Organisers of the Land Rover Horse of the Year (HOY) are crossing their fingers that this week's rain will clear off and the weather will turn it on for the thousands of visitors and competitors that will descend on Tomoana Hawke's Bay showgrounds next week.

Planning for the event goes on all year, and event manager Dave Mee said a number of new features had been introduced this year to raise the bar for competitors and broaden the appeal for punters.

This included a new cross country course with about 30 new jumps, with a format similar to international events such as Badminton and Burghley.

"It's highly specified so it's exciting for riders from a competitive perspective - it will raise the calibre and really test them more than previous courses," Mr Mee said.


Tied into that was the introduction of an international technical official and judge for the cross country, which would help give riders the opportunity to use HOY as their main preparation for ongoing competitions, he said.

"For Clarke Johnstone, for example, the cross country at HOY was his single biggest preparatory event. It was very important as his horse had not been used to competing in front of big crowds, you don't get that at any other New Zealand events."

Another addition to the schedule was a Silver Fern Stakes test match between New Zealand and Australia on Friday night, which would be incorporated into the extravaganza that included polo games and displays from mounted games performers.

"This will combine hard core competition with fun entertainment for the public, which will also be the case on Sunday when this year we will finish up with the showjumping, as opposed to the cross country.

"On Cup Day people can dress up and be seen, there will be a garden bar spilling into the arena, and this has been supported by elite brands like Mumm and Peroni that want to leverage off this aspect of the entertainment."

He said the introduction of additional hospitality options was part of the strategy to encourage more non-equestrian visitors to the event.

"We know the equestrians love HOY, that's our core audience, but we are also saying to people who are non-horsey that equestrian is just one element of it, and we are confident these kind of initiatives will change people's perception of the event."

In terms of organisation, he said SMC Events had six fulltime equivalents working on HOY, but a lot of time was also put in by each of the equestrian sections.


"Over the week 400 volunteers are on-site - it's very difficult to measure, but there's a massive amount of volunteer hours put into it."

Also putting in a lot of hours was the Horse of the Year Hawke's Bay board who were on the job all year round, said chairwoman Cynthia Bowers.

"From the board's point of view it's a continuous process - as soon as one show finishes we are basically reviewing the show, not only from a financial perspective but also all the aspects - we do that in April/May.

"At the same time as reviewing the last show we are starting to plan for next year's one - in fact even now and for the last few months we have been starting planning for 2019."

Ms Bowers had been on the board for the last six years and said they were always looking at how the event could be enhanced, both in terms of the experience as well as generating extra revenue.

For the 20 years it had run it had generally run a small profit, although there had been two years when it made a significant loss, and the aim was to increase that profit to put into reserves to invest in the show, or cover circumstances such as the torrential rain that afflicted the event last year, she said.

"I'm not going to tempt fate by talking about the weather, but some rain before the event can be good for the grounds when setting up."

Asked her favourite events, she said she particularly enjoyed the cross country and the Olympic Cup, but throughout the week the atmosphere was always good.

"One of the most exciting things is the huge amount of activity that's going on in that one space that gives it such a tremendous atmosphere."

After all the preparations and the staging of the event was over, however, there was always a sigh of relief when it came to Sunday afternoon and it was all over for another year.