NZL-Samantha McIntosh rides Check In 2 during the Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final – First Qualifier. 2017 ESP-Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final – CSIO Barcelona. Real Club de Polo de Barcelona. Thursday 28 September. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

Sam McIntosh is no stranger to championships. The France-based jumper has attended four WEGs – two for New Zealand and two for Bulgaria, an Olympic Games, a World Cup final and five European championships . . . and she never tires of the thrill of selection and competition these pinnacle events provide.

She’s just arrived at the TIEC, had a little canter out this morning where Check In 2 was “very pleased with himself”. Sam is now looking forward to competition getting underway. “Making teams like this really is the goal that keeps you going in between,” says the 42-year-old who rode for Bulgaria for nine years before coming back to black for the 2010 WEG in Kentucky. “It has been a long, slow process getting back to the level to be here, and to have a horse good enough to bring.”

Horses are in her blood with both her mum Penny Stevenson and dad Colin McIntosh successful showjumpers and still involved with the sport. They have been hugely supportive of Sam and her quest to be the best. “They have always given me the freedom to chase my dreams.”

There was always a pony in the paddock as she grew up in Kawakawa, Kaikohe, Taupo and Cambridge, with Trixie her first. She did the usual Pony Club things and at 17 headed to Switzerland through a long term connection with friend and supporter Marianne Kessler. Her first stop was as a working pupil for Thomas Fuchs before settling with Markus Maendli for a few years. Between then and now she has also lived in Germany – where she enjoyed a lot of success while working for the Luthi Orshel family in Aach, Belgium, Holland and France.

“Now I am in a lot more comfortable position than when I was young,” she says. “Then you go out and do everything.”

For the past three years she has been based at Haras de la Becassiere, near Bordeaux at the property of retired top French jumper Joelle Cairasgi. “She’s always had a nice team of horses and just rides at home now. It is the perfect base for me and Joelle has welcomed me like family.”

She heads to WEG in good form, and especially after the inspirational team victory at the Nations Cup in Abu Dhabi. “The challenges preparing for an event like this is are always the same – getting the horse here on as good form as possible to arrive in the best condition to be able to concentrate on the game.”

She’s confident in the talent of her 15-year-old Takapoto Equestrian owned stallion Check in 2. “I think he has all the talent in the world. He is very consistent in results and rideability. He feels on the best form of his life.”

Mitch Plaw from Takapoto Equestrian, who bought the horse as a 12-year-old from Gilbert Boeckman, will be at WEG to watch his star go.

Her season has all been focused on preparation for WEG. “We have had a few big shows this year and come home with results – at those shows are the same horses and riders as are here,” she said.

“We have done a lot of shows where we have been thinking of getting things right for here, rather than going out to win money or get placed. All summer has been engineered around getting on form for here. That does make it challenging but it is all for that long term goal.”

That she is in a team with people she has known forever and has ridden with and against for years. “We go way back. We all follow each other’s careers and the highs and lows our sport produces.”

Another huge plus to the team is chef d’equipe Helena Stormanns. “We are so fortunate to have Helena on board with all her experience and knowledge. It’s a great team.” 

The support – both monetary and in the many messages sent to the team – is appreciated by all.

“A lot of people at home have put a lot of effort in – I hope we can go out and do them all proud. We will be doing our best,” said Sam. “The first step is the team competition where I would like to see us all as close to clear rounds as we can. It would be a dream to get into the second round . . . but everything will have to go well for us.”

By Diana Dobson, NZ team media liaison

Photo by Libby Law Photography