Eleven-year-old Central Hawke's Bay rider Lucy Fraser was "a little bit shocked" when she found out she had qualified to take her pony to compete in Australia.
If Covid-19 and border restrictions allow it, Lucy and her show pony Eastdale Felicity (Fliss for short) will be going to the Grand Nationals in Sydney next April.
To qualify for that golden ticket to ride at the Grand Nationals representing New Zealand, Lucy had to win her class and be awarded a champion or reserve ribbon at the NZ Show Horse Council nationals, held at the Takapoto Estate from November 20-22.
She also had to be a member of the NZ Show Horse Council, which is affiliated with the Australian Show Horse Council.
Mother Amanda Fraser said Lucy and Fliss were "absolute superstars".
"All the hard work at home with her amazing coach Sue Reynolds and Lucy's dedication and determination to ride well on the day shone through."
She was awarded Champion First Year Ridden, Champion Childs Small Show Pony, Champion Led Pony and Reserve Open Small Show Pony.
She also had a ride on another pony named Zephyr Inspiration, owned by Caitlin Officer from Taupo – they were the Reserve Champion in the Child's Large Hunter Pony Class, Amanda says.
The show classes Lucy competes in are all about showing off your pony to the best of your ability during the walk, trot, canter and gallop, and presentation is judged, along with riding ability.
Riders display their style to the judges in a circle, all riding together, before leaving and coming back individually to show off the pony.
There are about three to four judges who make the final decision in those classes.
Amanda says quality of ponies in the country at this showing level "is extremely high".
"Competition is very strong here, but in saying that our ponies do very well against the Aussie ponies when we all come together.
"In some of the classes Lucy was competing against adults on ponies, which is a rule allowed over in Australia but not here, so that added another level of pressure to the class."
Amanda says Lucy has been dreaming about taking her pony to Australia for a while - she recalls when Lucy accompanied her to Melbourne when Amanda rode for New Zealand in the Australian Showing Championships in 2015. Lucy told her, "When I'm bigger Mum we are coming back with my pony."
"When Lucy realised she had the opportunity to travel to Australia with her pony she was full of excitement and a little bit shocked that she and Fliss had pulled it off on show day, but super happy with her achievements.
"I was so proud as when awarded with the champion ribbon, each time she would give her pony the biggest of hugs and thank her fellow competitors and judges," Amanda says.
Lucy followed in the footsteps of her "very horsey" mum and dad, who wanted her to "enjoy the freedom of riding and learn the ability to look after her pony".
She has been riding Eastdale Felicity for the past four years and Amanda says they have an "amazing bond".
She is a member of the CHB Pony Club and the Dannevirke Hunt.
The proud mother hopes Lucy's dreams in Sydney will come true, but it's currently a wait-and-see situation with Covid-19 and border restrictions.