Three women who have been entrenched in equestrian for many years as officials, competitors and supporters, have been named as New Zealand’s high performance jumping selectors.
Miranda Harrington, Jackie Jermyn and Paula Mussen are all hugely passionate about the sport and keen to continue to drive the discipline to higher levels alongside the newly-released jumping pathway programme.
ESNZ high performance general manager Jock Paget says it is excellent to have three such experienced women appointed as selectors. “This is a key component of the programme both on and offshore, and something that calls for both experience and foresight. It is an exciting time for jumping.”
Miranda has been competing and working in Europe for 21 years and is based in The Netherlands. “I can give more insight into the challenges our top overseas based riders face,” she says. She is looking forward to giving back to a sport that continues to give her so much. “It took a little persuasion but I hope to be able to help our top riders achieve the best results possible.”
Miranda competed successfully at pony, young rider and grand prix level in New Zealand before heading offshore. She competed in Nations Cup events in 2004 and was shortlisted for the Athens Olympic Games.
After some years working for others, she and her partner Dolf Van Mierlo established their own business. Those small beginnings in 2006 have led to big things. They have produced many horses to top level including Davis, who was successful at the London Olympic Games and Cartier, who competing at world and European championships. “Once we started our own business, our focus has been more on producing horses, building our own stable and our family,” says Miranda who knows only too well about the challenges facing Kiwi jumpers.
“It is horsepower. We have some great riders but it is no easy task to find a top horse and even more so an owner or investor who is willing to keep a horse until championship level,” she says. “The costs of getting a horse to that level is a big investment and many owners would prefer to see such a horse competing under their own country’s flag.”
Jackie has been a national selector since 2014 and since 2016 the chair of selectors. “I have a passion for seeing New Zealand showjumping progress on the world stage as a team, and I think in the past I have been instrumental in assisting with helping to make that happen,” said the 21-year veteran policewoman who is now a detective on a child protection team.
“Selecting is not just about selecting teams. We also select the squads which ultimately can form the basis of a rider’s pathway through the sport. For a long time, myself and my fellow selectors have wanted to have a pathway similar to what is now proposed, but it wasn’t a possibility with the small operating budget that we had. The new pathway offers so much opportunity and support to the riders and for them to learn their sport in an entirety, not just as a competitor.”
She’s sure the right input through better training opportunities, advice and support will hold riders in better stead when they head offshore.
Jackie grew up in Nelson and worked her way through the Pony Club system, representing her area in both eventing and dressage. She competed at the old advanced level eventing and was on the ESNZ squads, representing New Zealand at young rider and other informal senior teams. She has sold eventers offshore, including one who represented The Netherlands at the Hague World Champs. In 1992 she was fifth in Oceania in the Land Rover World Rider Rankings. Over the past decade she has travelled to World Championships, World Cup and to what she describes as some of the biggest and best events in the world.
Her focus has shifted from eventing to showjumping where she has produced many young horses and ridden to Grand Prix level while also being on the Waikato Showjumping Committee, helping run shows and is a member of the ESNZ Performance Committee.
During her decades in equestrian she has seen New Zealand breeders produce better horses. “It is important the training of these horses is kept up-to-date to shape their long-term future in the sport and this can only be done by the current and future generations of riders understanding the basics and long term goals,” says Jackie. “I feel some of our young and emerging showjumping riders don’t understand the importance of correct training and the part that can play in producing not only better horses for the future but also better opportunities for them as a rider if and when they head overseas to ride for themselves or for other stables. I believe horse riding is a skill in which you never truly know everything, and the learning opportunities are vast.”
Paula has had plenty of pressure over the years to put her hand up as a selector and says now is the right time. The revenue planning manager for NZME Radio is a competitive rider, show organiser and currently in her third year as chair of Showjumping Auckland.
She has competed for New Zealand in young rider and senior teams on both sides of the Tasman as well as worked as a rider in Germany, England and the United States.
Paula says her big love is producing young horses to the best of their abilities. All of her horses have been bought as three-to-five year olds and brought carefully through by herself. “It is a bit gutting to have the very best one now, at the age of 50,” she says of Déjà vu NZPH. “She easily jumped her first grand prix at the end of the season for double clear and placed fourth in pretty fancy company.” During their journey Ducky – as she is known to her mates – has won age group classes, pro-ams and mini grand prix. “She is a total star and I love her – totally quirky but worth it.”
Paula knows only too well the challenges aspiring New Zealand showjumpers face. “Being at the bottom of the world makes it very difficult and expensive for our riders to ‘step up’,” she says. “I would love to see New Zealand using Australia annually as an opportunity to test our riders at the next level . . . they jump bigger than we do and have many more combinations at the top level. I think if you can hold your own in Australia, the next step is further afield.”
And while horsepower has long been an issue, Paula says New Zealand is more and more breeding some “lovely” jumpers. “Hopefully that will continue to bridge the gap.”
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
September 20, 2021