Monday, August 23, 2010

New Zealand: Challenge is On!

13/08/2010 4:06:22 p.m.

Three women will fly the flag for New Zealand at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky next month.

Alison Higgins (Nelson) on Twynham El Omar, Debby Worsfold (Rangiora) on Northwinds Bradley McGregor (owned by Chris King) and Jenny Chandler (Te Awamutu) on Lace and Fineness will compete in the 160-kilometre endurance ride against the best in the world.

Higgins is the highest world ranked member of the team, coming in at number 10 – her best ranking was three earlier this year. She'll compete on her horse Twynham El Omar, who was one of a trio of horses she competed successfully on in New Zealand this past season.

The 41-year-old current South Island champ has only been involved in endurance since 2002, but has moved quickly through the ranks.

Twenty-four year old Worsfold has previously ridden in South Africa for New Zealand and has won the South Island Championships and finished second at National Championships.

Rounding out the team is 44-year-old Chandler, who while relatively new to the sport, has placed well in national competitions.

High performance leader Madonna Harris says the terrain in Kentucky will suit the Kiwi horses perfectly, but much hinges on solid riding skills and a strong team performance. However, with just three in the team, there is no luxury of a drop off score.

“Our riders know what speed they need to ride at to maintain that world class level,” says Harris, who has represented New Zealand in a raft of sports including cross country skiing, cycling, athletics, endurance riding and basketball.

“We have a great opportunity to do well there.”

The team gets on the road later this week before flying to Los Angeles on August 29th.

Endurance is one of eight equestrian disciplines taking part in the games – the others being showjumping, reining, dressage, eventing, para dressage, vaulting and driving.

The endurance team was the first of the New Zealand teams to be announced. Initially a five-strong team was named but two of those announced later withdrew.

The World Equestrian Games are held every four years. The first one was held in Stockholm in 1990, and this year's event in Kentucky, in the United States is expected to attract riders from more than 50 nations.

The estimated economic impact the 16-day event is expected to have on Kentucky is around $US 150 million. Organisers say they will sell 600,000 tickets. The games run from September 25 through to October 10 and are held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

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