Melissa Berridge aboard Onetai Fire and Ice, winners of the John Henry Cup with long time event sponsor Egmont Horse Coaches’ Bayley Harvey (right) and Taranaki ESNZ Area chair Tanya Hansen. Photo by Cornege Photography

Taranaki teen Melissa Berridge had big plans for this season . . . to move up from her 80-90cm classes of 2019-2020 to 1.05m. Instead the 14-year-old from New Plymouth is winning at 1.1m and at the The Waikato Equine Vets North Island Championship Premier Jumping Show won the very special John Henry Cup.

Named for the very successful and well known Taranaki pony John Henry from the 1970s and 1980s. He was owned by the Atkinson family and when their children grew out of him, he was passed to many others to do well at Pony Club Champs and showjumping competitions.

The Cup has been presented for the past 25 years to the top Taranaki rider from points gained in classes at the Waverley A&P Show in November, the Egmont A&P Show, the Stratford A&P Show and winding up with the Taranaki Jumping Area Show, which this year was the North Island Champs.

This year it was the turn of Melissa to have her name alongside many others who have gone on to great things. This is her first ‘proper’ season travelling away to shows and events. Mum Michelle says she is hugely proud of the youngster who lives for her ponies. “Last year she won the Star Spotters Scholarship and that gave her a real push to do better,” says Michelle.

The Star Spotters Scholarship is sponsored by Brigit Kirk of NZPH and was launched in the 2019-2020 season. Young riders who shine with potential are chosen by each of the 20 area groups around the country and receive their first year’s ESNZ membership, an annual equine registration and a jumping registration, along with a mentor to get them started. 

“We were just doing Pony Club things so this year she decided to step it up,” says Michelle.

And step it up Melissa has, winning ribbons at every show and at the North Island Champs heading home with two rugs – one for the John Henry Cup and the other for the 1.1m championship.

“She told me her goal for the season was to win a rug and she did just that. To win was just amazing – she was buzzing about it.” Melissa has also just been named in the Taranaki Area Pony Club team for HOY.

She started riding casually as a toddler aboard a neighbour’s horse but at around four got her own pony. Her latest, 12-year-old Onetai Fire and Ice, is owned by breeder Maree Bryant. It is the third Onetai pony she has ridden. Michelle says while the mare is a little highly strung, her daughter and the pony have a great relationship, good connection and look out for each other.

“Horses are her everything. I am super proud of her. She has a great attitude and just goes in to do her best and have fun. I can see all the hard work is paying off.”


By Diana Dobson
10 February 2021