Polo Equestrian

Wan Ming: A personal experience at New Zealand’s Horse of the Year Show

peterpoloequestrian March 23, 2012

wm_yien_hoys2012Malaysia’s Ong Wan Ming was invited again to take part in New Zealand’s Horse Of The Year Show 2012.  The Horse of the Year Show is a huge show, one of the biggest, if not the biggest show of the southern hemisphere.  It was held at the Hawkes Bay Showgrounds in Hastings, New Zealand.  She did Malaysia proud by going clear (sort-of) in the jump-off of the final’s day’s 1.20 m class.  Here is Wan Ming’s story of this wonderful show, and her time in New Zealand.

It did not seem like a year ago that I was in New Zealand at the Horse of the Year Show. Before I knew it, there we were again, amongst old and new friends. Through my Mitavite Asia sponsorship, I got to meet New Zealand Mitavite rider, Catherine Cameron about three years ago. She again found me a horse to compete on.

This year, I was better prepared – I bought Yien; navigator, groom, cheer squad, coach, jump adjuster, drinking and eating buddy, with me.

Having had a mild bout of food poisoning from Singapore’s Changi airport, which showed itself on the plane (note to travellers: Jet Star does not have air sickness bags in their seat pockets), I was not feeling crash hot when we landed in Auckland on Saturday. We picked up a hire car which was supposed to be gold, but turned out to be orange, and drove to Catherine’s in Cambridge.

A short nap made me feel better so I hopped onto My Boy for my first ride on the horse Catherine had chosen for me. He was a real sweetheart: honest and with a good eye for distances. We jumped a few fences and got to know each other.

On Sunday, we had another jump around, and it went better. My Boy proved that he knew what he was doing and the couple of times I got it wrong, he took charge and helped me out. Being a quiet day, I managed to catch up with an old friend in Hamilton and did some sightseeing. New Zealand is such a beautiful country!

The next day, we hacked the horses out and then gave them a good scrub and shampoo in preparation for the show. Catherine and her groom, Lindsey took the horse truck with My Boy and Catherine’s horses, while Yien and I drove off a bit earlier to do some more sightseeing. We stopped at the Huka Falls and at Taupo. It was about a 4.5 hours drive from Catherine’s home in Cambridge to Hastings.  The drive took us through some beautiful mountains. The weather was not great but we made decent time.

At the show, our horses were stabled in old sheep yards.  It was quite amazing to see all these horses standing next to each other without trying to kill one another, which would be quite common in Malaysia. My Boy had to be firmly secured in his stall as his owner warned that he is an escape artist. Sure was! He got out for a walkabout the very next day

On Tuesday which is the first day of the show, I jumped in the 1.10m class. It was in white board order, which means you put your name down on the board somewhere where you think you would want to go. One has to be quick with this as spaces get filled up quickly!

Still getting to know one another, we had two rails and did not make the jump off. As there are so many riders in each class, most classes have an immediate jump off.

We had a lovely, quite authentic Thai dinner that night and Yien had her quota of rice which she was sorely missing. Mitavite Asia’s General Manager Gavin Kenna and some of his Mitavite girls flew in from Malaysia, landing after dinner.

My class on Wednesday also started around midday. We again had two rails although both of us were getting more used to each other. Two bad falls last year had put a bit of a dent in my confidence and I was quite defensive coming into the oxers, but by now, I knew I could trust My Boy!

Looking around in the trade village, I saw a dressage saddle that I quite liked. It was of course also quite expensive!

The main arena saw its first events that day. My coach, Catherine won the Norwood Cup and it was a big party at her truck. Having had a few bubblies, we moved on to Bistro 103, a restaurant run by a husband and wife couple with the most delicious food! In a moment of weakness, probably fuelled by too much wine, Gavin bet me the saddle if I could jump clear tomorrow! It was on!!!

So no pressure going into Thursday!!!  Another 1.10m class and by fence 7, Gav’s heart was in his mouth. However, he was very lucky as My Boy just brushed 7A and it bounced up and down, and out of the cup! My heart sank with this unlucky rail but we had a super round otherwise. Sometimes, luck is just not on your side! Gav was not going to bet again as he reckoned from previous form that I could only get better as the days went by.

True to form, I jumped a double clear in the 1.15m class. Friday was meant to be a day off but I decided to put in a late entry and scratch the 1.10m on Saturday instead. It was a cold wet morning, and after I jumped a double clear, I looked up to see if anyone came to watch but only good ol’ Yien was present and Gary Stewart of Mitavite NZ watched from a distance as he was watching Catherine and I. Everyone else got rained out! Even the video lady (Lindsey) missed it as she was watching Catherine ride. NOOOOO!!!

ribbon_hoys2012To make matters worse, with all that rain, my brand new white jodhpurs had all sorts of stains on them from the saddle / whip / etc and even after 3 washes, the stains are still there. With about 150 entries, I went to bed that night not knowing the results. Jody Hartstone, one of New Zealand’s top dressage riders was competing in Spain, but following the show from there.  She sent me the result by putting it on my facebook page that I came 5th!! Yay! My first ribbon at the show!!

On Friday night was the big Showjumping Test Match between Australia and New Zealand. The Trans Tasman is a huge source of pride between the Aussies and Kiwis and gives them great bragging rights for the next year.

Australia won by 1 point! It was a big party that night with the Aussie team and it was great to be able to chat with some of the big and or upcoming names of the sport. Vicky Roycroft has definitely mellowed! 


By Saturday, My Boy needed a day off so we had a quiet day pottering about. I tried to take more photos, eat as much as I can and tried a Southern Stars saddle. It was such an experience to watch the ponies jump 1.25m and young riders being so confident about what they are doing, on ponies / horses that do not always look so easy.

The Horse of the Year Show is probably the biggest show in the Southern Hemisphere with dressage, eventing, show jumping, hunter classes, showing classes, and some harness events, all at the same venue. One also needs a lot of willpower to resist the temptation of spending too much money at the trade stands!!!

That night, there was an extravaganza and highlight of the night was Vicki Wilson jumping a car, riding bareback.   On the last night, Vicki and her sister did a demonstration where they rode and jumped two ponies with no bridles or saddles. The only thing they had to control them was a rope around the ponies’ necks.

We put in another late entry for Sunday for the 1.20m Amateur Rider of the Year class. My Boy jumped a super clear round.  Disaster struck when we came back for the jump off. There were two arenas side by side, and normally as you enter the ring and canter off, the bell will ring for you to start. As I cantered all the way up the long side, I heard a bell ring, so I started my jump off.   I jumped a super clear!

Having jumped a clear round, I exited the arena only to be told I was eliminated for starting before the bell!! The bell I heard was not from my arena! How absolutely gut wrenching! What a big learning experience… not something I would do again soon. It was a few minutes before I could convince myself not to completely burst into tears. However, I was consoled by the fact that I had jumped two good rounds and Guy Creighton who was watching, said that he was proud of the way I rode the jump off.

katie_macvean_dunstandaffodil_hoys2012It was another afternoon of super jumping with the Bell Olympic Cup. Course designer, Leopoldo Palacios built two testing tracks which saw only one clear in the first round, and only two clears in the second round! (Having Googled how to spell Leopoldo’s name, now I know who that man with the hat and bushy moustache who looked so familiar was!!)

In the end, Katie McVean on her superstar, Dunstan Daffodil took the honours for the third year running. Her luck held in the second round as Daffodil rubbed a few fences but they never came down. Katie has been on a winning streak for the whole show and must have a cupboard-full of ribbons and trophies from this year alone. Brook Dobbins on his lovely grey, Advisor jumped clear in the second round but had an unlucky rail in the first.

That night, our flight out of Napier back to Auckland was cancelled due to a problem with the plane. The next day, we almost did not get out as the weather turned wet and wild on us but luckily, although with some delays, we made it to Auckland and after another night, made our way back home to Malaysia.

I am proud of my achievements and am grateful for all the help and support I received from Catherine, Yien, Lindsey and all my other friends. Catherine went out of her way to find me a horse to ride and to sponsor my lessons. Yien was a super groom and really provided a lot of encouragement. Gary Stewart from Mitavite NZ provided the feed for My Boy… so a very big thank you to all of you!!!

Related Links:

Wan Ming at the Horse Of The Year Show in New Zealand (2011)

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