alison just ahead over the line. Rosewood Bashir was later awarded Best Conditioned for the event. With the third horse across the line unfortunately trotting up slightly lame the path was again open for Heidi Bulfin and Stonelea Sparkling Rose to take third place.  Having stepped in a rabbit hole and having a fall in one of the early stages it is a great testament to both rider and horse to carry on and complete the distance successfully.  Riding a young horse in its second 120km ride Mike Bragg brought Miro Blaze of Glory in successfully for fourth place. Well done to all. 

Following on from their performance at the recent Nelson club ride Bill Croft on Hine Hukatere and Jane Neale on Kahuna Whispa switched placings in this 80km non-championship ride, Bill taking first place just ahead of Jane.  After a definite weekend of learning (long travel and flying gazebos among them) Andrea Smith’s young mare Glenmore Tornato looked amazing at the end of the 80km distance to take third place.

With Nationals over the endurance season is largely finished. The end of season AGM and prize giving will be eagerly anticipated.