Newly-crowned 2019 Pony of the Year champ Olivia Apatu has dedicated her back-to-back win at the Horse of the Year Show to her late father, Ren, who died in a helicopter accident last year.
The teenager from Havelock North and Alasaan Arzu enjoyed plenty of support from the local crowd in the Farmlands-sponsored class of the Land Rover-sponsored show as she kept her cool to be the only combination to finish on zero faults in a hotly-contested competition. Eight of the original 30 starters came back for the second round with just three on zero faults and the remainder carrying through four.
Karis Spurway and Delta Le Camouflage was the first of the clears to come back for the second round and opted for the steady clear but picked up a single time fault.
Apatu was next, and certainly had a couple of lives during the round but her grey managed to leave everything up and stop the clock at 55.69 seconds.
Following her was Ally Stevenson (Hastings) and the bouncy Jakaranda, who she only teamed up with in December. They looked to be on song but had the first of the double to finish with four faults in 53.88s.
It was an emotional win for Apatu who admitted she never dared dream she could back up her victory from last year.
"It is just amazing," she said, thanking her "amazing" mum Sally, trainer Jesse Linton and groom Vanessa Liley. "This one is for you dad."
Course designer Werner Deeg, of Germany, was also in for praise and was her new favourite.
"I am really lucky I don't get nervous. I knew my pony had it and I had it and we did it, so that was cool," she said.
While Apatu still has three more years in the pony section, the very special pony Alasaan Arzu would be going to another rider next season. Her trainer, Jesse Linton, said he just told his young charge to keep calm and go for the clear.
Nakeysha Lammers (Taranaki) notched the biggest win of her career with her win in the Canterbury Equestrian Premier Stakes this morning. The 22-year-old, who last year was second in the class, steered her big grey gelding, Balboa NZPH, to a slick double clear, coming home in 52.62s.
Julie Davey (Hastings) and Joligne De Carmel threw everything at it and while also double clear, stopped the clock at 53.95 seconds. Helen Kippen (Hastings) and Velocity NZPH were the only other double clear, crossing the flags in 58.25s.
"I am over the moon," said Nakeysha of her eight-year-old horse. "He tried his little heart out – I couldn't be happier."
As the winner of the class she was also awarded the Tom Gatsby Memorial Trophy, presented by the Gatsby family in memory of Tom, a rising young eventing star who was killed while competing in the UK. "It is very special to win this trophy," said Nakeysha.
She bought the horse as a just broken rising 4-year-old from breeders New Zealand Performance Horses and has carefully produced it.
"Up until last season he had been coming along very slowly – he was very green and immature, but suddenly he has just stepped up."
The two have been competing at 1.3m this season and placed second in the Bronze Tour Final at the recent Takapoto Estate Show Jumping but haven't had a lot of outings.
"When we have though, the horses have jumped well."
Previously her best result was winning the Junior Rider of the Year crown.
It's been a good show for Nakeysha who today will line up in her first Olympic Cup aboard her homebred, Resolution. She and Balboa NZPH won the 1.35m on the opening day of the show, picked up an eighth in a second 1.35m and aboard Resolution was third in the Lady Rider and sixth in the 1.15m aboard Bellinsimo NZPH. She had initially planned to start Balboa NZPH in the 1.35m final but instead opted to step up to the Premier Stakes.
In the 5-year-old of the year, New Zealand Performance-bred horses filled three of the top six slots.
NZPH rider Alex Loiselle and Encore NZPH led the 19-strong field home with a lovely double clear in 44.86s.
Donna Edwards-Smith (Te Kauwhata) and DSE Henton for Glory filled second with her clean efforts in 45.6 and Alex was third aboard Eldorado NZPH in 49.27.
Luke Dee (Waipukurau) and Chic Xtreme were the fastest of the second round, stopping the clock at 43.71, but paid for their speed with a rail and had to settle for fifth.
Farmlands Pony of the Year: Olivia Apatu (Havelock North) Alasaan Arzu 1, Karis Spurway (Taranaki) Delta Le Camouflage 2, Emma Watson (Morrinsville) Maddox Fun House 3, Ally Stevenson (Hastings) Jakaranda 4, Brooke Hawthorne (Waikato) Easy As 5, Parys Marshall (Taranaki) Spot You Later 6.
Canterbury Equestrian Premier Stakes: Nakeysha Lammers (Taranaki) Balboa NZPH 1, Julie Davey (Hastings) Joligne De Carmel 2, Helen Kippen (Hastings) Velocity NZPH 3, Katharine Van Tuyl (Palmerston North) Centavino 4, Alex Loiselle (Ocean Beach) Bandito NZPH 5, Emily Hayward (Cambridge) Yandoo Lady Gold 6.
5-year-old of the year (part of the East Coast Performance Horses Five-Year-Old Series): Alex Loiselle (Ocean Beach) Encore NZPH 1, Donna Edwards-Smith (Te Kauwhata) DSE Henton for Glory 2, Alex Loiselle (Ocean Beach) Eldorado NZPH 3, Hayley Morgan (Tauranga) Stardust Harlequin Revenge 4, Luke Dee (Waipukurau) Chic Xtreme 5, Rose Alfeld (Leeston) Eye Catcher NZPH 6.