By Rebecca Harper

A challenging couple of years made victory even sweeter for Palmerston North’s Dana Sutton, taking out the Caledonian Holdings Amateur Rider Series by a large margin.

Such was her lead that Dana had the series in the bag, even before series finals, which she did not contest.

“It’s definitely a goal (to win the series) that’s been in the making for the last five seasons. This is my fifth season trying to get it and I’m pretty ecstatic.

“It’s been a tough season, I’ve been really crook and my health has been a real problem. Last season I thought I had it in the bag and I lost my dad suddenly, he was only 54, and it threw me completely.”

While she led the series on Down Wind, her 17-year-old Thoroughbred, from early in the season it was enlisting the help of a mental coach, Jane Pike, which really made the difference.

“Stephen Nickalls has been coaching me for five seasons, since I bought the horse – he was there the first day I jumped him. But I realised it wasn’t my horse, it was in my head. It was a total change.

“I’m very lucky Laura Knight sold him to me. He was a late starter, he was a very successful racehorse and he didn’t showjump until he was 11.”

Jimmy, as he is known at home, was bred to jump, Dana says. “He’s by Grosvenor out of a StarWay mare, he was bred to jump from the minute he dropped on the ground.”

Dana and her husband are 50/50 sharemilkers, milking 800 cows, and she says she is lucky to have a supportive husband. “I’m not from a horsey background and it’s all been self-funded, so that’s pretty cool…I’m a true amateur rider, I’ve never jumped over 1.20m.”

She and Jimmy, a horse she trusts implicitly, have forged a strong partnership. “I would class me and Jimmy as a lock and key partnership. Full credit to my horse, he’s amazing.”

And, she’s finally got her hands on that elusive rug. “My group of friends who have supported me, my A team, we’ve always joked about how I’ve never won a rug – until now.”

While Jimmy is 17, he still has plenty of life in him. “Hopefully Jimmy is like the Richie McCaw of showjumping and will come back again next year. We talked about retiring him if he won, he doesn’t owe me anything, but he still loves his job.”

And Dana can now tick off her two goals for the season – to ride in the Premier arena at HOY and win the Amateur series.

In the Caledonian Holdings & Croucher Brewing series finals class in Masterton, Holly Baines and Pre Mo delivered the only clear round to clinch the win. In doing so, Holly elevated herself from 23rd place going into the final to a remarkable fifth place overall in the series.


Caledonian Holdings Amateur Rider Grand Final: Holly Baines (Gisborne) Pre Mo 1, Noni Morgan (Hastings) Starlight Discovery 2, Jessica Giles (Upper Hutt) Dining at Dusk 3 Kaleigh Kent (Otane) Double J Sponge Bob Square Pants 4, Olivia Goodsir (Masterton) Trusted 5, Ashley Johnston (Whitby) Miss Vee NZPH 6.

Caledonian Holdings Amateur Rider Series: Dana Sutton (Palmerston North) 91 points 1, Helen Ensor (Marlborough) 56 points 2, Kaleigh Kent (Otane) 55 points 3, Julia Johnston (Waikato) 54 points 4, Holly Baines (Gisborne) 51 points 4, Kate Perry (Ashburton) 48 points 6.