THE Puhinui International Three-day Event in Auckland next weekend marks the halfway stage of the year-long ESNZ Eventing Super League.
Competitors from throughout the country will compete in the Honda CCI3* class to earn the extra points on offer for the Olympic format three-day event from December 9-11.
For three intrepid South Islanders, swelling the entries to 14 in this class, it was a particularly long journey via the Lewis Pass to Springs Junction before heading north.
However, they made it to Rotorua for the Bay of Plenty horse trials on November 27-28, which proved an ideal warm up for all the horses going to Puhinui.
Rangiora farrier Brent Jury, on SE Hedging, is fourth equal in the Super League with last year's winner of the Honda CCI3*, Kaukapakapa's Ginny Thompson, on Star Nouveau.
Jury won the South Island CIC3* but his travelling companions, horticulturist Giles Gormack on Lucero and Kirsty Sharapoff on Shoot The Breeze, will be keen to turn the tables in Auckland.
The winner at Rotorua, Diane Gilder, on Your Attorney, will be hoping to improve her position in the league, having placed second in the first leg at Taupo, but missed the second leg at the National Eventing Championship at Arran Station because of work commitments.
The terrain at Puhinui Reserve will suit her big striding Australian thoroughbred who loves to gallop and jump.
League leader Donna Edwards-Smith, of Te Kauwhata, on the diminutive palomino DSE Mr Hokey Pokey, winners of the national title at Arran Station, are sure to produce another crowd-pleasing performance in all three phases of the event (dressage, crosscountry and showjumping) but the terrain could prove testing for "Yogi", as he is known, as a thoroughbred/quarter horse cross.
National Young Rider champion Jackson Bovill, based with Olympian Clarke Johnstone at Matangi, is second. He and his big warmblood mare, Visonnaire, were runners-up at Arran Station.
This will be their first three-day event at 3* level but they look ready for the challenge and the terrain should not be a problem for them.
Another young rider stepping up is Renee Faulkner, 19, on the grey Rubinstar HH, who will be hoping to catch the selectors' attention with a Young Rider Oceania trip in mind next year.
At the other end of the experience scale, Putaruru farmer Campbell Draper on Mr Mancini, winners of the 2* class last year and the Equestrian Entries Pro-Am series, steps up to 3* this year.
Samantha Felton, Matangi, fresh from competing in Australia, has Ricker Ridge Escada entered, and Sarah Dalziell-Clout, the ESNZ high performance manager from the Wairarapa, will ride Benrose Super Star.
The national three-day event winners, Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding, will be hoping the hiccups they had in the spring are ironed out.
Standings: Donna Edwards-Smith (DSE Mr Hokey Pokey) 72pts, Jackson Bovill (Visionnaire) 51, Andy Daines (Spring Panorama) 48, Brent Jury (SE Hedging) 42, Ginny Thompson (Star Nouveau) 42, Diane Gilder (Your Attorney) 36.