By Jane Thompson
The Springston Trophy, one of the biggest pony club events in the Southern Hemisphere, is on at Canterbury Agricultural Park, Christchurch this weekend.
There are 40 teams – made up of 240 riders- from all over the South Island from Southland to Motueka and Waimea entered.
This is the 48th year the event has been held, and it is being hosted by the Halswell branch of Christchurch Pony Club.
There has been a year of hard work by the volunteer organising committee, chaired by Anna Jones.
“Hosting this event is even more special for us, as 2019 sees us complete our new grounds after the A&P Showgrounds and Nga PunaWai Sports Hub redevelopment,” says Anna.
“Hosting the prestigious Springston Trophy has been the catalyst for getting the final icing on our cake – a new cross-country course,”
Riders compete in the dressage phase on Friday, and then on Saturday will have the challenge of tackling the brand newcross-country course designed by one of New Zealand’s top course designers, Nick Pyke.
The boating-themed water jump is sure to be where the crowds gather to watch the action.
The course is loosely themed around being in the A&P show grounds, so features the Dog Trial lawn with sheep pens and wood choppers.
Sunday sees the final show jumping phase and the presentation of the Springston trophy to the pony club team with the best score over all the three phases.
The competition is certainly very hot with defending champions, View Hill Pony Club, near Oxford, having very strong teams entered again this year. View Hill also won the event in 2016 and 2012.
Hosts Halswell, runners up last year and winners the year before, are definitely keen to gain the upper hand again and have also fielded very strong teams.
Thanks to event sponsors, Mitavite, Olympian Clarke Johnstone will be there on Thursday to take the competitors on an informative cross-country course walk, giving them some tips on how to tackle the jumps. Clarke was the highest placed of the Kiwi eventing team at the Rio Olympics, finishing sixth.
Clarke and his horse Balmoral Sensation are in the early stages of their preparation for Tokyo 2020 and, all things going well, will be heading to the UK early next year as part of their push to get in the team again.
Clarke himself competed in the Springston Trophy as part of the Taieri team before basing
himself in the Waikato and overseas.