The most prestigious titles in New Zealand eventing will be contested at the NRM National Three-day event at Aratiatia, Taupo, this weekend with a capacity entry vying for the four championship trophies.
It is the culmination of the eventing year, with all five of the Eventing New Zealand series (Bell Tea Super League, Massey University Young Rider, Alltech Junior Rider, Pro-Am, and Amateur) concluding here, with double points on offer for these final classes.
There are a record 21 riders coming from the South Island, which should make the inter-island teams competition, with four riders representing each island, an exciting one. The venue, the Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre, received a $30,000 Lion Foundation grant for development of the cross-country course, so new challenges await all competitors.
The course, which runs over both the adjacent Department of Conservation Reserve and the Landcorp property reflects the heritage of the area. The designers are John Nicholson, Te Awamutu, brother of Olympian Andrew Nicholson, for the 3* and 2*, and former Olympian Andrew Scott, Feilding, for the 1* and Pre-novice.
The 1* and Pre-novice tracks are built alongside each other so both classes can run concurrently, enabling the organisers to accept the maximum number (dictated by daylight hours) of qualified entries. This is thought to be a world first, but it worked last year, so is being repeated.
The cross-country distances are far longer for a three-day (CCI) event than a one-day (CIC) event, the 3* being 6000m, so horses are required to be much fitter, hence the requirement for veterinary inspections before the start of the competition and before Sunday's showjumping phase.
Sponsorship support has enabled the prize money to be increased this year, particularly the NRM CCI3* (Advanced), with first prize doubling to $3000. The Bell Tea Super League is worth $5000 to the winner.
The NZ Horse and Pony Young Event Horse Championship takes place tomorrow, for qualified four and five-year-old horses. This has become an attraction in itself, providing a shop window for breeders, and an introduction to high profile events for the horses.