Equestrian: Milligan to follow mum on world stage

By Shane Hurndell

It was easy to detect more than a hint of family rivalry as Hawke's Bay western rider Stephanie Milligan and her horse Whizzarita completed a training session last night.

Milligan is the only Bay rider selected in the New Zealand Youth team of five and a reserve for the Trans-Tasman Challenge in Melbourne in September. A top display in Melbourne will enhance her chances of being selected for next year's Quarter Horse World Cup in Texas.

Milligan's mother Carol competed at the 1992 World Cup in Australia and recorded ninth and 10th placings in some of the classes.

"Hopefully I can get to the World Cup and beat some of mum's placings. But it's not so much about that ... it's about learning to cope in that environment," Milligan said after getting Whizzarita to do everything she wanted for the Hawke's Bay Today photographer at her family's Paki Paki farm.

"Stephanie is already a much better rider than I was ... she sits much prettier than I did," Carol remarked.

A 15-year-old Hastings Girls' High School year 11 student, Milligan has been a western rider for five years. September will be her first taste of the Trans-Tasman Challenge which is staged every two years and alternates between Australia and New Zealand.

"In the past the Aussies have selected riders who have had World Cup experience and the Kiwi youth team members haven't had riders with World Cup experience. This time the Aussies won't, so it will be a more level playing field," Milligan explained.

"Both the Aussie and Kiwi team members ride borrowed horses. We have a couple of days before the event to get used to them so it will be a case of who adapts the best to their borrowed horse," Milligan said.

New Zealand's national youth champion last season, Milligan, will travel to Tamworth in July so she can experience Aussie conditions.

"Hopefully I will get the same horses in September as I do in July," Milligan said.

Because the western riding season runs from August to August, Milligan won't have any shows before the Trans-Tasman Challenge. Apart from some weekend training camps with fellow Kiwi team members, she will complete all of her preparation herself.

With training sessions every day after school Milligan is no stranger to the level of commitment required. It's her main sport so there aren't too many distractions for her.

While Milligan's form in Australia will be a key factor towards World Cup selection, several others will be taken into account, including consistency during the next season which will see her compete in at least 10 of the 20 shows around the country, two of which are held in Hawke's Bay.

Other factors include the manner in which Milligan handles other horses and how she fits into a team environment.

To those who aren't in the know, western riding is a refined form of the American-based equestrian form which originated from ranching. There are different types of classes, including obstacle courses.

"It's similar to high-level dressage with plenty of communication between your legs and other body parts and your horse. There is low contact with the horse's mouth," Milligan explained.

As part of Milligan's fundraising campaign for the Melbourne trip her Hawke's Bay Western Riding Club, which boasts more than 50 members, will stage a "Have a Go" day at the Hawke's Bay Equestrian Park next month.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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