Lisa Cubitt covered her face, dropped her head and sobbed uncontrollably as it dawned on her that she had become the Lady Rider of the Year for the second time in her career in Hastings yesterday.

"Oh, I think I was so happy with the horse because I had no high expectations for the class," said Cubitt of her mount, Matawai Sentana, soon after clinching the sought-after Ultramox-sponsored all-female class bragging rights on the third day of the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show at Tomoana Showgrounds.

The 32-year-old from Cambridge, who had earlier hugged mother Robyn Coupe and husband Sean Cubitt as she wiped away tears streaming down her cheeks, had minutes earlier nervously watched Kimberley Bird and Cera Cassina also finish a four-fault second round but they came up shy on her crisp winning time (52.58s) at the premier arena.

Lisa Cubitt felt the 13-year-old horse was still a few weeks away from making the lady rider class but had magically done just about everything right yesterday.


Sean revealed only a few weeks ago, the couple had sold her champion horse, Cobra, in Australia.

"That was the horse we were planning to have jumps on in the last couple of big shows of the year," he explained.

As luck would have it, horse owner Jacui Wright, of Onewhero, had ridden Matawai Sentana quite a bit last year and approached Cubitt to see the horse through the last few shows before putting it up for sale.

"Lisa started him at Woodhill and won straight away so she put him in the grand prix a week later and won that, too," he said.

Cubitt and Matawai Sentana tackled the Takapoto Estate Show Jumping on Saturday, March 3, where two rails had tumbled but Sean said that was because the horse was entering the 1.50m level for the first time.

"It's great to have this win [yesterday] because it means a lot to us because this year, we had a lot of highs, but when we sold the horses, we had lows, but we're finishing the season on a high."

While Cubitt had lost Cobra, she had found the "Unicorn" [Matawai Sentana] to take her mind off heart-breaking sales.

The 36-year-old from Belfast said he trained every week with his wife and had no qualms about helping her get through tense situations.


A beaming Cubitt said yesterday's victory had definitely "helped soften that blow" on selling Cobra.

Mum's the word for Robyn Coupe after daughter, Lisa Cubitt, became Lady Rider of the Year in Hastings. Photo/Warren Buckland
Mum's the word for Robyn Coupe after daughter, Lisa Cubitt, became Lady Rider of the Year in Hastings. Photo/Warren Buckland

Coupe said her daughter had left New Zealand for two years and had come back to nothing - "no horses to ride and she's been given these horses to sell".

"She's had this horse [Matawai Sentana] for six weeks and she's only done three shows with it and she's picked it up at this show and just gone out and won it."

In the two years away, Cubitt was riding in Australia and the Netherlands and had returned with Sean (who she married in 2014) to start from scratch again.

So what was it like for the lady to etch her name on the Merrylegs Cup for the second time?

"Oh, it was totally different," Cubitt replied, casting her mind back to the 2015 crown with Bates Amaretto MVNZ, who she sold in Australia after the couple went on a two-year trip abroad, including the Netherlands, before returning home in May last year.

The partnership with Bates Amaretto MVNZ was a "forever" where they went in hoping to win while yesterday's was an unscripted acquisition "so it was overwhelming and exciting in different ways" but equally rewarding.

Coupe said she was the dutiful grandmother who babysat their 3-year-old son, Finn, while Cubitt trained and competed.

Helping soothe her daughter's jangled nerves, though, isn't part of the motherly gesture.

"Well, I didn't actually speak to her because she's better off not having me there because we're a bit emotional, so I sat by the fence and lifted my leg for her," Coupe said amid laughter, willing her daughter to clear every fence she confronted.

Cubitt laughed when asked if she had obeyed Coupe to thank her mother in her grandstand speech.

"You'd think I'd just won the bloody Oscars or something," she said, before revealing it was always difficult to thank everyone in all that euphoria.

Cubitt, though, was quick to elaborate on the attributes of her four-legged partner who had performed some magic.

Lisa Cubitt, of Cambridge, and Matawai Sentana show their class at the Tomoana Showgrounds in Hastings. Photo/Warren Buckland
Lisa Cubitt, of Cambridge, and Matawai Sentana show their class at the Tomoana Showgrounds in Hastings. Photo/Warren Buckland

"He's a bit of a quirky character, so you've got to play his game a little bit ... he's going to be a super horse, though."

Wright, who also gave Cubitt a hug, had the horse when it was three years old and rode it to a competitive level but motherhood prompted her to seek other riders.

Cubitt said forming bonds with mounts was vital but becoming too attached to them at a selling stable wasn't recommended. The pair will compete in the Olympic Cup on Sunday.

"I'll have a shot. You'll have the horse there to build his experience and knowledge. I wouldn;t try to expect him to repeat it but if we have a solid round then we'll have to be happy with that so we'll give it a go."

Cubitt was delighted it hadn't rained here because it often did in the past few years.

"So far so good," she said with a grin.

While it's cloudy and a balmy 27C today it's supposed to fall to temperate climes under-20C from tomorrow with a risk of the odd shower from tonight through to Sunday.