At age 71 Dannevirke's master equestrian Doug Isaacson has shown he still has it when it comes to top show jumping.
Isaacson, on 8-year-old Elmo, was one of eight riders who went clear and into the jump-off in the Horse Grand Prix at the Dannevirke and Districts A&P Show on Saturday in his 66th year of show jumping.
Despite an amazing display of skill and grit, Isaacson was pipped into second place, going down by just one second to Dannevirke's Logan Massie on Intellect in the jump-off.
It was a great birthday present for Massie, but Isaacson told the 25-year-old to remember the day he just beat a rider 46 years older than himself.
But Isaacson, who is the oldest show jumper in New Zealand competing at the elite level, almost failed to saddle up for day two of the showjumping.
"I'd hurt my back a week earlier and after riding on the first day I could hardly walk. My back was shite," he told the Dannevirke News.
"I was buggered and crook and I was going to scratch from day two, but on Friday night I used a pulsator on my back, downed painkillers and there I was in the jump-off of the grand prix and just pipped at the post by a second."
Isaacson said he "just does what he does," and gets on with riding. But he's full of praise for Elmo.
"He's a bloody good horse," he said. "I'm just lucky I'm active and I've always been the athletic type."
However, Isaacson told the Dannevirke News</i> he is retiring from show jumping after the Land Rover Horse of the Year in Hawke's Bay in March.
"HOY will be my last show. It's 66 years since I went to my first show and now, the day after I ride, I feel like a bus has run over me," he said.
"I've decided enough is enough and I know I'm not as accurate as I was when I'm in the ring. I'll enter the Norwood Gold Cup (an event he won in 2008) and the Silver Fern Stakes (which he won in 2009 on Brother Brown), but it's too expensive to enter the big one. It costs thousands and I can't afford it. It would be easier to walk out on to my lawn and just set fire to money."
Isaacson said he was unlucky in the jump-off in Dannevirke and that cost him that precious second.
"We went to the second fence and Elmo didn't cotton on to what I wanted to do and we lost a bit of time," he said. "I had to keep him on the track at the jump facing the stand too."
Isaacson will ride at Taihape this weekend, then at Masterton, before the Horse of the Year and although he's retiring, there will still be a reason to head off to show jumping events - his grandies are riding.
"On Sunday in Dannevirke I had grandchildren competing in events for first-up show jumpers and we've now got a five-generation heritage in the sport," he said.
Doug's grandfather, Doug Coughlin jumped in 1935/36, then his father Henry Isaacson, Doug, daughter Merrin and now the grandchildren.
Horse Grand Prix: Logan Massie 1; Doug Isaacson 2; Tess Williams 3; Simon Wilson 4; Maurice Beatson 5; Melody Matheson 6.
Pony Grand Prix: Amelia Pauli 1; Lily Moore, 2; Samantha Carrington , Kaitlyn Freeman, Dylan =3; Lucy Buchanan 6.