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Thurston thrilled with title

Kahutara equestrian Jeremy Thurston reckons “it was quite a surreal feeling” being crowned national champion at the New Zealand Mounted Games held in Rangiora over Easter.

Thurston finished six points ahead of runner-up Cam Bailey from Manawatu in the Open A final, scoring 60 points over the 10 disciplines, becoming the first Wairarapa rider to take the top honours since Rochelle O’Hara in 2007.

“I went into the competition knowing that I was quite strong, but I never thought I was that strong,” Thurston said.

The demanding event required the horse and rider to complete different tasks on a pitch about 100m in length, including diverse events such as the two-flag and triple-flag races, the litter lifters, the bottle exchange and the toolbox scramble.

“In one of the races we did, you have to put a sock into a small bucket, and you have to jump off and pick up one and jump back on, and your horse doesn’t slow down at all when you’re jumping off and on, so you’re probably getting on and off the horse at 20–30kmh.”

While speed does play a part in determining scores, Thurston explained that “more often than not, you don’t have to be the fastest to win because accuracy plays a large part in it.”

The 23-year-old will now prepare to head to Europe as part of a five-person team for the World Teams Championship in Italy in July and the World Pairs Championship in France in August; however, he rates their chances as pretty slim, with the factors very much in favour of the strong European teams.

“We’ve got our goals, but it’s quite hard for the New Zealand teams to travel over because we’ve all got to be on borrowed ponies, and the whole of Europe have got their own ones, so they’ve certainly got a big advantage,” he said.

Another Wairarapa rider, Alexandria Antsis, will join Thurston in Italy and will compete in the Under-18 Championships.

Although riding has been second nature to Thurston since he was very young, regularly competing in other equestrian disciplines, he only took up mounted games after watching senior riders display their skills in 2016, and he’s “been hooked ever since”.

In addition to competing, Thurston has taken up coaching and will head the New Zealand second team for the Nations Cup, for countries outside of Europe, in Taupō in October. That team includes two Wairarapa riders, Anstis and Lucy Marshall from Featherston.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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