Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Zealand: Kiwi Endurance Team for WEG a Cracker

NZEquestrian.org.nz

20/05/2014 9:52:15 a.m.

There’s history in the naming of the New Zealand endurance team to compete at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in France.

With less than 100 days to go until the championship event, Equestrian Sports New Zealand has announced its endurance team, which includes mother and daughter Andrea and Georgia Smith. The Mangaweka duo are the first such combination to represent the sport at an equestrian championship together, and Georgia is believed to be the youngest ever. Joining them are Alison Higgins (Nelson), who makes her second WEG team, Braden Cameron (Wellington) and Susie Latta (Otago).

New Zealand will also have eventing and vaulting teams at WEG, with the possibility of showjumping and para-equestrian representatives too. ESNZ high performance director Sarah Harris and the endurance team’s chef d’Equipe Tony Parsons are very excited by the prospect of their five-strong team.

“These are riders who have all come up through the squad system and shown good form over recent seasons,” said Parsons. “There is a really good mix of experience and enthusiasm.”

The horsepower under all five riders was impressive, but Parsons is picking Andrea Smith, who rode the champs test event last year, as the individual to watch. “Her horse is a real star and she has the quality to match that talent.”

Information gathered at last year’s endurance test event is proving a valuable tool in preparation for the championships. “It is not going to be a straight foot race in Normandy, which is great for teams like us,” says Parsons. “It’s going to require plenty of mental toughness too.”

The best three scores count for the team tally.

It’s been a tricky run for the endurance riders. The national championships were cancelled at Easter due to dreadful weather, and a final selection run at Taupo was arranged for three weeks later. That meant some riders just missed out, unable to juggle other commitments and keep their horses in work.

But one of the biggest hurdles for the riders has not been making the team. Rather it will be in the required fund-raising to get their horses to France, and hopefully back. Each rider needs to raise around $60,000 – but some have already said they will probably have to sell their horses in Europe.

“These riders get minimal funding,” says Parsons. “We really do think, that for the long term development of the sport, we would like these horses to come home . . . but that won’t be possible for all of them.”

For Sarah Harris, the strength of the team is an indicator of how far the endurance programme has come in the last two years. “Two years ago we only had one combination qualified for the Endurance World Champs, so we are thrilled to have the ability to send a team like this to France,” she says.

She reiterates Parsons’ belief in Andrea Smith. “She and her horse are the most exciting prospect ever sent offshore from New Zealand endurance,” says Harris. “She could definitely go top 10 – it is a big ask, but I believe they could do it.”

To celebrate the 100 days to go until WEG, artist Christophe Dumont, with more than 20 others, created sand art featuring giant horseshoes in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. The endurance event will pass through this bay.

By Diana Dobson
HP Media Liaison