Horses settle in for start of event

By Kaysha Brownlie

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MUNCH TIME: A couple of horses are given time to munch on the luscious grass at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds, Hastings, yesterday afternoon. PHOTO/Warren Buckland
MUNCH TIME: A couple of horses are given time to munch on the luscious grass at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds, Hastings, yesterday afternoon. PHOTO/Warren Buckland

Horse of the Year begins today bigger, better and cleaner.

A hot topic among the masses arriving at Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds yesterday were the freshly mucked out stables.

It was the first time in years that it had been done before horses and their crews arrived at the premier equestrian event.

Julienne Baynes, who said she had been attending the event for as long as it had been in the region, said it usually took about three hours each time they arrived to clean out the stables, but this year they could get straight into prepping for events.

A new colour-coded system was also introduced to organise the 1400 riders and 1800 horses who descended on the grounds.

Event manager David Mee said the system had been effective in reducing queues.

The arrival of the rain yesterday had not hampered preparations. An event spokeswoman said it was good to have a bit of water before the events took off today.

Mr Mee said the organisers had been shaping up the grounds for some weeks with crowds numbering around 50,000 expected to attend each day.

Julienne Baynes, also known as camp mother, had been coming to Farmlands Horse of the Year ever since it came to Hawke's Bay, despite the four day journey it took to get here.

Ms Baynes left her home town, Winton, Invercargill, a week ago and had settled in nicely at Hawke's Bay A & P Showgrounds, with all three horses, riders, floats and grooms.

The pony, Beechcroft Glamour, was being treated to some therapy from the magnetic pulse blanket she was wearing to help with her sore muscles and blood flow after the long trip.

Katelin Stuart, 15, who would ride the pony, said she hoped she did not do any "party tricks, especially in front of the judges".

Kristen Wareham, 16, had been coming from Feilding to the six-day event for eight years. Although she had never placed before, she was hoping to make it into the top three of her event.

The week is not only about the competitions - a number of stall holders, both food and equestrian supplies, had been set up.

Cambridge Equestrian owner Rhiannon Armstead said it was a "massive week" for them.

When asked what they sold the most of during the week, bandages, feed bags and salt blocks were among the most popular.

Ms Armstead said salt blocks were given to horses to lick and dehydrate themselves which encouraged them to drink lots of water.

Mr Mee said today was the biggest day for shops with huge sales to be seen.

This year's event will see 14 different disciplines staged across the week.

According to figures put out by Farmlands Horse of the Year, the event injects about $12.5 million into the region's economy each year.

This is the 64th year of the premier equestrian event, with Hawke's Bay hosting 21 of those years and organisers promising it would stay in the region for the next 11 years.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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