HIGHEST quality equestrian competition is coming to Manfeild next month
The Bates National Dressage Championships has been an annual occurrence at the Feilding venue since 2014.
The 2019 competition on February 14 -17 has high significance as the year’s first world ranking points-scoring opportunity for riders looking to make the cut for New Zealand’s entry to 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
The Dressage Nationals and subsequent Horse of the Year, in March, are the primary national occasions for riders to gain points; thereafter the best opportunities require travel to Australia, from May.
It is also the sport’s first international event since New Zealand was named as second placeholder in the latest FEI World Dressage Challenge, being pipped only by Chile. The challenge determines country’s ratings on the strength of the outcomes of individual competitions. The rankings have just been published.
Dressage New Zealand’s sport manager says both factor into the 2019’s status.
The challenge reminds that a small country can still rise to the top and that “we’re seriously competitive at development level worldwide,” says Wendy Hamerton.
“All the riders who were part of that (world challenge) team will be competing at the nationals at Manfeild.”
Now, of course, the top guns are looking forward to making the cut for Tokyo, and accordingly some significant names are listed among the 200 combinations entered for Manfeild.
“We’re really pleased. The overall entry is up with last year and the quality across all levels is outstanding,” Mrs Hamerton says.
An event that counts as the 21st consecutive year of the partnership between Dressage NZ and Bates Saddles will incorporate an FEI CDI three star for Grand Prix, plus Medium Tour CDI two star for Level 8 horses, as well FEI classes for Young Riders (CDIY) and Pony Riders (CDIP), Super 5 League finals, Amateur Championships from Levels 1 to 5 and Young Horse Championships run alongside the prestigious Bates Open Championships and Para Equestrian Championships.
There is sadness that the headline competition will be without 2018’s winner, internationally-renowned Manawatu competitor Julie Brougham.
Mrs Hamerton and Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane say Brougham is a highly popular identity and a huge fan of Manfeild Park Stadium.
Says Mrs Keane: “Her success in winning both the national Grand Prix Championship and Burkner Medal on her home turf last year was thrilling for her, her local fanbase and for us.”
Adds Mrs Hamerton: “Julie is a fantastic and well-loved identity of our sport and she has our best wishes as she fights illness.”
Among top-rated potential Tokyo qualifiers competing at the Grand Prix Mrs Hamerton has suggested Taranaki’s Vanessa Way, rising star Melissa Galloway of Blenheim and Wendi Williamson of Kumeu as particular standouts.
Williamson has represented New Zealand at the FEI Dressage World Cup in Las Vegas and is considered the most experienced Kiwi at Grand Prix level in the field, while her compatriots have been consistently scoring at 70 percent-plus at regional Grand Prix events.
“If I had to pick the top three just based on recent form, that would be it. We feel we have the best of the best, and in addition there is significant emergent talent, including several local area riders such as Susan Tomlin and Toni Louisson.”
Dressage New Zealand has previously said it found it difficult to look past Manfeild to host an event that goes back to the 1950s.
Manfeild’s extensive bespoke competition areas, large-scale stabling, geographically central location, indoor stadium and associated facilities were highlighted by DNZ when it determined to make the nationals an annual undertaking.
Manfeild Stadium has also proven perfect for the big finale event, the Cartown Dressage Musical Spectacular, with the Grand Prix Freestyle to Music and various entertainment acts which have become crowd pleasers. A new addition to a programme that starts at 5.30pm and runs for almost five hours are the pony and young rider international classes. General admission tickets cost $15 and can be bought pre-event, via Eventfinda, or on the night. There are also corporate table opportunities (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mrs Keane says the Dressage Nationals deliver a significant financial windfall to the region.
“The spend on hires, catering and on local accommodation has been of considerable benefit to the community and region. The economic gain for Feilding alone must be quite impressive. We also value the relationship that has developed between the sport and our venue.”
Says Mrs Hamerton: “Support from the local community is also a vital part of the huge success of this event.”
CAPTION: Palmerston North combination Susan Tomlin and Dancealong, pictured with Nigel McCoard from competition sponsor Kiwi Arena Rakes, won the National Grand Prix Freestyle in 2018 and are this year making their international debut in the CDI three star at Manfeild next month.
Photo: Libby Law Back