Home turf ups Kiwis' odds

By Cameron Leslie

Northland horse riders Nancy Te Whata and Dee Cherrington will spearhead a strong New Zealand team for the 2013 NRM Mounted Games World Team Championships.

Kaikohe's Te Whata, 23, will look to help New Zealand regain the world championship title which has eluded them since 2008.

No stranger to riding for New Zealand, she first represented the country at the World Championships in Kentucky, USA, in 2003, and was also in the victorious 2008 Kiwi team - the same year she and her precious pony, Portia, won the national individual title.

Te Whata has recently taken a break from the sport, but, once she heard New Zealand was hosting the worlds, the temptation was too great for her to resist.

"It is going to be amazing to have it here," said Te Whata. "We always have the disadvantage of competing on borrowed ponies - but not this time."

The full-time Bachelor of Applied Management student at NorthTec comes from a strong line of horsemen and women, her mum, Jenny, had her riding horseback - or donkey-back - before Te Whata could walk.

UK-based Cherrington has won world titles in teams, pairs and individual - with the most recent individual title in 2010.

The mounted games are a family focus for this Bay of Islands clan - Cherrington's mum, Brenda Cross, has three times coached the New Zealand team for worlds, including to victory in 2008.

Her brother, Garry Smith, has also ridden for his homeland at championships.

New Zealand's coach, Scott Borland, has high hopes for the team which will battle at least 10 other nations at the worlds, which are part of the New Zealand Horse of the Year Show in Hastings in March.

"This team is good, really good. They have plenty of experience and a lot of exposure at top international level. I am confident they'll win the gold," said Borland.

Only the Kiwis and Australians will ride their own horses, with the rest aboard borrowed mounts.

It's unheard of for any country to win the champs on borrowed horses, but New Zealand created history when they did just that in Australia in 2008 - with both Te Whata and Cherrington riders in that team.

New Zealand: Dee Cherrington (Northland/United Kingdom), Julie Borland (Auckland), Steven Hooker (Waikato/Germany), Amie Bentall (Hawke's Bay), Nancy Te Whata (Northland). Reserves: Amy Wiltshire (Hawke's Bay), Josh Dewar (Hawke's Bay). Coach: Scott Borland (Waikato). Team manager: Louise Egging (Waikato).

- Northern Advocate

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