It was hot competition in more ways than one! Much of the country was inundated with afternoon thunder storms in the lead-up to this event so everyone was prepared for heat, rain and electrical storms. Fortunately, the dangerous thunder and lightning didn’t eventuate and there was only a light shower on the Saturday afternoon to cool people off. Riders and horses on Sunday may have wished for the same but it didn’t eventuate.

There were small fields in the various shorter-distance classes on the Saturday afternoon with most of these competitors also riding on the Sunday. Jayden was the only non-novice rider on Silands Pilot and everyone qualified comfortably. Hard to decide the cutest combination on the day Pip and Isla Mutch on Mauku Eve and Sahar Park Moondance respectively (both doing a novice 40 km) or Ashlea Watson riding Scarlett in the 5 km lead rein class. A bottle of water and a bottle of beer were placed out on the track for rehydration purposes; we presume that Ashlea drank the water while her Dad Chris had the beer.

A treat for some on the Saturday afternoon and evening was a jet boat trip on the nearby Whanganui River courtesy of Ross Hill and Taumarunui Canoe Hire and Jet Boat Tours. This was a lot of fun and you didn’t even need to get your feet wet. Thanks Ross for adding to the adventure of the weekend.

It was decided on the Saturday to start all Sunday rides an hour ahead of schedule due to the forecast heat and risk of late afternoon thunderstorms. I think we were all grateful the next day to be an hour ahead of things. Everyone gathered at Stu and Marie’s for a shared dinner with salads, steak, bangers and venison all on offer – a superb spread as always and a nice, relaxed atmosphere. Then it was an early night as most would be getting up at 4 am for the 80 km starting at 5 am. There were a total of 24 entries in the 80 km events with almost as many juniors competing as seniors. Great to see so many junior riders coming up through the ranks and taking on the bigger distances. Competition in the both Open classes was pretty stiff with Ruth Dawber riding Miro Blaze of Glory just taking line honours from Sean Trafford on Prince Eligani SPA with a riding time of only just under 6 hours. The front runners in the Open JY 80 km both encountered problems early in the ride so the win went to Ana Whitehead riding Dundevale Nazecca. The heat and the conditions took their toll on many competitors with some vetting out lame and a few out on Heart Rate or wisely choosing to withdraw and focus on the next events on the calendar (Daisybank, Matiere and then the North Island Champs). Shout out to Zoe Neubert for reaching open rider status riding Makahiwi Cercie.

Six combinations entered the 60 km classes and it was Lisa Southon who took out the win riding Tararua Sharman (Junior), closely followed by Vicky Whitehead on Craig Royston Sonatina. Another six combinations took on the 40 km distance on the Sunday with the win going to Stu Wakeling riding Tokopuhe Lily.  A great event to wrap up the early part of the season before Christmas and things start to get more serious from here on in. Merry Christmas to everyone and save some carrots for your ponies and don’t leave them all out for the reindeer.

And thanks to Maureen Davie for all the images.

Jenny Weston

Isla on Sahar Park Moondance and Pip Mutch on Mauku Eve heading out on the 40 km ride.

Ashlea Watson riding Scarlett, ably assisted by her Dad

Alix Rogers and Supre Ramiro battling through the long grass and hopefully not about to be spooked by
our intrepid photographer Maureen Davie

Heading up the river with significantly more horsepower.

Sean Trafford riding Prince Eligani SPA on the first loop.

Deirdre Bartlett riding Craig Royston Zaria in the Open Senior 80 km