Te Awamutu riders featured prominently among the prize winners at the Maihiihi Cowboy Challenge in Otorohanga.

The seven mini cowboys and cowgirls battled it out with seven-year-old Khamani Panapa-Pryor from Rotoma taking first place on Wairua and runner-up going to Te Awamutu's Maia Oxenham riding a borrowed pony, the experienced Charlie Brown.

Third place went to Charlie Brown's owner Jayla Ropiha riding her mother's horse, Mustang Sally.

Each little rider went home with a goody bag sponsored by Gregory Equine and Wild Spirit Photography.


The beginner competition attracted a field of 22, reducing quickly to 12 as the weather turned nasty. Those brave enough to carry on covered up with oilskins and a myriad of jackets.

Cowboy Challenge is a speed competition with emphasis placed on horsemanship.

Riders and their mounts compete over a series of obstacles, earning a score out of 10 for each obstacle. An additional bonus of up to five points can be awarded for speed and an additional 20 points for horsemanship.

Classes start at lead rein level up to open combinations and the event was well supported by 62 riders in total.

Pirongia's Georgina Green and Painted Spirit took top honours, followed closely by Ohaupo rider Jenny Gunson on Oono.

Wendy Flintoff-Baker, returning to riding after a 20-year hiatus, rode her daughter's well-seasoned mount KHH Arjay to third. Te Awamutu rider Brittany Van Dijk and Kaimanawa Queen of Hearts TWS took home the fourth-placed green sash.

Van Dijk was thrilled with how her little horse went.

"It was my first ever placing at one of these events," she said.

"My mount tried her heart out despite the wet conditions. She just gets better and better every season."

Of the rookie field of 22 only the top 10 get to ride the second round. After round 1, Cambridge's Jan Latham led with Matamata's Malcolm Telfar, Maria Herewini from Rotorua and fellow Cambridge rider Dianne Burns, close behind. Te Awamutu had just one representative make round two, Natasha Guest and Arahi Tahi TWS in seventh place.

The tougher course in round two took its toll on Burns, making way for Guest to claim the white sash for placing sixth.

Brittany Van Dijk and Kaimanawa Queen of Hearts TWS completing the deadfall obstacle. Photo / Supplied
Brittany Van Dijk and Kaimanawa Queen of Hearts TWS completing the deadfall obstacle. Photo / Supplied

"We had a few issues in the first round so I was pretty pleased to get a second go," said Guest.

"My little horse was very distracted. It took quite a bit to get him to soften and focus on the job at hand.

"Fortunately, he has a kind heart and eventually came through for me and really dug deep, but we lost points on the speed angle as well as the horsemanship side."

The red sash headed south to Rotorua in the truck of Herewini who rode a solid second loop on her mare Pretty Girl to take the winning spot.

Latham was thrilled to take home the blue sash, especially on debut at this event. Malcolm Telfar and Moose took third place.

A follow-up event of similar nature will take place at Parawera at the weekend.

Newcomers to the sport are welcome to come along and 'Have a Go' on Saturday.

A practise ring will be on offer for riders to try their horses over some of the obstacles before the competition commences at 1pm. Spectators are welcome, free of charge.

Sunday features a points competition for elite riders commencing at 7.30am. For further details contact Natasha 021713967.

NOTE: No dogs are allowed either day at this event.