Land Rover Horse of the Year organisers have cancelled the 2021 event after 48 hours of discussions left them realising they wouldn't be able to clear the hurdles put up by Covid uncertainty.
A spokesperson for the Hastings event wrote on Facebook on Monday night that it was not a decision that had been made lightly.
Horse of the Year, a fixture of the Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana, draws 1500 competitors and tens of thousands of spectators each year and sits alongside the Art Deco Festival and Royal A&P Show as one of the region's biggest yearly events.
After squeezing the 2020 event in just before Covid Level 4 lockdown, New Zealand's biggest equestrian competition was set to run in 2021 on March 9-14.
There is a possibility alert levels 2 for NZ and 3 for Auckland could have been lifted by the Government in time for the event's start date, but organisers had already indicated there was little chance of it going ahead if all, or almost all, of NZ was not in Level 1.
Listen to Rowena Duncum interview Horse of the Year board chair Tim Aiken on The Country below:
The HOY spokesperson said:
"We worked through all possible scenarios for Land Rover Horse of the Year 2021 during NZ's ever changing Covid19 situation.
"We know there is huge support for us to go ahead however there are many factors we have had to consider.
"These include financial implications for our show and its ongoing sustainability, the travel and time pressures for riders, the experience we can deliver for our riders and spectators, and most importantly of all, the health & wellbeing of everyone who attends the show."
The spokesperson said it was a "heart-breaking" decision to have to make, "particularly when the majority of our expense has already been incurred".
"We are truly devastated and send all our best wishes to our Land Rover Horse of the Year family from all corners of New Zealand.
"Rest assured we already have 2022 firmly in our sights and will come back bigger and better than ever."