The winners of the Equestrian Sports New Zealand Hall of Fame Awards were announced tonight in Auckland at a cocktail function of approximately 150 riders, officials, and supporters.

Highly contested was the prestigious ESNZ RIDER OF THE YEAR, won by Wendi Williamson of Waimauku in Auckland.  Wendi has had a sterling year on her gelding Don Vito MH, with nine consecutive wins in FEI Grand Prix International competitions in New Zealand and Australia.  A Grand Prix Dressage Champion,  this year the combination also won the Lowry Medallion at the Horse of the Year Show for the most points across all disciplines including Dressage, Showjumping/Show Hunter, and Eventing.

NZL-Wendi Williamson rides Don Vito MH. 2021 NZL-Oro Dressage by the Lake – at Takapoto Estate. Lake Karapiro. Waikato. Saturday 1 May. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

The ESNZ HORSE OF THE YEAR – INTERNATIONAL was won by Greenacres Special Cavalier who – ridden by Caroline Powell –produced one of only three clear jumping rounds to take the win at the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials in May.  The mare is owned by Chris Mann, Michelle Mann, and Caroline Powell, who is based in the UK and thanked the organisers by video.

NZL-Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier take the Title for the 2024 MARS Badminton Horse Trials CCI5*. Gloucestershire. Great Britain. Sunday 12 May. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

The ESNZ HORSE OF THE YEAR – NATIONAL award went to Dom Vito MH, ridden by Wendi Williamson, owned by Wendi and Jon Williamson and bred by Matthews Hanoverians (details above).

The ESNZ TEAM OF THE YEAR was won by four young riders, three of whom had their first experience competing for New Zealand in a team earlier this year.   The OCEANIA YOUNG RIDERS TEAM LAND ROVER HORSE OF THE YEAR 2024  successfully took the Oceania Challenge win from their visiting Australian rivals.  The team members were:  Mia Gilbert and Schnapps MH, Scout Lodder and Overnight Success, Bridie Quigley and Oranoa Greyson, and Mackenzie Marlo and CHS Diplomat.

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).

There were three awards presented for the ESNZ YOUNG PERSON OF THE YEAR category, and these covered the disciplines of Dressage, Jumping/Show Hunter, and Eventing:  

The Dressage award was won by Gemma Lewis from Springston, Canterbury who demonstrated success as she bounced from the Dressage oval to the Mounted Games track with ease.

The Jumping/Show Hunter award went to Samantha Carrington from Hawke’s Bay, a trainer of her own horses from foals and acknowledged for her exceptional talent and sportsmanship, who accepted the award by video.

Samantha Carrington rides Double J Hurricane, Glistening Waters ESNZ Series Final Show, Masterton, Saturday, April 23, 2022 Copyright Photo: KAMPIC / Kerry Marshall

The Eventing award went to West Auckland eventer Mia Gilbert,  a member of the Young Rider Oceania team and winner of the ESNZ Eventing Junior Rider Series for 2023/2024.

Mia Gilbert and Schnapps MH

Two new categories were introduced this year, and they included the ESNZ AGAINST ALL ODDS award. The winner was Jodie Thorne, a Para-Equestrian rider with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) whose resilience, determination, and passion for equestrian sports have made her a beacon of inspiration in the equestrian community.

NZL-Jodie Thorne rides Ira Hayes. Final-1st. Class 161 Para Collective – FEI Para Grand Prix Musical Freestyle GD 1 2023. 2024 NZL-Bates NZ Dressage Championships. NEC Taupo. Friday 22 March. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

For the past three seasons, she has won every National title in her own grade, scoring consistently at 70% and more in pinnacle NZ events.   Her determination to continue to drive and tow her own horse float or the self-converted fully accessible caravan, underscores her remarkable self-sufficiency and tenacity.

The other new category introduced this year, was the ESNZ GROOM OF THE YEAR AWARD which recognises excellence and outstanding contribution by a groom (volunteer or professional).   The winner was Jenni Calver, a highly experienced Eventing groom who developed the “Grooms representative” initiative at the New Zealand Three Day Event at Puhinui, Auckland and provided grooms prizes for every horse that won a class, at her own expense. 

Jenni Calver

The PILMER PLATE – ESNZ LIFETIME VOLUNTEER/OFFICIALS AWARD for lifetime service to Equestrian Sports New Zealand went to Vicky Melville, who has been involved in the sport for since  graduating from Otago Physio School in 1974.  For the last 25 years, she has enjoyed the challenges and opportunities of classifying Para-Equestrian riders around the world, averaging five trips a year, and was instrumental in securing Para-Equestrian as ESNZ’s fifth discipline. 

Vicky Melville

Four equestrians were inducted into the prestigious 2024 EQUESTRIAN SPORTS NEW ZEALAND HALL OF FAME:

Kallista Field, who represented New Zealand in her late teens at the World Games in Rome in 1998.  Then, at just 22 years of age, she became New Zealand’s first Dressage Olympian, when she represented the country at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.  The multiple Grand Prix Champion rider continues to volunteer at her local shows.

Kallista Field

Maurice Beatson, a New Zealand representative at the 1988 Olympic Games, in Seoul, and the winner of a mammoth 214 showjumping Grand Prix.  At 70 years of age, he can still outgun the best and brightest of subsequent generations of show jumpers in New Zealand. 

NZL-Maurice Beatson rides Central Park. Final-1st. Class 6: Bully Hills Farm Welcome Horse 1.40m. 2023 NZL-Taupo NEC Jumping Christmas Classic. Thursday 14 December 2023. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

Colin Clarke and his horse Town Boy, together veterans of more than 180 showjumping competitions and stars of the sport between 1963 and 1971 on both sides of the Tasman.  The duo broke the New Zealand showjumping height record – not once but twice – the second time at 6 feet 8.5 inches or a massive 2.04 metres. 

Colin Clarke and Town Boy

Wallie Niederer, who, as Team Veterinarian, attended seven Olympic Games and seven World Championships since 1984.  He received the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009 and also was the driving force behind a multi-million dollar Indoor Arena project that was developed at the Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre in Taupō.

Wallie Niederer (far right) and the 1984 NZ Olympic Team, Los Angeles

Equestrian Sports New Zealand Board Chair Lynda Clark said each of the award recipients and the Hall of Fame Inductees were outstanding representatives of Equestrian sports in New Zealand and an inspiration to all horse enthusiasts. 

“The calibre of these equestrians demonstrates the ongoing commitment to a sport that continues to have a healthy presence in New Zealand. We know approximately 40,000 people in this country ride horses, from grass-roots to high performance.  It is a privilege to share the achievements of our competitors, while also celebrating the enjoyment of a sport many share with their equines,” she said.

The 2024 annual Hall of Fame Awards cocktail party and award ceremony were held on Friday 5 July at Rydges, Auckland, 59 Federal Street, Auckland CBD.