Sponsors, stakeholders and board members gathered at Cape Estate for the official launch of the Land Rover Horse of the Year (HOY) competition yesterday, where they heard the event was on the up and up.
With the ink still fresh on the signing of Land Rover as the major naming sponsor, all involved were optimistic about the event that has had its ups and downs in the 20 years it had been hosted in Hastings.
HOY publicist Alisha Neilson said the size of the event had more than doubled since it began with six disciplines and 800 horses, and there was plenty of scope for further growth.
The addition of Land Rover had "supercharged the HOY brand, profile and marketing potential", she said.
She also acknowledged former event manager Kevin Hansen as well as the competitors, volunteers, exhibitors and the team that worked behind the scenes.
Event director Dave Mee said it was rare to find such a sponsor with international connections that was passionate about, and committed to, such events.
He said that in the last 12 months, other sponsors such as Tomoana Warehousing, Emmerson Transport, and Bostock New Zealand had also increased their support, which was as valuable.
With the equestrian entries now closed, Mr Mee said they had increased from last year and were almost at capacity.
"With international judges, course designers and competitors there's more of an international flavour, and there's a lot of things still in the pipeline.
"It will be a good five weeks ahead as we release some more details on these - I think this will be the best one we have put on and hopefully the best ever."
HOY board chairwoman Cynthia Bowers said while the event was a pinnacle for the equestrian fraternity it was also an important community event for Hastings and Hawke's Bay.
"We're thrilled at the way it's coming together and at the risk of tempting fate our fingers are crossed for good weather."
The Land Rover Horse of the Year will be held at the Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds from March 13 to 18.