Rider set to go on warpath at elite event

By SHANE HURNDELL


Hawke's Bay dressage rider Zoe Towler describes her horse Winterstern as a "typical Aussie".

"You've got to fight to win with him and, hopefully, he will grow a brain soon," she said with a laugh as she patted the 9-year-old affectionately known as "Fatty."

"Fatty doesn't like our Kiwi grass. All the recent spring growth means there's lot of sugar in it which drives him crazy," Towler explained.

But this didn't stop Towler and Fatty winning the level five Young Rider titles at the Manfeild-hosted three-day North Island championships which ended on Sunday.

The championships involved four different tests that were marked by two different judges and Meeanee's Towler, 17, won all four.

"Hopefully I can continue this form on to the Horse of the Year ... I want to improve on last year's finish," Towler said referring to the biggest annual equestrian event to be staged in the Southern Hemisphere in Hastings from March 13-18.

Last year saw the Steed Health and Saddlery-sponsored Towler finish sixth in level five at the HOY. "There are always plenty of riders at Horse of the Year so any improvement on that will be great," Towler said.

At Manfeild there were 19 riders in her class. Back in November she won the level five and Young Rider titles at the Dressage Hawke's Bay championship.

The fact riders up to 21 can compete for the Young Rider titles adds to the significance of her feats.

"It was a huge honour to win in Manfeild because it was the first time my sponsors had been able to see me ride," Towler said referring to Kelly Shaw and Dean Diack.

Her final event before HOY will be the Wairoa Show on January 18 and 19.

She is trained by Wanganui's Mandy Littlejohn as well as the Australia-based Clemens Dierks who crosses the Tasman for sessions once every two months. She is just as grateful to her parents Bill and Treena for her success as she is to this pair.

When she is not training she will more than likely be found coaching other riders at her Waverley Equestrian Centre.

"I'm pretty passionate about dressage it's my No1 sport these days ... I have no regrets about giving speedway away," Towler said.

She spent four summers as a ministock driver.

"I've still got back issues from those days."

In addition to her level five commitments with "Fatty" Towler is also training a level four horse she has named Rocky. This one is another Aussie who has been New Zealand-based since he was three.

There's no doubt about it ... Towler thrives on challenges.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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