It was a close-fought battle in the dressage, but John Thompson and JHT Antonello took out the CDI FEI Grand Prix Special, at the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings today, again cracking into the 70s.
Unrelenting overnight rain ground most of the Saturday HOY action to a halt, including the showjumping and eventing, which were cancelled in the interests of rider and horse safety.
But the dressage was able to continue in the oval and the CDI FEI Grand Prix Special went down to the wire, with Thompson (Gordonton) and JHT Antonello again rising to the top of the seven-strong field, with a winning test of 70.235%.
“He’s feeling the best he’s ever felt,” said Thompson. “We made a few easy mistakes that can be corrected.”
He didn’t have it all his way though. Abbie Deken (Taranaki) and KH Ambrose were on fire and it was a tense wait for scores as she chased him all the way, coming in second place, just one percent behind on 69.216%.
“He was much more rideable today,” Deken says. “I was a bit disappointed with myself, I was off balance going into the one [time changes] but overall I’m happy with how we went – much more settled.”
Waikato’s William Millar and Raukura Satori MH took third place with 66.118%, while Portuguese stallion Ali Baba and Jody Hartstone were just behind them for fourth.
All combinations progress to tomorrow’s musical freestyle, which, along with today’s special, counts toward the coveted Dressage Horse of the Year title. At this point Thompson and the experienced JHT Antonello have it in hand, but if today is anything to go by, he won’t be letting his guard down until the scores are up.
The pair are looking to post qualifying scores toward the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon next year.
As rider and horse safety is the paramount concern, the conditions and forecast for further rain forced the cancellation of the cross country phase of the eventing and showjumping in all arenas today.
The eventing organising team, led by convenor Erika Herries, had worked tirelessly in the weeks leading up to the event to deliver a top-class competition and about 40 fence judges turned up to the showgrounds, raincoats at the ready, to volunteer their time this morning.
Herries says the health and safety of both horses and riders is the most important factor.
“We need to provide a safe venue and course.”
She estimated about 100 people would have been on course helping in some capacity – from stewards and technical delegates, to vets and medics.
“It’s not an easy decision but it was the right thing to do. We have to treat our riders with respect, they are a huge part of what we do and we want them to return to our event,” she says.
“I want to thank everyone . . . all those people who make our event happen every year. Without them, the show couldn’t go on. We will be back next year and I’m already thinking about a contingency plan in case this happens again.
“We control what we can control, and that’s looking after people.”
There was still plenty of action in other arenas, including dressage and showing, as well as shopping and the dessert degustation, designed by acclaimed Australian chef Adriano Zumbo and delivered by Orton Catering.
The mounted games were able to move the competition to the Equestrian Park at Flaxmere, and complete its national championships.
Classes scheduled to go ahead tomorrow, weather permitting, include the prestigious Olympic Cup and Dressage Horse of the Year title, as well as the Pony of the Year and Junior Rider of the Year showjumping classes.
All Saturday tickets are valid for Sunday.
For more information, head to www.hoy.kiwi .
What: Horse of the Year Show
Where: Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds, Hastings
When: March 7-12
HOY Media Manager
021 222 0145