Passionate Companies Take Sponsorship to New Heights
Dunstan Horse Feeds and Fiber Fresh have become the new joint naming rights sponsors for both of the ESNZ National Equestrian Centres in Taupo and Christchurch.
Marketing manager for Dunstan Paxton Conder says the joint sponsorship between the two companies is the “perfect” match. “Dunstan and Fibre Fresh have been solid supporters of equestrian events for many years, and I think the NECs are a great fit for both companies to continue with that. It will allow both the Dunstan and Fiber Fresh brands to reach a wide range of riders, from grassroots to competitive, across the disciplines and is just another way to support ESNZ in the fundamental growth of our sport.”
Dunstan and Fiber Fresh are in their second year of joint support for NEC Taupo and Paxton says it is exciting to now mirror that support in the South Island. “Both brands have been heavily involved in equestrian sports, as well as the racing and breeding sectors for more than 30 years now, and right from the get-go there has been a large focus on giving back and supporting those who are supporting us,” she says. “Without sponsorship, the sport would really struggle, so we love being able to do our bit to help. I think equestrian sports are in a really good place to grow right now, especially with the likes of Jock Paget in a leadership role, and the growth and support from Mitch and Kate Plaw at Takapoto. It is great to be involved and I am really excited to see where the sport goes in the future.”
Many of those who work for Dunstan and Fiber Fresh are involved in the equestrian community. “It is more than just a job for us. It is our passion and that is why we so love being involved as much as we can in supporting riders both in and out of the ring,” said Paxton. “For me it is about seeing the growth right from the grassroots, and this was a big driving force behind the implementation of the Dunstan and Fiber Fresh Young Rider Camp that we introduced last year at NEC Taupo. It was amazing to see young kids interacting with the big names and our Sponsored Rider Team.” There is another camp planned for 2021 but this time it will be at McLean’s Island.
ESNZ board chair Lynda Clark says the new Christchurch partnership was very exciting. “It is recognition of the value of these facilities to our equestrian community,” said Lynda. “We continue to move to centralise and build on these exceptional facilities to ensure they are of an international standard. This sponsorship is a massive contribution to that – we simply cannot do things like this alone. Dunstan and Fiber Fresh are so strongly connected with our community, it is a great fit.”
NEC Christchurch convenor Don Robertson reiterated the words of Lynda, saying it was brilliant for the Christchurch venue to have its first naming rights sponsors. “It is great to be in partnership with these two companies and we are all looking forward to where it leads to in the future,” said Don.
They were just in the throes of finishing the installation of a $300,000-plus irrigation system that means there are sprinklers on all the centre’s sand arenas. They have also recently extended the Hampton Oval and installed a new bore and pumps. “We have dramatically increased the reliability of the bore now with a deeper aquifer to guarantee supply during the drier months,” said Don. Two arenas now have Treadlite, new open yards are being built, and more covered yards next on the list.
Both the North and South Island NECs have come through a massive amount of work from very committed volunteers. In the South Island, it took some time to find the right spot, and eventually in 1980 they settled on 74-hectares near the Christchurch Airport, with development starting two years later. It was a massive effort to break the land in and saw huge commitment from a core group of people. The NEC Christchurch was officially opened on October 16, 1983. Construction continued over the ensuing years with mostly voluntary labour and materials either donated or purchased at cost. The New Zealand Three-Day Event tested the venue and it got the thumbs up from Captain Mark Phillips, who rated it as among the top six in the world at the time.
In the ensuing years, it has played host to the South Island Three-Day Event, the Nationals, the South Island Showjumping Championships, and several other top events. Many people have helped along the way, including the likes of Alan Hampton, Mary Dalley, Joan McCall, Helen Spencer-Bower, Rex Nelson and John Srhoy, among others.
The concept of a centralised North Island training site came a little earlier, gaining traction in 1971 when a sub-committee was established to look for a suitable location. Pat Donnelly discovered the 36.4-hectare block just north of Taupo which was bounded on one side by the Waikato River and comprised light pumice terrain which meant it was suitable for year-round riding. The centre started operations in 1975 thanks to working bees, support from areas, sponsorship and more, with Lockie Richards the resident instructor.
The foundation for the first cross country came thanks to George Beatson and a team from Southern Hawke’s Bay, Ben Allen and Eric Ropiha, which was added to and improved by Canadian Nick Holmes-Smith around 1982. The first-ever International Three-Day Event was held at Taupo in 1985.
Plenty of very recognisable names from equestrian have been involved over the years, including WD and HO Wills – for whom the centre was first named thanks to a very generous early sponsorship – as well as Sheryll Marr, Jennifer Millar, Jennifer Stobart Howard, Beth Fife, Virginia Caro, Boy Caro, Eric Fox, Helen Gilbert, Errol O’Brien, David Boyce, Jan Wynn Williams, and Penny and Colin McIntosh.