Campbell Robertson has just returned from the World Champs. But he wasn’t there to compete in equestrian sports. Instead, it was the heady heights of the double-mini trampolining for this 4* Eventing rider from Christchurch. The “multi-tasker” was part of a squad of eight trampolinists who have just represented New Zealand in Birmingham. He made it to the semifinals and finished 14th (the second placed Australasian) in a field of 48, the only athlete in the group competing on a double mini-tramp.
“If you understand gymnastics, the double mini-tramp is a hybrid between vault and trampoline. There is a higher degree of tactical play; you can change your plan as you go whereas – on the big tramps – you’ve got a plan and you have to stick to it,” says Cam.
This has been his third world trampolining champs. He says it’s a sport that gets little attention, despite senior New Zealand athletes being among the best in the world. Last world champs were won by Auckland-based team-mate and Tokyo Olympian, Dylan Schmidt.
Cam (28) says trampolining is his focus before he makes a planned return to eventing, a sport he took up in his teens.
“As a gymnast I’m getting quite old! So, I need to make the most of it before returning to riding. It’s a funny concept to be old on one spectrum and young on the other,” he laughs.
Cam competed as a teenager on his 3* mare Wairoa Renegade (Eurosport Centavos out of a Grosvenor mare) aka “Reggie”. He would often find himself at the South Island 3-Day one weekend, then at the national gymnastics championships the next. He would ride in the mornings, and train on the tramp in the evenings. He says there are similarities between the two sporting codes, especially when it comes to competing.
“The thing that has worked for me is that, although each sport is very different, there are similarities in learning how to deal with the pressures of competition. So, I get double the experience as I can go out one weekend Eventing and deal with doing that properly, and the next weekend I can go out and do a trampoline competition,” he says.
Cam comes from a well-known horsey Canterbury family. Dad Don is the chair of the Dunstan Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre in Christchurch, while mum Janet has “always been super involved and passionate about horses” particularly when it comes to helping Cam juggle their care and management. Older brother Lachlan lives in Wellington and represents the country in ultimate frisbee sports.
Cam is also one of a small handful of FEI Level 1 Eventing Course Designers in New Zealand, where there are just four FEI level 3 course designers and 1-2 at FEI level 2.
Having the NEC nearby, he has designed up to national 3* level and some FEI 2* competitions. He says it’s a lot of work, but he really enjoys doing it. He hopes to upskill himself and work his way up the grades. He says it has been a big step to get onto the first rung of the FEI ladder, with a commitment to completing seminars and online training in between his other pursuits. He has been mentored by Tich Massey for the last 12 months.
“Tich is one of our top NZ course designers and a really good bloke, he’s done a lot of work overseas and I was lucky to work with him at Arran Station in the Hawke’s Bay. You can ask him any question about horses and course design, and he will have an answer for you. He is really awesome in a helpful way.”
Cam says he has always enjoyed the creative aspect of course designing and his work has been helped by the international eventing training he received when he lived with Jock Paget in the UK for two years.
“Jock would have me putting up show jumps, and talking to him made me realise that there is a lot of detail and a lot of ‘feel’ you need to have as a designer. We would talk about lines and distances, and this has helped me to build a better picture, and ultimately to become a better course designer. There is a science behind it, but ultimately, it’s about having intuition and from looking at what works and what doesn’t,” he says.
Meanwhile, as Cam reflects on the exciting two weeks he has just had in Birmingham, he is keen to get more serious about horses and course designing when he stops trampolining in a couple of years’ time.
“For me, I just take a lot of pride in putting out tracks that the riders enjoy. Often times they will come and thank me for putting good tracks out, and putting out stuff that is really fair to each different level yet gives them a challenge. In the course design guidebook it says that we are there to educate the horses and not examine them. I hope what I put out achieves that – the goal is to try to hit that sweet spot that is challenging enough, but also gives the horses and the riders confidence. We are always trying to grow the next wave of riders coming through,” says Cam.
In his “spare time” Cam is a self-employed saddlery worker and industrial sewing outdoor furniture and boat covers, and repairing horse covers.