Emily Cammock's thousands of kilometres spent on the road in her horse truck chasing events around the country finally paid off on Sunday when she won the NRM CCI3* Open National Championship title aboard Shaw Lee.
But the Canterbury mother of two faced a bigger hurdle than most at the NRM National Three Day Event Championships in Taupo. During Saturday's crosscountry, she and Shaw Lee provisionally picked up 50 penalty points. However, upon review, they had the points removed and sat in third place coming into Sunday's showjumping.
Cammock posted a clear round, putting the pressure on overnight leader and defending champ Amanda Pottinger of Havelock North aboard Just Kidding, and Te Kauwhata's Donna Edwards-Smith aboard DSE Mr Hokey Pokey, who sat in second going into the showjumping.
Both women had rails, opening the door for Cammock and her 12-year-old horse.
"This season has been a complete shambles for me," she said, "so this is really special."
She travelled from Canterbury to Hawke's Bay for the Horse of the Year Show eventer of the year class in March, which was abandoned, and then again made the long trek north for the Central Districts event, which was also called off thanks to the weather.
So she was hugely relieved with Sunday's win.
"I definitely rate this horse," said Cammock. "I have had him since he was an unbroken 2-year-old and while he has been a bit of a rogue, he has always been a super jumper. We just need to consolidate our flat work, and there is plenty of room for improvement."
It's no mean feat for Cammock, who was at Taupo with her mother - and chief babysitter - Viv, groom Anna Poole and her two children, 3-year-old Katie and 6-month-old Thomas.
It is the second time Cammock has won the crown. Edwards-Smith had to settle for second, with Pottinger third.
Taupo Olympian Jock Paget cruised to victory in the NRM CIC3* aboard Angus Blue, the horse he brought with him from Britain. While 17.9 penalty points ahead of the second-placed Andy Daines of Kumeu and Spring Panorama, he was a little disappointed to finish with a rail down in the showjumping.
"I wanted to jump clear," said Paget. "I need to work on the warm-up technique I think."
It's been six years since he last competed at Taupo, and he's impressed with the event.
"I was surprised at the amount of atmosphere here, it was much more than I expected. My horse has done his education in England so has seen a lot."
But in the past nine months, Angus Blue has had only one outing before the national championships.
"He is still only 9, so he's just learning but is full of power."
Paget is rapt to be back in New Zealand after his years based in the UK.
"The people and culture are so warm here, we are loving it."
Hamilton's Madison Crowe has been with Waitangi Pinterest only since late July but the two showed the strength of their budding partnership in winning the Bates CCI2* Championship.
The 23-year-old accountant was ecstatic with her horse, who also rode off with the Charlton Stud Prize as the best-performed mare.
"This means everything - she is just unbelievable," said Crowe. "I have worked so hard with her."
She paid tribute to her friend, coach and mentor, Rio Olympian Clarke Johnstone of Matangi.
"He has been instrumental to this win."
Dad Richard rode every fence with his talented daughter, whose victory also gave her the Equestrian Entries Pro Amateur Series for the season.
"Dad gets more nervous than me. He hasn't eaten all day!"
All the pressure in the world was on Crowe as she rode into the showjumping arena. Ahead of her Edwards-Smith and DSE Cluny had gone clear and sat less than a rail adrift, so she couldn't even afford a time fault.
"She [Waitangi Pinterest] has proved everything she needed to today. A lot of me getting on with her so quickly is what sort of horse she is."
Taranaki's Matthew Grayling and NRM Trudeau moved up to take third place.
Hunua's Angela Lloyd and Lyrical came from behind to take the honours in the Fiber Fresh CCI1* Championship. The combination was in fourth place heading into the showjumping where they produced a lovely clear round.
Overnight leader Johnstone and In Disguise had an early rail, with a pole also dropping for Matangi's Samantha Felton and Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ, leaving them in second and third respectively.
Lloyd has been competing at the NRM3DE for about 20 years, but this was her first title. It was made all the more special because she is carrying a painful neck injury. She was in such agony from the compressed vertebrae that she almost didn't start in Saturday's crosscountry.
"It was very close out there today," said Lloyd. "I certainly didn't expect to move up three spots."
Dannie Lodder's victory in the Wairakei Resort CCN105 Championship aboard the aptly named Overnight Success was a bright spot in a rather challenging weekend for the Auckland mum of two . . . it was also the perfect present for her mother, Beatrice Smyth, who is always ringside helping out.
Lodder led the class from the dressage, and despite a rail in the showjumping, held on to take the win from Edwards-Smith aboard DSE Sunset Pass, who finished just .4 of a penalty point behind for second.
"This is a special win for me," said Lodder. "It is my first title at Taupo, but also Overnight Success is quite a special horse who was saved from the abattoirs."
Her aim for the weekend was to continue to build the confidence of the horse, but he proved to be a step ahead of his owner.
She had two other rides in other classes, with one eliminated and the other retired during the challenging crosscountry.
Her 10-year-old daughter Scout won the New Zealand Pony Club Award, and aboard Pioneer Makokomiko placed second in the Equissage CCN105 Open.
It was back to back wins for Felton in the New Zealand Horse & Pony Magazine Young Event Horse National Championship. She and 5-year-old Ricker Ridge Riley headed home 25 other combinations to win the class and secure the Mary Bowling Memorial Trophy. Last year Felton took the quinella in the hotly contested class.
Felton was rapt.
"He is so clever," she said of the warmblood/thoroughbred cross.
Riley is the second horse she has bought from breeder John Twomey. The horse is by Donnerubin and out of Rosetta, who is out of Coco, the dam of Nick Brooks' well-performed Versace.
"Mum and I were at EquiBreed one day and noticed this really lovely upstanding foal," said Felton. "He had a lovely looking face and was very inquisitive. John had already left the country so we bought him. It was quite a random thing to do but looks like it has paid off."
Interestingly, the horse was bred more for dressage, but he has shone as a jumper and in the gallops.