Paraparaumu College student Meg Dempster, 17, followed in the footsteps of several equestrian Olympians claiming the New Zealand Pony Club Eventing Championships Dorothy Campbell Trophy.

Her name will appear on a roll of honour that reads like a New Zealand equestrian who's who.

The title has been won by five Olympic riders, and while Sir Mark Todd has never claimed it, his illustrious mount Charisma took the award twice with Sharon Deardon in the saddle.

Competing for Manawatu-West Coast at the Whangarei event was only Meg's fifth competition aboard her seven-year-old thoroughbred mare Pixie Caramel.

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She had planned to seek selection riding her sister Anna's former mount, Bombay Sapphire with which she won a national accumulator series. Shortly before selection trials began the pony suffered an injury forcing her to find a replacement mount.

"We looked all over the country and then found Pixie virtually on our doorstep," Meg said.
"We got her in December from local eventer Tayla Mason."

The partnership "just worked" from day one, with Tayla mentoring the young rider in cross country and showjumping and Equestrian Sport New Zealand coach Frankie Webb working on the dressage.

The family moved to Waikanae after father Alan was tragically killed in a farming accident on their Pauahatanui farm.

Since she was seven years old, riding has been in Meg's blood.

Mum Alex is a keen rider and president of Waikanae Pony Club, sister Anna is an accomplished event rider and provided the initial inspiration for Meg to take to the saddle, while cousin Margaret Harris has represented New Zealand in dressage and was founder of the Ferndale Equestrian Centre which operated in Waikanae for decades.

Being selected to ride at the NZPCA champs was a huge thrill, but not surprising asMeg won or placed in all four of the qualifying trials.

The trip to Whangarei was a long one, and Meg admits nerves set in.

"We had an overnight stay in Hamilton, giving a much needed opportunity to chill out."
The first phase, dressage, saw 31 riders under starters orders.

A top 10 finish was desirable to increase the chance of staying in contention.

When the scores went up one judge had Meg in second place, while the other placed her 15th.

Despite the substantial variance, they entered the cross-country phase lying fifth overall.
"After walking the (cross-country) course, I thought it would be the toughest I had ever ridden.

"I was excited to ride it."

If there were nerves, it didn't show as the combination absolutely blitzed their way around. Finishing fault free the combination moved up into first place with less than a rail in hand.

The showjumping fences weren't overly big, but it was the final day of a demanding three-day event.

Meg heard a sigh of disappointment as a rail rattled of the cups and four faults brought their score to 33.1.

The pressure was on, but luck was not, for Marlborough Nelson West-Coast rider Maisie Hopkin and Awatuna Classic Rose. They entered the ring on the leading score of 31.6 but two rails down proved costly, dropping them out of contention and leaving Meg to claim the title.