Auckland teenager Sky Notter rounded out a remarkable season with the National Individual title at the New Zealand Mounted Games hastily moved to Whanganui in the wake of Cyclone Cook over Easter Weekend.
The sixteen-year-old riding her pony Polly, added the national title to those already won in pairs and teams at Horse of the Year last month.
The scores in this hotly-contested open class were extremely tight and everything was on the table right up to the last race, but James Tulett (Whanganui) and Cola claimed the runner-up spot with third place going to Ashley Lovett (Otago) and Winter.
Notter was obviously named in the New Zealand Under 17 team at the conclusion of the competition along with Tulett as coach.
Mounted Games is one of the fastest growing equestrian disciplines in the country and devotees to a sport requiring a great deal of athleticism, strength, bravery and tenacity, were never going to let anything stand in their way of running one of the blue ribbon events of the season - not a cyclone, nor a last minute change in venue from Pukekohe.
National vice-president Jean Benge was full of praise for the crew at her hometown racecourse in Whanganui for helping the event to go ahead on such short notice.
"When the cyclone was threatening at Pukekohe we immediately rang the Wanganui Jockey Club on the Wednesday and thanks to the crew at the racecourse we had horses arriving from all around the country on Thursday and Friday for the Saturday start to the tree days of competition," Benge said.
Competitors from Northland to Otago coompeted at the action-packed event.
Age group classes ranged from the under 12 to the veterans at 35 plus and everything in between, with the premier class being the Open division.
The Matamata combination of Nikita Howl and her pony Milo triumphed in a hotly-contested Under 12 section, with runner up Lucy Marshall (Wellington) and her fellow Wellingtonian Emily Jones and Maddie in third.
The Under 14 section saw a strong showing from Pukekohe rider Emma Mathieson and Copper. Second and third proved to be a tight battle between two Hawkes Bay riders Rylee Mason (Nimble) and Sophie Daly on her namesake Sophie, with Rylee taking second in the end.
Anne-Sophie Borthmieu took out the Over 17 class. A French national, Anne-So has been based in Turangi for the season and was riding Spud in this class.
The Under 17 class was always going to see some fierce competition as New Zealand is hosting the Under 17 World Team Championships in Auckland later this year and NZ team spots were still up for grabs.
A long trip from Christchurch and the loan of the pony Cheeky by the Christensen family from Auckland paid off for Leah Zydenbos. She stamped her mark on the class and held steady for a strong win from Salem Notter (Auckland) and Sapphire with Shayla Shaw and Strax (Waikato) taking third.
The winner of the Veterans class was not given his title easily. Close racing between some incredibly skilled and fit competitors saw a dead heat for first after the last race in the final. This meant a run - off for first place and a nail-biting finish. Emerging victorious was Dave Thompson (CHB) riding Squiggles from Tanja Notter (Auckland) and Legend.
"Taking part in this competition was no mean feat for many competitors, none more so than those from the South Island," Benge said.
"Several truckloads of ponies had stayed in the North Island following Horse of the Year Show in Hastings in March. Leaving their ponies in the care of friends, and rivals, in the North Island while they returned to school and work before flying back again for the competition was a testament, not only to their dedication, but also the comeraderie within the sport itself."
The New Zealand under 17 team is: Olivia Brooks (Hawkes Bay) and John, Emma Mathieson (Auckland) and Copper, Salem Notter (Auckland) and Sapphire, Sky Notter (Auckland) and Polly, Leah Zydenbos (Canterbury) and Cheeky. Reserve: Brooke Johnston (Otago) and Nikita. Coach: James Tulett (Whanganui).