The first event of the ESNZ Eventing Super League season will be staged at The Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre in Taupo this weekend.

As always at the beginning of a competition year, there are new horse and rider combinations to watch with interest, as well as those stepping up to new heights.

Following a "wild" dressage test at Hastings last weekend, Clarke Johnstone will not compete his Rio Olympic mount Balmoral Sensation, opting instead to limit 'Ritchie' to a demonstration dressage competition of the Eventing CCI4* test.

Johnstone was not unhappy with the horse, saying, "He is very fresh, and loving being out again", so the plan is to prepare him for the Adelaide CCI4* next month.

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The Super League class, the NRM CIC3*, has attracted eight entries, including Havelock North's Amanda Pottinger on Just Kidding, who had the satisfaction of winning the Lumberjack Logging CNC2* Plus at Hastings, ahead of Johnstone on Balmoral Sensation.

Te Kauwhata's Donna Edwards-Smith has three horses entered, including last year's winner of the Super League series, the diminutive but very consistent palomino DSE Mr Hokey Pokey, as well as DSE Cluny and DSE Tangolooma, both back at the top after previous setbacks.

Matangi's Samantha Felton has Ricker Ridge Rui entered, although her two top horses, National CIC3* Champion Ricker Ridge Escada and Oceania team horse Ricker Ridge Pico Boo have yet to appear at elite level this season.

Kumeu's Andy Daines rides Spring Panorama, on whom he won the Taupo leg of the Super League last year, before being named in the Oceania team.

Oceania Young Rider team members Renee Faulkner of Papakura and Rubinstar HH are entered, and the field is completed by Brooke Campbell riding Freddy Dash, stepping up to 3* after winning the National CIC2* Championship at Kihikihi in April.

The NRM CIC2* class has a quality entry of 29 combinations, and competition will be keen at this level as riders vie for points in the Equissage Pro-Am series.

Last year's series winners, Madison Crowe of Matangi and Waitangi Pinterest, will have Pottinger riding Holly Morrell's Pampero to contend with. Taupo's Morrell and Pampero were runners up in the Pro-Am series last year.

Johnstone, although not eligible for the Pro-Am series, also contests this class with In Disguise and Kate Wood's Wolf Whistle II, both well performed and likely to set a high standard.

Veteran Bryce Newman of Bulls, a former international now training racehorses, has two promising young horses in Bates Our Entourage and Bates Game Keeper, who placed second and third at Hastings last weekend.

Others to watch are Oceania Young Rider team members Vicky Browne-Cole of Waiuku and her lovely grey Eli, and former Young Rider champion Sarah Young of Tokoroa on Leo Degas.

Points in the PEL Amateur Rider and Mitavite Young Rider series will also be earned in Taupo.