A Hawke’s Bay rider in action at Mounted Games competition at Solway Showgrounds on Tuesday. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
A strong performance was expected from the Wellington-Wairarapa squad as the New Zealand Pony Club’s Mounted Games championship got under way at Solway Showgrounds in Masterton on Tuesday.
Leading the way for the host team was Wairarapa College Year 13 pupil Jeremy Thurston who has been selected in the New Zealand team to compete at this year’s International Mounted Games Association’s Team Nations championships in LaGrange, Kentucky, in July.
All told, seven teams, each with five riders, were contesting the event with Thurston on Copper being supported by Alex Anstis on Molly, Piper Marshall on Birdie, Xanthe Furkert on Honey and Lucy Marshall
Thurston labels Copper as a steady horse, an important quality in a sport where the action can be hectic, and the temperament of horse and rider comes under significant strain.
“You have to trust your pony – at times you are half-on and half-off while flying around the course.”
Mounted Games is a branch of equestrian sport in which very fast games are played on ponies up to a height of 15 hands [60 inches, 152cm].
They require a high degree of athletic ability, good riding skills, hand-to-eye co-ordination, determination, perseverance, and a competitive spirit, which nevertheless requires an ability to work together with other riders and a willingness to help one another.
Mounted Games were the inspiration of Prince Philip.
When Colonel Sir Mike Ansell was Director of the Horse of the Year Show, Prince Philip asked if he could devise a competition for children who could not afford an expensive, well-bred pony, and in 1957 the Horse of the Year Show, then at Harringay Arena in North London, England, staged the first Mounted Games Championship for the Prince Philip Cup which was an immediate success
The sport of Mounted Games as it exists today was founded by Norman Patrick. His aim was to extend the sport, previously age-restricted by Pony Club, for wider participation, and for this reason, in 1984, he established the Mounted Games Association of Great Britain.
In the years which followed his continued support and patronage ensured that the sport spread across Great Britain and beyond.
At the time of Patrick’s death in 2001, the sport which he had established was being enjoyed by many riders across the world, and the International Mounted Games Association, which was formed in 2003, now has members in 22 countries on five continents
Event secretary for Wairarapa Wellington Area, Anna Cardno, said Mounted Games always made for a great spectacle and she was anticipating fireworks, especially in the final scheduled for early Wednesday afternoon.
“When you have such a high-risk factor, anything can happen,” she said.
For Cardno and other members of the organising committee, the Mounted Games were just the start of what would be a hectic five days. From Thursday through until Saturday they will also host the NZPCA’s eventing championships as well as non-championship horse trials.
The eventing takes in three phases, starting with the dressage which will be held at Solway Showgrounds on Thursday, followed by the cross-country at Clareville on Friday and the showjumping at Solway on Saturday.
Cardno said here too, the pressure would be on from the outset with the dressage requiring discipline and obedience, the cross-country boldness and bravery and the showjumping error-free consistency.
“The horses have to be almost schizophrenic, well behaved and pretty one day, ballsy with the heart of a lion the next and athletic and technical to finish.”
The eventing championship contains 13 teams, ranging from Otago-Southland in the north to Northland in the north, and here too the Wellington Wairarapa combination is expected to give a powerful account of themselves.
It will be led by Aiden Viviers on Gizelle 11 supported by Jess Viviers on Trogg LS, Molly Cardno on Packing Chaparral, Kayleigh McLachlan on Bernadeem, Grace White on Under The Radar, Ella Baigent-Brown on High Finance, Hollie Falloon on Farleigh Catterick and Lucy Marshall on Just Benji.