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Kiwis head to Aachen … A Special WEG 2006 Preview by Virginia Caro for PhelpsSports.com
New Zealand – August 3, 2006 – The New Zealand team for WEG comprises six eventers, five endurance horses, one show jumper, and a vaulter. The cost of sending horses to Europe from New Zealand is so prohibitive that riders are not selected unless they are deemed competitive. As a result, a number of riders base themselves overseas to gain experience and measure themselves against international competition.
Having won team gold in Dubai in 1998 when the horses’ costs were met by the organizers, endurance has been fired with determination to compete internationally ever since, and not just across the Tasman in Australia, where the Tom Quilty Ride is the gold standard.
Paulette Stannard battled to fund her horse, Zephyr, to The Hague in 1994, to compete as an individual, the first New Zealand-based Kiwi to have competed outside of Australasia. She entered the stadium in bronze medal position, but was vetted out, having twice been sent the wrong way, and covering extra distance as a result.
Zephyr was fine next morning, and bought by an American family who invited Paulette to go with the horse and settle him in. Following her showing at The Hague, Paulette was sure it was worth having a WEG team in the future, convinced the horses were up to it.
The other Kiwi competitor at WEG that year was Australian based Howard Harris, who is a member of this year’s team. At 60 years old, he is vastly experienced, having competed internationally since 1988. His horse, Harmere Turfan, a 12-year-old old home-bred Arabian gelding, placed second in the Tom Quilty Ride earlier this year. Howard and his horse traveled to Christchurch in the South Island to meet up with the rest of the team before flying out to Germany on July 24.
Brian Tiffen, a 47-year-old farmer from Fairlie in the South Island, who was the best performing Kiwi in the extremely wet weather at Jerez four years ago, will be hoping for better conditions at Aachen this year. Tiffen, who started endurance riding as a teenager, was a member of the NZ team at the endurance world championships in Dubai last year on his team horse Sonny, a 13-year-old home-bred Anglo-Arab.
Shane Dougan, a 55-year-old farmer from Eketahuna in the North Island, played polo-crosse prior to taking up endurance. He holds the NZ record over 160 kilometres, riding his 10-year-old Arabian stallion Vigar Riffal, on which he was a member of the winning Trans-Tasman team in Australia last year.
Philip Graham, a 51-year-old farmer from Cheviot in the South Island, was also a member of the same Trans-Tasman. His 11-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding, Wolfgang Amadeus, is a consistent performer, bred by the late Leo Nisbett.
The rookie in the team is 20-year-old Kylie Avery, from Marlborough, who has been competing in open company for three years. She was a member of the 2004 NZ Trans-Tasman team, and was runner-up for the 2006 Horse and Rider of the Year. Her horse, Silands Jasark, a nine-year-old part-Arab stallion, was also bred by Leo Nisbett.
The eventing team is a mixture of youth and experience, as the sport rebuilds after the “dream team” years. They have the benefit of being managed by former World and Olympic Champion Blyth Tait, who is passionate about the development of the sport at home after decades of competing at the highest level in the UK and Europe.
Veteran Andrew Nicholson, based in Britain since the age of 18, now 44 years old and holding the record for the most Badminton completions, anchors the team with the choice of two horses, Lord Killinghurst and Henry Tankerville. The former, a 15-year-old bay gelding, is first choice for the World and Olympic team medalist, having placed third at Burghley for the last three years, fourth at Badminton last year and second in 2004.
Heelan Tompkins was the best placed New Zealander at Athens with the oldest horse, Glengarrick, and they look like creating another record at Aachen with the evergreen, black thoroughbred gelding now 19 years old. He has run sparingly, but won the Puhinui three-day event in December 2005 to prove he is still on top of his game. He was flown to the UK in time for team training in July.
The 35-year-old Joe Meyer was the best-placed Kiwi at Badminton this year, finishing 10th on his home-bred Snip, and has earned his debut for New Zealand after basing himself in the UK for some years now.
Caroline Powell (33), married and living in Scotland for fourteen years now, also makes her debut for New Zealand with the 13-year-old grey gelding Lenamore, having had good showings at Badminton and Burghley, where they were fifth last year.
Alex De Luca Oliveira, an ex-pat Brazilian now based in New Zealand, was short-listed with Clifton Checkers after producing the best Kiwi performance at the Adelaide CCI**** Trans-Tasman test last year. They went to England earlier this year to gain experience on the competitive European circuit. Alex is thrilled to be representing his newly adopted country.
Following injury to Dan Jocelyn’s Silence, 26-year-old reserve Donna Smith, based in the United States with Karen and David O’Connor for the last five years, has come into the team with Call Me Clifton. They completed Kentucky CCI**** earlier this year to put themselves in contention. Both Call Me Clifton and Clifton Checkers are New Zealand bred and owned by Frances Stead.
Thirty-two-year-old Belgium-based Grant Wilson will be the only NZ show jumper in Aachen. A reserve rider for Athens 2004, and a member of the NZ Nations’ Cup teams last year, he has two horses qualified for WEG 2006, Up & Down, his first choice, and Utopia van de Donkhoeve. He will have former U.S. Olympic medalist, now NZ national coach, Greg Best helping him.
In 1994 an exchange student from Paraparaumu was based in Germany for six months with a host family who got him involved in vaulting, although he had never ridden a horse before. He was coached by the then world champion, Christoph Lensing, and got a wild card entry into WEG in The Hague.
When 16-year-old David McIntyre returned to New Zealand he started a vaulting club, and Christoph came to New Zealand to coach them. David’s mother has kept the Kapiti Vaulting Club going, with German enthusiasts coming out to coach for six months at a time. The club gave a popular demonstration at the Horse of the Year Show this year.
Another wild card entry has been obtained for 23-year-old Hannah Mills, of Paekakariki, who has been vaulting with the club since she was 14. Hannah, who is also a surf-lifesaver and a BSc graduate, went overseas last year to stay with one of the German girls who had coached at Kapiti. This resulted in the opportunity to compete in Aachen, so Hannah has returned for six weeks to receive coaching in preparation for the WEG.