Between them, husband and wife Simon and Claire Wilson know what it feels like to lift the Olympic Cup in the marquee event of the premier equestrian show in New Zealand.

But that doesn't mean Simon Wilson isn't pragmatic about his chances of replicating that momentous occasion every year he enters the week-long Land Rover Horse of the Year Show starting in Hastings today.

"It's very inexperienced at that level at this stage," says the 46-year-old farmer from Waipukurau as he withdraws McMillans Ariados from the premier showjumping arena of the IRT Horse 1.40m A5 art event from midday to usher the 9-year-old gelding towards the 1.30m A2 art Canterbury Equestrian arena one start at 8am today.

"I'm a bit ambitious joining in the Horse of the Year class," Wilson says after the switch from a field of 71 to one of 55.


Wilson bought the Aridos-sired horse from Susie Haywood, of Methven, Canterbury. He tutored the horse for two seasons, after Haywood's daughter, Genevieve, had ridden him up to 1.25m.

He intends to enter the premier arena with McMillans Ariados in the 1.45m Norwood Gold Cup from 4.45pm tomorrow before reaching any conclusions on the mount's ability to gauge his worth in the mother of all arenas — the Olympic Cup from 2pm.

"I just want to start at a lower level [today] in an easy class to see how he goes, really," says the bloke who got on the honour's roll of the Olympic Cup after riding Vita Power Swinger to victory in 2004.

Wilson describes McMillans Ariados as a big, strong unit who packs a bit of character.

"He's a playful type of horse and he can be a bit of a handful at time," he says of McMillan's Ariados who stands at 16.2 hands high.

In fact, the show is a family affair for the Wilsons who have two children, Tim and Anna, also competing.

Claire is riding McMillans Chuck in the 1.15m ESNZ Equitation Medal Annex 6.3 in a field of 30 at the Fiber Fresh arena two from 12.25pm today.

She won the Olympic Cup on Sacred Hill Answer Back in 2006 but this Sunday she will enter just the Nelson Family Horse 1.35m final with McMillans Chuck in the premier arena from 8.30am.


Tim, a 15-year-old at Lindisfarne College, will be in the saddle of McMillans Tipsey in the horse 1.10m-1.20m event in a field of 137 at arena one from 10.45am today.

Anna, a 12-year-old at Woodford House, will put Feather Storm through the spin-dry cycle of the pony 1.10m A5 art event in a field of 62 at arena two from 2.45pm today.

"We're all riding now which is good and everyone's keen so it's a great sport for everyone to be involved with," says Simon Wilson, revealing there's no pressure on the children to compete.

"Claire and I just support them if they are interested in continuing so there's no expectations to ride if they don't want to."

Wife Claire Wilson rode Sacred Hill Answer Back to victory in the Olympic Cup in 2006 but she won't be entering the marquee event this Sunday. Photo / File
Wife Claire Wilson rode Sacred Hill Answer Back to victory in the Olympic Cup in 2006 but she won't be entering the marquee event this Sunday. Photo / File

The children are at boarding school so their time invested in equestrian now is fairly limited.

"We're not riding as many horses, Claire and I, so the kids are taking up much of our time which is great because we can support them as we continue with our own riding."


Tim and Anna, he says, are finding a nice balance with team sport at school and then chase individual pursuits in equestrian with their parents outside the educational environment.

He is delighted the weather is looking settled after some rain in the past few days.

"I'm sure the organising committee have put a lot of effort and energy into the grounds," he says, mindful any precipitation will make the underfoot heavier.

McMillans Ariados, he says, will enjoy the status quo because of his lack of experience.

Last year's Olympic Cup champion, Briar Burnett-Grant, is back in the field of 29 on Sunday on Fiber Fresh Verona.

The Taupo teenager had become the youngest champion of the HOY Show elite class in Hastings last year on her then 9-year-old gelding since Peter Holden rode Starlight to victory at another New Zealand location in the inaugural jump in 1953.