The NZL Junior Team takes the Oceania Championship for the Fiber Fresh CCI3*-S. 2024 NZL-Land Rover Horse of the Year. (L-R) Scout Lodder (Overnight Success) , Mia Gilbert (Schnapps MH), Bridie Quigley (Oranoa Greyson) and Mackenzie Marlo (CHS Diplomat).  Photo:  Libby Law Photography

It doesn’t matter who you talked to, everyone was delighted to finally return to Hastings and come together to celebrate the country’s equestrians.  Mother Nature shone down upon us for five days after taming an ill-directed wind earlier in the week. Horses and ponies gleamed, riders beamed, and visitors basked in the limelight of “New Zealand’s most aspirational anticipated equestrian event on the season calendar”.

The breadth and variety of classes enjoyed during the past week have been vast.  We congratulate all the winners and acknowledge all the competitors who have taken part in this stellar event. Here is a wrap up of some of the ‘big ticket’ results.

Ōtāne, Hawke’s Bay rider Luke Dee picked up his first-ever 4CYTE Premier Stakes victory on Gangster WW. He also received the Tom Gadsby Memorial Trophy which was donated by Tom’s family in honour of the eventer and showjumper who died while competing in the United Kingdom 11 years ago.

Ardmore’s 16-year-old Matisse Masterson won the Elanco Junior Rider of the Year on Jay-Z GNZ in her first show jumping appearance at LRHOY. Olympian John Cottle and wife Jackie donated the Super Moth Trophy for the winner of the class, in memory of his horse that won 10 Prix in a row.

Friends Wellingtonian 17-year-old Charlotte Conder and Johanna Wylaars of Christchurch became joint winners of the FMG Young Rider of the Year on their respective horses Kiwi Bonus and Campari. The news was announced on Sunday, when a protest was upheld after both riders were both on four faults after two rounds, and the competition had not progressed to a jump off.

Molly Smith of Geraldine won Pony of the Year on Kabo Fortune Cookie, which the 15-year-old began riding just three months ago. She will now have her name added to a very special list of riders on the Sommerset Fair Cup.

But it was Palmerston North’s Sophie Scott who had hearts reeling when she won first and second place in the prestigious Olympic Cup as Showjumper of the Year. Sophie elected her horse Waitangi Skynet to share the trophy with her, over Benrose Stellar on whom she had won the Cavallino Silver Fern Stakes earlier in the week.

The Hastings Boys’ High School kapa haka group “wowed” our trans-Tasman cousins during the welcoming of the Teams to the Oceania Championships for Eventing. Photo: Libby Law Photography

In the dressage oval, Waimauku rider Wendi Williamson and Don Vito MH took out Dressage Horse of the Year, a title she previously won on Don Vito’s full brother Don Amour MH, five years earlier. The combination won the FEI Grand Prix CDI3*, the 4CYTE Grand Prix Special with a personal best of 74.383%, and the Harrison Lane Grand Prix Freestyle.

The Dressage Young Rider of the Year went to 18-year-old Gemma Lewis from Springston, Canterbury, aboard Ruanuku R. The schoolmaster originally hailed from Auckland and has taken Gemma from level 2 to level 7 in just four months.

Speed Horse of the Year went to Ōhaupō radiographer and mother of three, Emma Gaze on her homebred horse Shuttle Bug. Emma has competed at HOY for more than half her life, and this year she finally won a title.

The Oceania Challenge was a highlight later in the week, where the trans-Tasman comradeship was put to the test.  It was the New Zealand Young Rider team of Bridie Quigley, Mia Gilbert, Scout Lodder and Mackenzie Marlo who took out the young rider teams’ clash, with the CCI3*-S individual prize went to Abbey Thompson on Cadbury KSNZ. 

A delighted Abbey Thompson wins the CCI3*-S individual prize with Cadbury KSNZ.  Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

Meanwhile, the Australians won the senior teams’ title, with Shane Rose from New South Wales and his horse Virgil claiming the individual CCI4*-S crown. Rose received the Sir Mark Todd Trophy, generously donated after Mark had won it at Badminton in 1994.

No event would come together without the tireless enthusiasm of the many, many volunteers who were the backbone of this significant national event. So, after more than 20 years on duty it was a popular choice when Dawn Lau was awarded Volunteer of the Year and received the Ray Burmester Equestrian Jewellery Trophy. 

It was pleasing to see that the news media came aboard with stories online, primetime tv news and live broadcasts into the morning programming. However, the unofficial “media award” must go to Alexa Cook who not only interviewed Scout Lodder while riding a competition horse, she also delivered an impressive piece-to-camera at the canter.  

(L-R) Jaguar Land Rover New Zealand CEO Steve Kenchington, High Performance Sport NZ CEO Steve Tew, ESNZ CEO Julian Bowden, ESNZ GM High Performance Jock Paget. Photo: Libby Law Photography

ESNZ CEO Julian Bowden says the whole event was a true celebration of all things equestrian.

“It was fantastic to see the equestrian community coming together to pay homage to the people of Hawke’s Bay and to put on such an outstanding display of competition and sportsmanship,” he said.

“I would like to thank all the sponsors who enabled this event to go ahead. I would also like to acknowledge Steve Kenchington and Land Rover New Zealand for their enduring support of Horse of the Year over 11 years, and in particular for keeping the faith during the past three years while we experienced circumstances we could never have seen coming. It’s often said that, in New Zealand, Land Rover and equestrian share the same DNA, and this past week has certainly been an example of that. 

“I also want to acknowledge Sophie Blake and her management team for bringing this event back to life. A huge thanks to the riders, grooms and support crews, the trade stands and the many visitors who travelled from near and far to one of the most beautiful parts of the country to bring Land Rover Horse of the Year back,” Julian said.

Check out our videos of the side line action at: Equestrian Sports NZ YouTube Channel

We also encourage you to visit Land Rover Horse of the Year either on Facebook at or on their website for more detailed coverage and the many inspiring stories behind the headlines.