For the past 23 years, the Waipa Home of Champions Kihikihi International Horse Trial has garnered the admiration of many. Riders, sponsors and spectators alike have all been keen to assemble at the event largely recognized as having New Zealand’s toughest cross country course, courtesy of the very talented John Nicholson.
This year there are a raft of the nation’s top combinations heading to be tested at the April 5-7 event, which is once again, playing host to the New Zealand One Day Championships.
Olympians and other top New Zealand combinations are chasing national recognition. The Waipa Home of Champions CCI4*-S class has attracted 13 combinations, including previous winner Samantha Lissington (nee Felton) from Matangi who has both Ricker Ridge Escada and Ricker Ridge Rui entered. Olympian and former world champion Blyth Tait makes his debut start at Kihikihi aboard Havanna, the horse he brought back with him from the UK. “I have heard only good things about the event,” says Tait, “so I am looking forward to it.”
Also having their first shot at the CCI4*-S at Kihikihi are Jackson Bovill aboard Visonnaire and Jake Barham on Atlan.
Emily Cammock is making the long trek up from the South Island with Shaw Lee and has been in some good form while Madison Crowe (Hamilton) and Waitangi Pinterest will be looking to go one better than their second at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show. Bundy Philpott (Cambridge) and Tresca NZPH are forever dangerous and were second in the class in 2017 with a win in the CCI4*-L at Puhinui in December. Renee Faulkner Rubinstar HH, who placed 11th in her first-ever CCI5*-S at Adelaide last year, will be looking to consolidate their efforts and have competed a number of times at Kihikihi.
Up for grabs is the Forest Gate Trophy, which was last year won by Clarke Johnstone (Matangi) and Balmoral Sensation but also has the likes of Sir Mark Todd aboard Charisma, Tinks Pottinger, Vaughn Jefferis, Matthew Grayling and Andrew Scott as well as Lissington who won it in 2017 on Escada and Edwards-Smith who took the honours in 2016.
Forty-three are entered in the Grassroots CCI3*-S, chasing the right to have their names etched on the Waiteko Trophy, which for the past two years has been won by Brooke Campbell aboard Freddy Dash.
It is a very strong class with HOY winners Lissington and Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ the ones to watch alongside the likes of Oakley who has three horses entered. The class can actually have two winners – one for the national title and the other the winner of the Waiteko Trophy due to qualification restrictions.
It’s a big class too in the Wade Equine Coaches CCI2* with 46 combinations eyeing the Ferndale Trophy on the line. Olympian Jock Paget (Taupo), who last competed at Kihikihi in 2010, is entered, as is Clarke Johnstone and Lizzie Green. The winner of the 35-strong JLT CNC105-S win lay claim to the Tait Trophy.
Next year the National One Day Championships will move to Canterbury and the Kihikihi event will take a break.
There are also national classes which have attracted impressive numbers. Friday (April 5) is Ebbett Toyota Te Awamutu Dressage Day with six arenas in action on Paul Kay’s polo field.
Fiber Fresh Cross Country Day on Saturday (April 6) gets underway at 8am, with the show jumping on Sunday (April 7).
Entry is free and people are encouraged to bring the family and a picnic and enjoy some of New Zealand’s best eventing action.
The event will be live streamed through Equestrian Live.
For more information, head to www.thehorseevent.co.nz or follow the event on Facebook Kihikihi International Horse Trial.