Local Kiwi eventers aim for Nations Cup win at Aachen - with Chef d'Equipe Graeme Thom
The Marlborough area is home to many of New Zealand's top eventers and two of them will be travelling to Aachen this week to represent their country in the sixth round of the 2017 Nations Cup Series competition (July 20-22.)
Team members Sir Mark Todd (Badgerstown) and Tim Price (Mildenhall) did very well at the Barbury International Horse Trials (July 6-9) and came eighth and fifteenth respectfully at the Event Rider Masters leg last weekend near Paris - not riding their Aachen horses.
They will be joined in the team by Dan Jocelyn (based at Oaksey, near Malmesbury) and Blyth Tait (based in the Cotswolds.)
The team is managed by Chef d'Equip Graeme Thom who was appointed as Equestrian Sports New Zealand's high performance eventing manager in January this year. For many years he had held a similar post with the Canadian eventing team.
Then in April it was reported that he had resigned after an old back injury flared up. Eighteen months ago he had surgery for a herniated disc with fragments. However he is still working with the New Zealand squad as they approach next year's World Equestrian games to be held at Tryon in North Carolina.
When marlboroughequestrian.news spoke to Graeme Thom at Barbury he explained he had had to cut down on his travel - sitting too long was very bad for his back - and he had to avoid stress.
Thom spoke very highly of New Zealand's funding of amateur sport through the government organisation High Performance Sport New Zealand which works in partnership with national sport organisations, allocates resources to sports organisations and athletes, and delivers world-leading support to impact on the nation's performance. But, as elsewhere in the world, the level of funding depends on results.
I asked Graeme Thom about the disengagement and stand-off since 2012 between six-time member of the New Zealand Olympic team Andrew Nicholson (based in Lockeridge) and the New Zealand equestrian authorities. This dispute - if that is what it has been - led to him being left out of the Rio team.
Thom sighed: "I have a mountain of respect for his accomplishments for the country as a rider." He would not add to that statement.
He told me: "New Zealand riders have done very well in the past in the Nations Cup - and we hope to do the same again."
The full New Zealand team for Aachen is: Sir Mark Todd aboard Leonidas II, Tim Price on Cooley Showtime, Blyth Tait on Darius and Dan Jocelyn with Grovine de Reve. Caroline Powell on Onwards and Upwards will compete as individuals.
Last year at Aachen the individual crown was won by Germany's Michael Jung aboard Fischer Takino. Last weekend Jung won the first French leg of the 2017 Event Rider Masters series.
At Aachen in 2016 Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo the best of the Kiwis in seventh place and Jock Paget aboard Clifton Signature in ninth. This year all of the Kiwi riders have previously competed at Aachen’s iconic event.
The New Zealand team will do battle against six other invited nations, all vying for the top team award - Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland and the United States.
The Nations Cup series Winds up at the Boekelo Horse Trials in the Netherlands early in October.
In the International Equestrian Federation world rankings to the end of June, Sir Mark Todd is in third place, Andrew Nicholson in seventh and Tim Price in sixteenth place.
Remarkably, Tim's wife Jonelle who has not competed in 2017 as she is expecting the couple's first child in a month's time, has kept her place in the top twenty - at thirteenth position.