By Diana Dobson
It is very much a sister act with Drew and Ally Carson, so it's probably fitting the two have both been named on ESNZ jumping squads.
Drew (18) and Ally (16) have shown themselves as the quiet achievers in recent seasons, winning national titles, Horse of the Year crowns and garnering some enviable results. But it's all thanks to good old-fashioned hard work.
The Carsons are a tight family unit. Parents Vance and Kris share milk on a family farm, a 600-acre, 600-cow dairy farm between Putaruru and Tokoroa, and they have a manager on another farm in Tokoroa.
Their equestrian journey started before Drew was even at primary school. Some people moved in down the road with a daughter of a similar age.
"They were rodeo people," remembers Kris, and had a little pony called Nugget. Of course, the girls dearly wanted to ride.
"Holy smokes, if we had only known what it would start!" The Carsons ended up with Barney the pony through Putaruru Pony Club president Grant McGregor.
"He was all right but could be a bit of a character and had to go to boot camp for being naughty." Barney got injured and had to go to rehab, so the family bought 22-year-old Silver in the interim.
Those two ponies started something. While neither mum or dad rode, Kris ended up getting a horse to learn “ and he's still at home.
These days the girls have eight horses between them - Winston V Driene (13), Double Shott (11), Letano (6), Tony the Pony (15), Tiger Tale LS (12), Galaxy Knight Out (9), Sir Gandolf (13) and Prince Ransome (22-ish).
"This is very much the girl's sport" says Kris. "We will back them 100% if they put the effort in, and that is what they have always done. It is a bit of all or nothing. It has always been their choice, but it is an immense amount of work. You have to take your hat off to them and what they have achieved."
Both are trained by Duncan McFarlane and Helen McNaught-McFarlane.
"I really want to represent New Zealand overseas in showjumping" says Drew, who is in her first year of a science major in bio technology with a second major in sport at Waikato University.
She is looking at doing the World Cup series aboard Winston V Driene over the next two seasons but will take it step by step.
"He has had a couple of hard seasons with his health, so has had an extra big break." Once she gets the balance of horses and study, she is planning to get a youngster to bring through to top level.
"I am always looking around for the right one" she says.
She and Ally are each other's best mate.
"We are a tight team - we ride together and talk about things" says Drew. "We are right there for each other when we are competing . . . we actually get more nervous watching each other than we do riding!"
Ally's focus is also on her younger horses, and she gets a lot of pleasure from her rising seven-year-old Letano.
"It is super busy for me when Drew is at university but we manage" says Ally, who is a year 12 student at Putaruru College.
Ally is contemplating dabbling a little in eventing early next season, but it is a wait and see.
In the off-season, Ally plays rugby - they call the openside flanker the female Richie McCaw.
Drew has her plate full with university studies, and Ally has had to step in to help with training and competing the team. It's a balancing act but these two both very much have each other's backs, and are more than happy to help the other out.
The coming season is likely to bring more success to these driven young women.