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Near win for pony club at big event



thumbnail Wellsford equestrian team-424JULIA WADE

Local young horse riders cantered close to a win at a recent prestigious event, earning second place in an equestrian triathlon which their club had not entered for many years.

The two day Timberlands Pony Club Teams Event celebrated its 40th jubilee in Tokoroa on the weekend of March 27-28, with four selected east Kaipara members – Briar Woolley, Amy Westlake, Emma Davies and Oliver Janes-Millar – representing Wellsford District Pony Club, which includes Hakaru and Albertland Pony Clubs. Between them, the team took out second place just behind Whangarei Pony Club who were the overall winners. Vice president of Hakaru Pony Club and mum to Oliver, Rachelle Millar, says the small team ‘punched well above its weight’.

“’Where is Wellsford’ was the most common whisper that went through the crowd… we have not put a team forward for several years, so it was super exciting for our club to not only attend, but to gain second place!” she says.

“It is a huge testament to the time and commitment of the coaches in these pony clubs and their riders. As it was the 40th anniversary of the event, it was quite the celebration for riders and their parents who had competed as children. The traditions were all still in place and everything was executed with polish and aplomb.”

For 165 young riders and their four-legged partners, the equestrian competition involved three disciplines – dressage, show jumping and galloping up and down the hilly countryside and through corn fields as part of a gruelling cross-country course ‘that is spoken about by those that know, with a look of terror in their eyes’.

Dressage, which assesses the athletic development, strength, balance and skill of a horse, is the best indicator of a team’s placing and Millar says they had a strong team of dressage riders.

“Along with two riders we had drafted from Whangarei, our team of six went on to the show jumping with each member achieving a clear round! We were looking to be in a strong position going into the cross country for the next day so it was a rather excited team camping over at the Tokoroa sports ground on the Saturday evening!”

Come Sunday the team – which included head coaches, Albertland’s Leanne Woolley and Hakaru’s Cindy Balfour – prepared their strategy, walking the cross-country terrain and observing the movements of the first riders, ‘re-organising

their game plan in their minds’ before saddling up and taking on the difficult terrain.

“Any hesitation before the foreboding obstacles could easily land us 20 faults and push us out of the competition for the coveted top places, so when Briar, who was the second to last rider, cleared every jump on her horse Fantastic Mr Fox, we were ecstatic… and she was just beaming!” Millar says.

“We were so excited that our team had done so well. They received many compliments on their presentation of themselves and their horse’s turnout at prizegiving, they were very proud to have represented their district at such a high level.”


Keen to ride?

Pony club offers programmes for riders without horses to riders starting out on a lead rein. Wellsford District Pony Club and its two branches, Hakaru and Albertland Pony Clubs, are run solely by volunteers who provide instruction for the riding, care and management of horses for children and youth under 25 years.

The club also offers opportunities to be a part of a team through pony club events as well as membership in one of the oldest clubs in New Zealand, the NZ Pony Club Association, which formed over 100 years ago.

If interested in climbing in the saddle, visit Wellsford District Pony Club’s facebook page.


Wellsford District Pony Club riders proudly displaying their blue ribbons following a commendable second placing at the recent Timberlands teams event in Tokoroa. Pictured from left, Briar Woolley, Amy Westlake, Emma Davies, Oliver Janes-Millar with Whangarei District Pony Club drafts Kaiya Browning and Reecy Harvey. PHOTO/SUPPLIED


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