Kaite Laurie (Nee McVean) with Dunstan Luca win the Rutherford Cup 2016 presented by Alan Hampton


Significant changes have been made to the 2020 New Zealand National Show Jumping and Show Hunter Championships.  The big change is that event will be held earlier than previously, now on 16-19 January 2020

The National titles are decided after three rounds of jumping over the four-day show.  The format is reverting back to the version used a few years ago, which ensures the national titles only go to the most consistent of jumpers over the whole show.  Prize money is available for each show jumping round, with the competition starting on Thursday 16 January with a speed class and followed up by another class on Friday 17 January. Saturday 18 January is for mainly the age classes (both horses and riders) and the amateur classes.  This ensures the top horses and ponies contesting the title classes can have a rest day on the Saturday, so they are really on form for the final round on Sunday. 

The competitors will want to be on top form, as another change is an increase in prize money.  There is over $12,000 worth of prize money available in the Premier Horse Championship, with $3,600 available for the winner of the title.  The National Grand Prix Horse Championship has a $2,000 winner’s purse, and in the NZ National Open Pony Championship, there is $1,400 on offer for the winner. 

There are also national titles and increased prize money in the popular show hunter section.  The show jumping area teams challenge is also being run again this year.

This is the first time for a number of years that the Premier horse class, as part of the POLi Payments Premier League Series, is being held at this show.  At jump heights of 1.50-1.60m, it will be an exciting competition.  As well as the great prize money, the winner will receive the prestigious Rutherford Cup.

This beautiful large silver trophy is named after Ben Rutherford who was president of ESNZ (known then as NZ Horse Society) from 1959-1962 who was also a huge personality in show jumping circles. He had the nickname of “Mr South Island” amongst New Zealand show jumpers, as he was always keen to promote the South Island and the sport of show jumping in the South Island.

Ben Rutherford was the manager of the New Zealand show jumping team who competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The team was selected out of six riders who assembled in Gisborne for a two-day training course conducted by Colman de Bolgar, originally from Hungary.  He had a very, very firm style of instructing, and even to survive that was an achievement especially as it also involved physical exercises for the riders!  The six combinations had to then do an Olympic Trial in front of five national selectors, of which Ben Rutherford was one.


An excerpt from the NZ Horse & Pony Magazine is a great record of the 1964 Olympic equestrian team’s endeavours:

After extensive public fundraising, a team of Bruce Hansen and Tide, Adrian White and Eldorado, Graeme Hansen and Saba Sam, and Charlie Matthews and Syndicate, is sent to compete at Tokyo. Of the total £5500 cost, more than £3000 is raised through a national appeal and raffle. The team finishes 10th, with the best individual performance by Saba Sam, who had 12 faults in the first round. Public expectations had been high, and team manager BG Rutherford says later that he didn’t believe the Kiwi horses had produced anything like the form they had shown in training.


The Rutherford Trophy has been presented to the NZ Premier Jumping Champion since 1995, and prior to that was presented to the winner of a teams competition.  Unfortunately the Trophy hadn’t been competed for the last three years as there has been no premier event at the Nationals. The last winner was Katie Laurie, riding Dunstan Lucca.  She had won it three times before that on Dunstan Breeze, Dunstan Kiwi Iron Mark and Dunstan Delphi.  South Islanders who have their name as winners on the Rutherford Cup include Chris Harris (riding Zilco Te Peka Luciano), Tracy Kovacs (Billion) and Molly Savill (Richard the Third) who won it twice.  


Katie Laurie, when she lived in New Zealand, was a big fan of the national title format as she said it was a great way of getting the horses competition fit.  She was a regular visitor to the National Equestrian Centre in Christchurch, where the event is held, and always enjoyed the famous southern hospitality. 


There have not been many North Islanders make the trek down to the South Island for the Nationals in the last couple of years.  Those who have also raved about what a great time they have had, thanks to the hospitality they have received. It is hoped this year more North Islanders will make the trip – and do the “Nationals Roadie!” 


ESNZ has a subsidy available for the ferry across Cook Strait, and also any horse competing in the premier class is exempt from any ground, camping or stabling fees.


The schedule is now available on Main Events’ website and the Committee looks forward to welcoming all the competitors, wherever they may travel from.



18th December 2019