There were thrills and spills, tricks and trips at the Horse of the Year Friday Night Extravaganza.

Two new innovations were introduced to the equine event last night, the crowd favourite being the equissage.

Organiser Dave Mee said the equissage event was incredibly exciting.

"If it doesn't get your adrenaline running, nothing will."


He said the knockout tournament was a highlight of the week.

"We have been happy with attendance, it's a complex equation but we feel numbers have been strong."

He said feedback had been very positive, and was pleased the weather had played its part.

"We have learnt a lot for next time, this year has been a big benchmark."

As twilight enveloped the arena, the pace picked up and riders were pitted one on one, akin to a 200m hurdle dash.

Spectator Tristen Woodward said the action was "thrilling".

"It's so exciting to watch, you feel the adrenaline of the crowd when the horse jumps and hear the collective gasp when a pole is knocked."

The MC insisted the louder the cheers, the faster the stallions would go, and the crowd obliged.

A parent of an equissage rider, Helen Palleson, said it was a terrifying experience watching her daughter.

"My heart always skips a beat when she's in the air, it's a relief to see her land. I was just happy she got through unscathed."

The second new addition to the event was the freestylings of Alycia Burton and her former eventer Classic Goldrush.

The Christchurch pair thrilled the audience with their bareback, reinless riding demonstration.

A number of big air showjumps were performed to the amazement of the thousands in attendance.

The grandstand was packed to the rafters while crowds lined the boundary of the arena about five lines deep.

The antics of Harold, the funny and fabulous freestyle horse, proved a popular hit with children.

The wee ones roared with laughter as Harold stumbled over the jumps, knocking every pole off along the way. The pair put their own flavour on the usually no-nonsense dressage event — the delightful duo even had a number of older folks in hysterics.