Equestrian Sports New Zealand has announced the first of its team to compete at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in the United States later this year.
Endurance combinations Jenny Champion (Masterton) aboard Barack Obama and Philip Graham (Oxford) on Rosewood Bashir will wear the silver fern at the event which is being held in Mill Spring, North Carolina at the Tryon International Equestrian Centre.
Graham, a beef and cattle farmer from Canterbury, rode at the 2006 WEG and is chuffed to have once again made the team. “It is marvellous,” says the 63-year-old. “It is not as if we haven’t been trying between now and 12 years ago but it is all about the horses falling into place and doing the right thing at the right time.”
Champion is on début and is also very excited. “It is so special to be named,” said the 53-year-old who will compete aboard Barack Obama who at 20 will possibly be the oldest horse in the field.
Both Champion and Graham say one of the biggest challenges will be preparing their horses through the New Zealand winter.
“Barack will be as fit as he has ever been in preparation for the ride of his life,” says Champion. “We will be chasing the best we have ever done.”
She trains on a neighbouring farm that is near ideal. “It is nice rolling country with good contours and is great underfoot,” she says.
Both will need to raise around $80,000 for the Games if they want to bring their horses home with them, but that cost has Champion and Barack’s owner Mark Round considering leaving him in the US. “It will be just terrible to leave him behind but what do you do?”
Graham plans to bring his 15-year-old horse home. He bought the horse as a foal from breeder Helen Chambers and Rosewood Bashir holds a special place in the hearts of him and his wife Helen Bray. His bloodlines trace back to the stallion Sky Hawk who Bray imported from England many years ago and Rosewood Bashir’s dam was out of a mare she bred in the 1980s.
New Zealand expects to also have representatives in showjumping, dressage and eventing.
The Games are held every four years and are expected to attract around 500,000 people over the two-weeks. The eight core equestrian disciplines of showjumping, dressage, para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining will all be represented at the Games. The 2014 WEG attracted 984 athletes with 1234 horses, from 74 nations and was covered by 1900 accredited media from 52 countries.
The horse details:
Rosewood Bashir owned by Philip Graham
Barack Obama owned by Mark Round
By Diana Dobson