One of New Zealand's most respected horseman was honoured with induction into the 2012 NZ Horse of the Year Show Hall of Fame at a gala dinner in Hastings last night.
In accepting the honour, Dannevirke farmer Stuart Mitchell said he couldn't have done any of it without the support of his parents Lex and Barbara, and his wife Joan and their children.
Mitchell has enjoyed a highly distinguished and successful career in equestrian sport that has included two Olympic Cups victories, along with many other top national awards and the honour of holding the New Zealand puissance height record (the high jump for horses) for 14 years. He has been in many a transtasman showjumping team and part of two Olympic campaigns, as well as competing in Europe with the New Zealand team.
But not content to sit back, Mitchell has held many a post in the administration side of equestrian, including local branch president, on the national executive, as a showjumping selector and chef d'equipe.
Growing up in Gisborne, he represented the region five times at the Pony Club Champs, and won the Dorothy Campbell Trophy in 1959 on famed pony Comet.
On the back of a successful pony career, Mitchell continued his wining way on horses. In 1963 he was the New Zealand team groom to Australia, and later with the first New Zealand showjumping team to the Tokyo Olympics.
One of his star horses at the time was Walnut, a small and rather plain horse he bought off Olympian Graeme Hansen. The combination went on to win many a grand prix, hit and hurry and puissance. He twice won the Olympic Cup on Walnut, and in 1968 won the Victorian Championship in Melbourne. Throughout a very illustrious career, Mitchell produced 14 A grade horses.
It seemed an inevitable match when he married successful South Island rider Joan Robinson, who had many a top trophy in her cabinet including the Lady Rider of the Year and the Horse of the Year six bar.
In 1970 Mitchell set the puissance record at 1.82m - a record that lasted 14 years.
As a family, the Mitchells travelled the north and south show circuits.
"We had lots of fun, met a lot of people and really enjoyed it," Mitchell said.
Mitchell was presented his Hall of Fame certificate by Equestrian Sports New Zealand president Chris Hodson.
Hodson paid tribute to the many who worked to make the Horse of the Year Show the success it is.
Also honoured at last night's dinner were Taradale's Bob and Jean Maybe, who have time kept all over the country for many years.
They received the David Ross Memorial Trophy for outstanding volunteer service to the Horse of the Year Show.
In presenting the award, John Ross said his brother David was so passionate about the Horse of the Year Show.
He congratulated show director Kevin Hansen, his team and the many volunteers who made the event world-class.
Jean and Bob said they had made so many friends along the way and thoroughly enjoyed their task.
Also speaking at the dinner, which was led by MC Stuart McLeod, was Christchurch earthquake survivor Nick Walls.