Show crackles with energy

By Diana Dobson

It's bigger, better and a guaranteed not-to-be missed event on any calendar.

The 2012 New Zealand Horse of the Year Show promises to be another cracker with top international showjumpers from both sides of the Tasman, New Zealand's best eventers, the cream of the national dressage crop and so much more.

An exciting parade of stallions has been introduced, along with the growing young horse section, both of which showcase New Zealand's impressive breeding industry

The trade section is almost as important as the competitive side and that, too, has hit new heights.

Show director Kevin Hansen continues to push the boundaries of an event that has garnered praise from all over the globe.

"This will be the 14th Horse of the Year Show we have hosted in Hawke's Bay and, really, I think we are only just beginning to tap into the full potential of this event," he said. "Things will just continue to progress from here."

Part of his enthusiasm is buoyed by Equestrian Sports NZ's commitment to retain the show in Hawke's Bay for the next 15 years, new governance and a performance-driven new board.

While many changes will not be immediately noticed by those at the show, it means behind the scenes the show has moved to a new level. There is a new board comprising Greg Gent (ESNZ), Warwick Hansen (Showjumping Hawke's Bay), Cynthia Bowers (Hastings District Council deputy mayor), Cindy Mitchener (marketing and TV expert from Auckland) and Colin Stone (Sport Hawke's Bay chief executive).

"It's an exciting move to have these changes, which will only strengthen the show for the future," Mr Hansen said. "We've got such big plans for the future and we're already under way with some of those for the 2013 show."

Venezuelan course guru Leopoldo Palacios is back again and will fully challenge entrants in the $200,000 Bell Tea Olympic Cup.

Katie McVean is sitting on an Olympic Cup hat-trick and, if successful, would be the first ever to do so. There's plenty of interest from Australia in the class, as the Aussies are sending a top team for the Mitavite Australasian test which is incorporated in the second biggest class of the show, the $50,000 CRT Silver Fern Stakes, on the Friday night.

Also in the Land Rover Premier Arena is Singapore's Ho Nai Yue, the only O level showjumping judge in the Southern Hemisphere, who will oversee the ring.

The Rush Munro Three Day Event has attracted New Zealand's top onshore combinations, as has the $20,000 GJ Gardner Dressage Kur which is scheduled to be run just before the Olympic Cup on Sunday.

Dressage is riding a high after qualifying a team for the London Olympics; an achievement that has sent ripples of excitement right through the discipline.

The young horse section has been a part of the show for several years now, but changes are afoot to include a young horse showjumping and performance section on Thursday afternoon.

"Our breeding industry is such a key element of the sport going forwards," Hansen sai.

The inaugural stallion parade is another exciting addition and will be held before the functions marquee as people head to the Hall of Fame dinner on Thursday evening. The stallion parade is being organised by Brit Lisa Beck who promises "a parade with a difference".

"I am used to stallion parades in the UK which can be somewhat boring, so for this one we are really pulling out all stops," said Ms Beck, who will open the parade on her imported coloured stallion Samista.

Included in the parade will be short displays from various disciplines.

"This will be a stallion parade with a difference," she promises, "and only the best need enter."

Paradressage is back for its second year, while mounted games are on the up. The 2013 show will include the world championships, so planning is well under way.

Entertainment is also big, with celebrations starting on Thursday night with the Hall of Fame dinner, where the David Ross Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented, alongside the Hall of Fame honours.

Guest speaker is Christchurch earthquake survivor Nick Walls who spent 10 hours trapped in the PGG Wrightson Building. Tickets are on sale through .

The dinner is followed by the reunion lunch the next day for those involved in the sport before 1990, and then later the Friday Night Extravaganza and the Saturday Night Variety Show, which includes the Hunt Chase.

For the first time, there'll be showjumping under lights with the New Zealand Speed Horse of the Year scheduled to go at 8.30pm on Saturday.

"We've got experts ensuring the lighting is perfect for the class. It's a real equestrian celebration," Mr Hansen said.

Expect to see a few layout changes around the grounds too. There is a new showjumping arena near the practice arenas for rings one, two and three.

To accommodate the new ring, one ring has been taken out of the main oval, giving organisers more room in the premier arena.

"It's bigger, smarter and more exciting all round, if that's possible," Mr Hansen said.

Trade continues to grow, this year there will be 172. The show pumps in excess of $12.5 million into the Hawke's Bay economy.

Numbers of those coming through the gates continues to rise, too, with the 2011 show attracting 74,000 people.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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