Untouchable and AP Ninja are no strangers to the winning spoils in the annual Thoroughbreds in Equestrian Sport series. Between them, these two have won the showjumping and show hunter crowns eight times.
There’s not much Merran Hain and Untouchable haven’t won. She remains the only New Zealand rider to have represented the nation across the three Olympic sports at senior level.
The Gisborne combination have previously won the TiES Show Hunter Series in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2019-20, and were second in 2015-16.
She bought Untouchable as a four-year-old from Sir Mark Todd. The now 20-year-old gelding is by Warsaw Pact out of Icelandic and was bred by Ms DL Steer – ironically, not far from the Hain farm in Gisborne.
“I went over (to Cambridge) to look at another horse Mark had and didn’t like it, so asked if he had anything else,” remembers Merran. “He said he had just got this other one and we went down the back to put it over a jump. Here I was watching the rider of the century on this horse – it had never jumped before but looked alright behind, so I said yes and put him on the truck to bring home. I wasn’t mucking around. There were no vet checks or anything like that.”
Her keen eye proved right on the money. “It wasn’t that long before Mark tried to buy him back – to be honest, the horse would have been a great eventer. Eventing is going back to the thoroughbreds again because they have that bit more stamina.”
Mark did get a chance to try the horse in the ring later though, riding him to runner-up in the Show Hunter of the Year at HOY.
“Untouchable does all sorts of things but as far as racing goes, he would have been hopeless! He is so scared of other horses, but he is quite bossy, and you just have to put up with him. I think a lot wouldn’t! He can be pretty wild sometimes . . . but he is far better now.”
Living in Gisborne means Merran clocks up some serious kilometres each season, and while this one was slightly less than other years, it was still a big effort. Raetihi A&P Show was the furthest they travelled but it was well worthwhile. “They put on a really good show there – it is an old-fashioned type A&P with everything including round the ring, which I have won two years running,” says Merran. They also picked up both the high points and amateur (show hunter) crowns there. She figures they were probably their best wins of the season.
The combination won the series on 83 points, with runner-up Isobel Macdonald (Cambridge) and Mr Wise Guy on 18. Lisa Coupe rode a class with the big bay at the Gisborne A&P Show, otherwise it was all Merran’s points that won them the series.
She puts their success down to training – every day. “Each day we do flat work and canter over a few poles. He likes the routine,” says Merran. “That’s the trouble these days. People can’t train horses. They don’t train them properly in the classical style. That’s what they do in Europe.”
While she has won all the top showjumping crowns in New Zealand, show hunter is more her thing these days. “You know . . . family pressure and all that,” says the grandmother of eight.
Each time she wins the TiES series she gives half the money to CatWalk.
Over the years Merran has won many a cover but tends to give them away these days – much to the delight of the very grateful recipients. “What else are you meant to do with them. They just pile up.” Her Lady Rider of the Year winning cover was put to good use one year when, at Gisborne’s January jumping show, someone gave away a chair in the wrong class, so she did a deal to trade any cover in her tack shed to get it back.
Georgia Bouzaid and AP Ninja last won the TiES Showjumping Series in the 2018-19 series, and the horse previously won it in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 with his former owner Emily Hayward.
Eighteen-year-old Georgia, who is having a gap year riding horses, says she likes to target her starts with Ninja. “I am conscious I am not on a young horse, so we do what I want him to do well on,” said the Cambridge teen.
They’ve had some cracker results this season, winning the North Island Young Rider title, backing up their North Island Junior crown the season before. “I was aiming for Lady Rider but then HOY got cancelled.”
Georgia has had the 14-year-old bay gelding for almost two years. He is by AP Ruler out of a Secretariat dam and bred by Butch and Lou Thomas. While he was bred to race, he didn’t star on any tracks.
While Georgia didn’t chase the TiES series, she says it is a very cool one to win. “All his results over the whole season have helped. We had just two Grand Prix starts for a fourth and fifth, and three Young Rider wins. He’s a horse you know you can go out and have fun on.”
He’s the first thoroughbred Georgia has had. “They are such great horses and definitely deserve a chance after racing. A lot make it so far in other disciplines. I would definitely have another, but I don’t think I would ever find another like Ninja.”
As well as riding her own horses, Georgia rides at Rivermonte Park a few days a week. “It is pretty nice just working and riding like this,” she says.
Georgia is trained by Sam Van Lierde who she says has been a huge help this season.
“At the start of the season I was struggling a bit – it was my first season off ponies, and I had a very good pony, so found it hard without him. Sam brought back my self-confidence and belief. She is so talented with horses and knows how to get the best out of them.”
Georgia is already looking forward to next season where she’s hoping the combo will be consistent at Grand Prix level. “He is getting older, so we will just see how it goes. As long as he is happy, we will keep going. He is such a cool horse – quite spritely and a bit mad but he really loves his job and every time he goes in the ring, he tries so hard.”
TiES Show Hunter Series: Merran Hain (Gisborne) Untouchable 83 points 1, Isobel Macdonald (Cambridge) Mr Wise Guy 18 points 2, Lisa Kennedy (Bulls) Steelfix 17 points 3, Ike Baker (Ruakawa) /Ashleigh Forde (Havelock North) My Gummi Bear 16 points 4, Diana Cottle (Palmerston North) Travino 16 points 5, Trudi Lovett (Porirua) Hot Wired 12 points 6.
TiES Showjumping Series: Georgia Bouzaid (Cambridge) AP Ninja 72 points 1, Karis Spurway (Taranaki) Kapattack 64 points 2, Kirsty Sharapoff (Christchurch ) Shoot the Breeze 54 points 3, Georgie Wilson (Taupo) Forest Hill 42 points 4, Kylee McCambridge (Cambridge) Chicago 41 points 5, Danielle Stanaway ( Tauranga) The Invisible Man 33 points 6.
By Diana Dobson
3 May 2021