Wendi Williamson and Don Vito MH made a clean sweep at the Sydney CDI this week, winning the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle.

The Kiwi combo started their event with a bang, taking the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix out on 71.065%, backing that up with 72.149% in the special on Wendi’s birthday and finishing on a high with 75.175% in the Freestyle. Finishing runner-up to her in all three classes was David McKinnon. Wendi’s freestyle victory rounded out a treble of New Zealand winners in the class over the past three years.

“Don Vito was just amazing,” she said of the gelding who has been with her since he was a foal. “He had gone very well at Nationals (before they left) but this was completely different. He was so much more together and powerful. It was definitely another level.”

Elke Ebert, the German judge at The Sydney CDI, had also judged at the FEI World Cup final last month and certainly seemed to like what she saw. “I feel really assured that the horse is good enough and that we are good enough because it’s not just the horse! I feel there is definitely more to come too,” says Wendi.

Their relationship is so solid. “He is such a happy horse. He has a bit of a Sharky name at home over his food or if he thinks he isn’t getting enough attention.” He absolutely thrived in Sydney, relishing in being the top dog.

“Even though he is now in his third year, he had 10 months off with a pretty bad illness. In Sydney he just gave me the feeling there is more. His passage is so powerful and off the ground. He gets very high in the air and off the ground so much.”

Wendi says it takes a long time for a horse to develop strengths and Don Vito was now continuing to improve. “There is lots more there, so that is pretty cool. He anticipates so much and tries so hard to do the right thing.”

Wendi Williamson rides Don Vito MH. File Photo. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

Wendi was cross with herself for a blue in the pirouette that would have certainly added a couple of percent to her tally in the Freestyle. “It means you miss the degree of difficulty you set.”

She was conscious that the Paris Olympic Games were on everyone’s lips and says she believes it is possible to make big teams and events from New Zealand.

“It would be nice to go overseas and continue the campaign but it is expensive, I have a business here and people I mentor and train, so it is not that easy. Heading overseas is a big commitment and taking just one horse can be difficult mentally.”

Her sights are certainly set on top representation. “We will try and qualify for the FEI World Cup Final in Switzerland next year too.”

Wendi is confident the horse will continue to improve. “There are very few 80% Grand Prix horses in the world . . . you could count them on one hand. I do believe if we were overseas he would be a really good team horse. I think he has the potential to be around 75% in the Grand Prix and Special and he could get an 80% in the Freestyle . . . that would be pretty epic.”

Wendi was hugely grateful for the support she received in Sydney. “We had a really cool group of people who came over. It is so nice to have them around and it certainly lifts you.”

Christine Weal had been there to help her and give her an extra push when needed.
Now, they were all back at their Waimauku base, basking in the warmth of a brilliant campaign and contemplating the next move for this very exciting combination.


By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison