Hawke's Bay equestrian Dylan Bibby chooses his words carefully.
Bibby's circumspect approach is, in some ways, at odds with his standings in the Dunstan Horsefeeds & Equifibre New Zealand Junior Rider Series.
"I'm excited to be there this year," says the 15-year-old from Central Hawke's Bay on his quest to enter the premier arena for the junior rider final from 10.40am at Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana on Sunday. It'll be his maiden outing at that level during the week-long Land Rover Horse of the Year Show which starts in Hastings on Tuesday.
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"It should be fun and it should be better," says Bibby, who is leading the national series on Wenross Vertigo after a dozen rounds, in his understated way. The series began in September and ends at Glistening Waters in Masterton next month.
It's a step up to 1.25m for the Year 11 student at Central Hawke's Bay College who prefers to find a headspace that enables him to recite the basics before any major competition.
"We've had quite a few placings and she's been jumping well for me," he says of his 13-year-old mare Wenross Vertigo that he has saddled for a year and is his mount in the junior riders' campaign.
Bibby describes Wenross Vertigo as a "careful" mount that doesn't like rails but does her utmost in a partnership that is never a given.
He competed in two legs of the national junior rider series last season but pulled the plug on it after breaking his arm while tramping.
Bibby also will have an alliance with three other ponies — 10-year-old mare Daisy Patch for the Pony of the Year event on Wednesday; 9-year-old bay gelding My Funky Monkey (1.20m grade) starting on Wednesday; and 12-year-old gelding Greedy McCready for the show hunters' division from Tuesday to Friday.
He's built a rapport with Daisy Patch and My Funky Monkey for three to four seasons but has only had Greedy McCready for about five months.
Bibby spends about fours a day on riding and then spends the weekends at shows.
He rates himself a "pretty good" scholar but feels blessed he's allowed to engage in horsey events. If anything, the equine activities offer him a good distraction from swotting and vice-versa.
Bibby relishes the travel to see parts of the country he wouldn't have otherwise ventured to. That opens the doors to meeting new people of similar passion and making the most of the opportunities to compete against them.
He recalls saddling a pony when he was 9. The former Ongaonga School pupil is a rugby fullback in winter for the CHB College E graders.
His sisters — Leah, 14, Amy, 11, Katie, 8 — also ride but aren't Hoy Show savvy yet, according to mother Kelly who hails from Tauranga.
"They know you have to earn your way to the show," she explains.
Kelly helps hubby Hamish Bibby run their beef-and-sheep farm in Ongaonga. Bibby had featured on the Country Calendar Show on TV One three years ago, reflecting on being a sixth-generation member of the agricultural family.
"Leah competes in the riding horse sections but she doesn't jump so she possibly could have gone this year but she'll be aiming for that next year," explains Kelly of the CHB College Year 10 student.
While Ongaonga School's Amy (Year 8) and Katie (Year 4) are a little disappointed, they'll be at the HB Showgrounds on Friday to support their brother.
"It's such a big show with so many expectations and they know that and what it takes to get there," she says.
Kelly had never envisioned how far the children were going to go with riding although the Bibby family have a well-trodden track record in horse hunting, albeit not so much in competitions.
She suspects the equestrian element comes from her although Hamish is very good with shows.
"It's probably really only me on my side [of the family] because I'm a townie from Tauranga," she says with a laugh.
Kelly was groom for former Olympic Cup champion Merran Hain when she won in 1999 before adding another chapter to the illustrious history of the marquee showjumping event in 2003 as the oldest rider to accomplish that on the mount, Tregonning (nickname Trigger).
"I had been a groom with Merrain for seven years and we had some very good times," she says, adding Hamish had gone on to forge business ties with Hain for a "fairytale" end to that liaison. The first woman to win the Olympic Cup and Lady Rider at the same Hoy Show, Hain was also an inaugural inductee to the Equestrian Sports New Zealand Hall of Fame.
With a shade more than an hour to commute from their farm in a truck, the Bibbys will be part of the equine communal huddle at the showgrounds although Hamish will to and fro in trying to keep things ticking over at the farm and the girls at school.
A chuckling Bibby realises he's got his sisters nipping on his heels but doesn't feel any pressure in setting any examples as such.
He echoes his mother's sentiments of the youngest sibling making the most promising noises.
"Katie looks really sharp and confident," he endorses.
Bibby harbours intentions to clear at least one blemish-free round in the junior rider category when the dust settles in the final on Sunday. On the flip side, he hopes not to concede any more than four faults.
He'll have to have the measure of the likes of Phoebe Burns, of Hastings, on CentaRoc and Third Degree, and Georgia Bouzaid, of Cambridge, in the saddle of AP Ninja 6., in a field of 36.
8am: Arena one, HB Contracting Arena, Wade Equine coaches arena.
12pm: Premier jumping arena, IRT Horse 1.40m, including Lady and Young Rider qualifiers.
4.15pm: Saba Sam Area pony club event (1.15m–1.25m).
• Show hunter
8am: Respective arenas.
• Mounted games
8am: Respective arenas.
• Welsh pony
8am: Polo grounds.
8.30am: HB Contracting premier oval.
8.30am: Respective arenas.