The Whangārei Pony Club showjumping team are in the winners circle yet again after winning their second North Island Pony Club Showjumping Championships in two years.
The club, which was victorious in 2019 for the first time in 17 years, replicated their form in Cambridge over the weekend after earning 109 points over two days of competing, 27 points more than the second-placed club from Te Kuiti.
The team of Sharon Klijn (captain), Alexandra Henry, Harley Ferguson, McKenzie Dane, Lily Aubrey and Kate Bradley travelled down to defend the club's Aquarius Trophy title. Only Klijn, Henry and Dane remained from last year's team.
Harley Ferguson, 14, was the only male rider in the team and had only been with the club for about two years after learning to ride on his family's 405-hectare Ngunguru farm at 11 years old.
After gaining some confidence with a win at a recent showjumping competition at Barge Park, Ferguson said he was still feeling the nerves ahead of the North Island competition with his 11-year-old Quarter Horse mare, Our Dixie Chic.
"I was freaking, it was pretty scary going down there for my first competition away," he said.
"There was a bit of pressure to keep the trophy going."
Despite dropping a rail early on Saturday, Ferguson came back with respectable scores, which included a first-place finish alongside Dane, his teammate in the one-metre jump division on Sunday.
"I was pretty pleased with that for my first time, I got confidence after the first round.
"It was amazing, just to represent Whangārei was a privilege, and a privilege to win the cup, it's pretty cool."
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Ferguson said he hoped to continue his form in the coming weeks before he attempted to move to a higher jump division at the Horse of the Year competition in Hawke's Bay in March.
All six riders in the team were selected after two intensive days of trials which saw riders from the Whangārei Pony Club's five branches - Kamo, Whakapara, Parahaki, Maunu and Waiotira - try out for selection.
Team coach Jannette Klijn said all riders were very consistent and motivated throughout the competition.
"I'm very proud of all my riders, they did an amazing job and they kept cool heads while we were on the top on the first day."
Henry, who competed in the 1.1m jump division, had little luck over the two days after her horse - Mizta Frosty - experienced trouble handling the hard ground in Cambridge and was ruled out of most courses.
Klijn credited Henry for showing great team spirit in spite of her predicament.
"She was just absolutely mature with what happened, she was being so supportive to the rest of the team without any complaints, she was awesome."
The two Whangārei club reserve riders - Anja Brown and Claire Martin - travelled with the team but competed for the Kumeu Pony Club team which was short on numbers.
The Kumeu team finished second for the Sue Yearbury trophy, which was awarded to the group with the best team spirit, best-kept attire and the standard of their team presentation.
Other Northland pony clubs to compete were Wellsford, Warkworth and select riders from Dargaville.