Clive Long has been a familiar figure on the eventing circuit for some time, but we will start to see him more and more in a new role. He has branched out into more course design, and while he’s been doing this a long time in his home patch, he was recently in charge of the design for the 95cm and 80cm classes at the Taupo horse trials in September and will be back again for the event at the end of October.
To date Clive has probably been better known as Abigail Long’s dad, groom, supporter and financier, but there is a long history of equestrian in Clive’s earlier life.
A member of the Horowhenua Pony Club, Clive remembers his early years with fondness and perhaps a bit of regret. “I was a pony club boy,” he said. “I did some very beginning stuff at eventing and then, as you did in those days, when I was 16 years old I left home to go to Wellington for training so all that horse stuff went. I have always kept my love of horses though.”
Clive’s career as a chef and trainer took him overseas on and off for years. “When I got back to New Zealand in 1986 I bought a 20 acre property in Levin – long before I met my wife or Abby was even thought of, and there were always nags around. Someone would drop off an old racehorse or something for me. It was nice to pat them and maybe go for the occasional ride, but nothing serious,” he said.
Once Abby, Pamela and Clive’s only child, caught the horse bug, Clive found himself involved in equestrian activities again. “Abby started having lessons aged about 7, got her own horse at 10, joined pony club and then of course it progressed from there.”
Clive describes himself as Abby’s “number one supporter and financial backer” and recalls with a laugh a Christmas present from Abby which a t-shirt which said “I don’t do eventing, I finance it.”
Abby is now a full time rider, and has developed her own business model. Clive is very proud of his daughter and what she has achieved. As Abby’s self-sufficiency has grown, and Abby is able to attract working pupils, Clive finds himself with more opportunities to contribute in other ways. “I’ve been sacked as groom. I used to say proudly I was the oldest groom on the circuit!”
Over the years, Clive found himself building a lot of jumps and courses so it was a natural way for him to continue to be involved. He can remember the exact day when he got into course building. “We had a big storm come through and some trees blew down. I was chopping up some trees for firewood and thought ‘ah this might make a good jump, and I will just put it over here.’ That was the beginning.”
Things progressed, as Clive would replicate jumps he saw in other places, particularly if they had caused any issues. “Abby once had an problem with a horse not wanting to jump blue barrels. I went down to the local soap factory and bought a few and made a jump so she could practice at home and she never had a problem with blue barrels again.”
“That escalated, and before long, there were 50 jumps on our place. Then people starting asking to come and use the cross country course. Then our family got involved in Wellington Eventing so I am building jumps at home and helping setting up courses at Wellington.” Clive says it has all been a lot of fun and didn’t hesitate to put his hand up when more official course designers were needed in the Wellington region. “The course designers we have had for years are progressing towards the ends of their careers. They have given so much. Judy Haskell has been involved for a long time and Jim Hoddinott has also been a stalwart for years. They are both getting on in years and here I am, just 65 years old.”
Under the guidance of Campbell Draper, the Wellington course got a revamp and Clive was a big part of that. Clive had known Campbell for some time as he had helped Abby out many times. “I was working with Campbell on the course, and I made him my mentor.” He then went on to help out at Rotorua, Arran Station, Taupo and some others. “If you turn up somewhere and say I am here to help, with a ute, a bunch of tools and a chain, then you are most welcomed.”
The September Taupo event saw a new era however. “This is the first course outside of my home track that I have designed.”
There were a few challenges for Clive, getting to grips with his new job. “One was I am an old fart and have to use and understand the Course Walk app!”
Clive admitted to a few nerves before the September event at Taupo. “I was a little bit nervous for this one, because I didn’t want to let anyone down.” He is also looking ahead and will be involved in a number of events including Arran Station and more at Taupo.
Having a good and experienced team around you is also a key part for Clive. He said he had learned a lot from Susan O’Brien, and from Technical Delegate Janet Evans at the Taupo event. “As to the rules and regulations, I knew a lot of them already, and when you are interested in something, it is no big deal.”
As to longer term? “I don’t think Captain Mark Phillips has got anything to be concerned about. I don’t have any big aspirations. Now that we have got quite a few jumps at home and we had 600 horses there over the season using our cross country. The design stuff has helped me with that, I have a better understanding of jumps and what I should be doing and I have gone back and redone some of the early ones. I think I only want to only go up to designing courses to about 105, but who knows.”
While Clive may not have four-star aspirations, he really enjoys the role. “It’s fun, I enjoy it, there’s a great group of people and that is the key.”