There’s no shortage of experience in the newly-appointed ESNZ Eventing high performance additions. Good friends Lizzie Green and Tracy Smith, who live within a stone’s throw of each other, have taken on the talent development and talent ID liaison roles – both positions are new to the ESNZ Eventing High Performance Programme.
Lizzie’s talent development liaison connects the Eventing Talent Development Squad riders with HPSNZ High Performance Athlete Development programme, while Tracy’s position links the Eventing Talent ID Squad riders with the HPSNZ Pathway to Podium Programme.
Lizzie is a long term member of ESNZ’s high performance squads, coming all the way through from Talent ID and up. She’s a former young rider national eventing champ and has been on trans-Tasman young rider teams, won multiple international events, ridden for New Zealand on senior Nations Cup teams and successfully run equestrian operations both in New Zealand and the UK.
Tracy’s competition career has been in dressage where she too has ridden for New Zealand and competed successfully to Grand Prix level on horses she has trained herself. As a breeder her horses have done well in dressage, eventing and jumping disciplines with Claire Wilson’s grand prix jumper Fredrika RE probably her best performed. She loves nothing more than receiving updates on how ‘her’ babies from her stallion GT Jake are doing out in their various competition arenas.
Lizzie brings a very keen eye to the squads. “I think my forte is selecting horses and producing them to become the best they can,” she says. “My experience of having travelled along the very same pathway these riders are on is also valuable.” She felt it was a natural progression for her to step into the role. “It was the next step from my involvement on the coaching team for past 12 months since moving back to New Zealand,” she said. “I am loving my involvement and helping the kids coming through. It is a really progressive and fun programme to be involved in and one I do believe is one of the best in the world. It is going to be very exciting to see how we can develop it further.”
Lizzie is also keen to make the most of the career development offered within the role through leadership, coaching, communication and people management. She is still riding and coaching full time and competing two horses at 2* and 1* eventing. “I have very supportive owners with both and am hoping they will go all the way up the levels. I also have a couple of very nice show jumpers and lot of youngsters coming through the ranks.”
Tracy, who has previously been involved with the programmes as a specialist dressage coach and then co leader for the Talent ID Squad, owns and runs the Royston Equine breeding operation and says her current babies are definitely her best to date, but she adds caution to the comment. “It is a very long journey,” she says. She has one coming up to level 5 with quite a few in the wings.
She feels she brings many strengths to the new role, having been involved with eventing for some years. “I am not just a dressage rider involved in eventing,” she says. “I have a very holistic understanding of horses.”
Eventing dressage specialist coach Penny Castle had been instrumental in her even applying for the job. “She has been the driving force of the whole squad and it is such a good thing to be part of,” says Tracy. “It is in such a good position now with Jock (Paget) leading it. The team behind it is strong and structurally well balanced. I do enjoy eventing and its three tests. It is not just six minutes of a dressage test, you have so much more to contend with. The eventing athlete is quite a different athlete.”
She’s hoping she can make a real difference to the squad. “I want to connect the grass roots to the squads a bit more,” says Tracy, who is also mum to one-year-old Luka. “I am very passionate about the talent ID space because it is about setting up strong systems for these riders, so they can go into the next squad and carry on.”
The Talent ID Squad is the first point of entry for riders, so marked an exciting start to a far bigger journey. Both women are chuffed to be working together in the new roles and looking forward to making a real difference to each and every rider.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison