Staying power pays off for veteran rider

By Anendra Singh


She didn't know how much money she had won and she didn't really care much, either.

Catherine Cameron, it seems, is in every sense of the word a journeywoman.

She is only 37, but in showjumping parlance, Cameron has done the miles.

"I've come every year to Hawke's Bay. It's not so much about the money as it is about the prestige," the Cambridge equestrian said after winning the Norwood Gold Cup in the opening class of the New Zealand Horse of the Year Show, in Hastings, yesterday.

What makes her feat even more remarkable at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds is that she first rode her mount, I Reckon, in December.

That is, of course, not to say she lacked rapport with the 14-year-old Hanoverian, a German warm-blood bred specifically for showjumping.

"He's been a pick-up horse in the second half of the season," Cameron said, adding the mount belonged to 21-year-old Stephanie Anderson and her mother and co-owner, Barbara Richards.

Regular rider Anderson, a university student taking a break to swot, is likely to sell the showy chestnut, something Cameron puts down to "the name of the game".

"I helped Stephanie buy him three years ago and helped her ride him," Cameron said, revealing she spends her six months out of showjumping season helping her horseracing partner, Gary Alton, do track work.

In her maiden Norwood Gold Cup victory, Cameron was among six who were left standing as the lion's share of the field of 40 showed how bad the combinations were at playing pick-up sticks.

The last one to qualify for the jump off, she didn't panic.

What jangled nerves? Cameron let her mother, Audrey Cameron of Gisborne, worry about that.

Considering herself fortunate to jump off last because of the luck of the draw, Cameron said: "I was pleasantly surprised to be in the jump-off.

"I knew I was going to win something, so the pressure was off because I had nothing to lose."

Mindful she wasn't competing in the Bell Tea Olympic Cup on Sunday, Cameron felt perhaps the other elite riders were treading on egg shells to save themselves for the premier class of the HOY Show to decide the showjumper of the year.

Australian Paula Hamood (Nero GHP), Hawke's Bay-born Olympian Daniel Meech (Carlotta), Cambridge's New Zealand representative Samantha McIntosh (Estina), Palmerston North's Lucy Akers (Cortaflex Tinapai) and Australian Tim Clarke (Caltango) finished in that order behind Cameron.

Before yesterday, Cameron's best finish in the Norwood class was runner-up eight years ago on another chestnut, her "first good horse", Bell Tower.

"I won the Silver Ferns Stakes on Bell Tower almost a decade ago, too."

Cameron will go back to track work to help Alton after the HOY Show, but before that she'll compete in the Lady Rider of the Year this afternoon on I Reckon and Campione GNZ, a horse the Cameron family co-own with Alton.

The Lady Rider of the Year has proved to be an elusive title for Cameron, whose best finish was runner-up - just don't ask her which year. Still, she will unequivocally tell you "it's a great" six-day show to compete in here.

Her recollection of her first ride on the Gisborne farm of her father, Gordon Cameron, is hazy but she recalled joining the pony club at the age of 4.

"I've always ridden horses and I like to win.

"I've always had the attitude that if you do something, do it well."

She has represented her country here in the winning test against Australia two years ago.

For someone who has also competed in several countries, Cameron still hasn't savoured the glory of the Olympic arena.

"I haven't been close enough to be in line to get selected."

She isn't about to start fretting, though, simply because showjumping is kinder than many other sports in terms of a rider's use-by date.

"There's always time when things aren't going your way. You start tomorrow.

"If tomorrow's another day and that's not so great, then you get out the day after and things will probably get better," she said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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