Equestrian targets world finals

By Terry Maddaford


By some small coincidence, Rebekah van Tiel attends a school where the motto is "Resolution". As a top young equestrian that, surely, is apt.


Few sports are as demanding as showjumping but at 15 years, van Tiel - "Beky" to her friends - has already shown she has what it takes to shine to the extent she won this year's Rosehill College Junior Sporting Excellence award.


The decile six school in Papakura - home to more than 1700 pupils (which ranks in the top 20 in Auckland) - regards sport highly with van Tiel already a head-turner. The winner of the FEI World Jumping Challenge - she beat 22 hopefuls aged between 15-18 years - van Tiel has won the right to represent New Zealand at next year's world finals in Guatemala.


For the Year 10 pupil, the trip to the Central American country will be a mind-blowing experience. In her only other overseas competition she lined up in New Caledonia.


Since first sitting on pony as a 6-year-old, van Tiel has followed her mother Kerry into the sport and the plaudits have kept coming.


"I first rode on my cousin's pony," said van Tiel. "They gave me that pony but he was later put down. I then got another and won lots on him before I gave him away and got another.


He taught me everything and after that I got my first Grand Prix pony when I was 10."


In a sport where speed and jumping skills are paramount there, surely, has to be an element of fear. Not so, it seems, for this girl from Karaka.


"I've got a natural ability. I have no fear which is a gift I suppose. Most riders get scared at some stage."


But getting to where she is has not come without incident and accidents.


She suffered a bad fall last season but, having being knocked out, remembers nothing of it and was back competing - and winning - on the last day of the show in Te Teko.


In her most recent event, van Tiel, aboard the grey Adeaze, rode four clear rounds to take the challenge at the Showjumping Auckland Manukau Two Star Show at Pukekohe.


Trained by one of New Zealand's best-known riders John Cottle, van Tiel led from the start and ended up winning by more than six seconds.


Competing on the showjumping circuit does not come cheap.


"I try to earn as much prize money as I can to help. Mum works to help as well as it is very expensive," said van Tiel, who plays netball both at Rosehill College and for a club in the winter as a means of keeping fit.


This summer she faces another busy schedule. School finishes on December 11 and while many of her schoolmates will be heading to the beach, van Tiel will be off to the National Equestrian Centre in Taupo competing in the three-day Taupo Christmas Classic from December 15-17.


Beyond that, her next aim is to win the Young Rider of the Year crown at the Horse of the Year Show in March and she would dearly love to start in the Lady Rider of the Year - but she will not contest that class unless she feels she and her mount are completely ready.


You have the feeling they will.

- THE AUCKLANDER

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