Equestrian: NZ hopes high for Mounted Games

New Zealand's hopes for next year's Mounted Games World Team Championships are looking golden, according to coach and selector Scott Borland.

The 40-year-old said he had a tough time selecting his team of five riders and two reserves from 13 contenders.

"It's got to be a good omen," he said. "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."

The New Zealand team is spearheaded by Dee Cherrington (Northland/United Kingdom) who has won individual, pairs and team world titles, and is currently based in the UK.

Also part of the team is Julie Borland (Auckland), who has won national open titles in individuals, pairs and teams, and also brings plenty of talent to the side.

Rounding out the starting line-up are Steven Hooker (Waikato/Germany), Nancy Te Whata (Northland), who was part of the New Zealand team to win the world teams championship in 2008, and Amie Bentall (Hawkes Bay).

New Zealand is hosting the championships at the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings in March, where at least 10 countries are expected to compete.

Just the Kiwis and Australians will be riding their own horses, with the rest on borrowed mounts. That in itself brings huge challenges for the organisers, who are training about 100 ponies from around the country.

It's rare for a country to win on borrowed horses, but New Zealand did just that in Australia in 2008. Coach Borland, Cherrington and Te Whata were riders in that team, with Bentall a reserve.

For coach Borland, who has also ridden for Scotland and Great Britain, the Kiwis stand out from the crowd when it comes to mounted games.

"New Zealand is without doubt one of the most professional teams in the world," he said. "I believe that will give us a huge edge come March. This is as good as it gets."

Riders in mounted games compete in a variety of races on ponies up to a height of 15 hands.

NZ team: 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).

- APNZ

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