New Zealand equestrian entertainment heads into new territory with the inaugural Riding With The Stars show in Hamilton next week.
Event director Andrew Hansen has enticed some of the very best dressage and showjumping combinations from both sides of the Tasman to compete, along with the Wilson Sisters of Keeping Up With the Kaimanawas fame next Friday and Saturday at Claudelands Arena.
Three time Australian Olympian Vicki Roycroft has plenty of praise for the organisers.
"It is a fantastic initiative by the Hansen family to make our sport so spectacular and spectator friendly," she said. "I am really looking forward to being part of it all."
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Top Kiwi showjumper Helen McNaught-McFarlane agrees.
"It is going to be a blast," she says. "I am happy to support someone who is trying to do something different to better our sport ... it is the way of the future."
The showjumping is going to be a classic Australia-New Zealand showdown.
The Aussies have Roycroft on Congo Z, Clem Smith on the former Kiwi horse Delilah and James Arkins on Rosthwaite Vigilante II. But the Kiwis claim home ground advantage and impressive CVs include Olympians Katie Laurie (Mystery Creek) on Dunstan Breeze and Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) on Mandalay Cove, NZ World Cup final winner McNaught-McFarlane (Taupo) on Carnutelabryere and high performance eventer Clarke Johnstone, who is hoping to make the team for Rio, on Quainton Labyrinth. Also stepping into the arena will be Vicki and Amanda Wilson (Hikurangi) on Ngahiwi Showtym Premier and Showtym Cassanova, rising young star Sam Morrison (Tauranga) on Biarritz, Logan Massie (Dannevirke) on Mr Marmite, Jaime Campbell (Albany) on Socrates de la Vie Z and Josh Barker (Morrinsville) aboard his stallion Eros K.
Tauranga's international course designer Gerrit Beker is tasked with challenging the top-flight combinations over the two round 1.6m world cup-style grand prix showjumping class.
The Grand Prix freestyle dressage to music promises so much. The celebrated Brett Parbery (Aus) on Zeppelin, Rozzie Ryan (AUS) on Jarrah-R, Jody Hartstone (Raglan) on the imported Lusitano stallion Ali Baba, Anya Noble (Hamilton) on her stallion Airthrey Highlander, Abbie Deken (New Plymouth) on AH Ambrose and Rio hopeful John Thompson (Hamilton) on JHT Antonello.
With $16,000 in prize money up for grabs between the two classes, there will be no concessions given. Saturday night's Keeping up with the Kaimanawas Show is an adaptation of the Wilson sisters successful television show.
Hansen says the two nights of entertainment have been especially choreographed and will revolutionise equestrian entertainment in New Zealand.
Riding With The Stars:
* When: Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13
* Where: Claudelands Arena, Hamilton
* Tickets: Selling fast through www.ticketek.co.nz