Lucy Akers' NRM Horse of the Year Show is over thanks to a deal the 2014 Lady Rider of the Year made with her horse Tinapai.
Akers, a 29-year-old vet nurse from Palmerston North, bagged her second NZ Lady Rider of the Year title yesterday at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds, heading home 49 other combinations.
"That's my show," said an ecstatic Akers. "It's a bloody good one to win. I made a deal with him if he won today, he wouldn't have to jump (in the JB Olympic Cup) on Sunday."
This year the lady rider class was run slightly differently, with a first round qualifier culling the field to 30 combinations who had eight faults or less. Akers said it was tough going for the horses, with two full rounds and a jump-off in the heat of the day. But that worked in the favour of her former racehorse.
"Tina (Tinapai) has been feeling really good in the last few weeks but I wasn't expecting another win in this class because there are so many great riders out there."
After two rounds, just four combinations were still on zero faults - Akers, former Olympian and World Champs rider Samantha McIntosh (Cambridge) on Estina (owned by Lakeridge Equestrian), Tegan Fitzsimon (Christchurch) on Dual Diamond and Nicole White (Southland) Cricklewood Ace.
McIntosh was first out and while her sometimes tricky bay mare Estina wanted to stop going into the last, she wasn't having a bar of it and came home clear in 51.84 seconds.
Fitzsimon was next and went for the steady clear, paying for it with a single time fault in 57.69. White gave it a really good go and looked to be in the money until the last fence, giving her four faults in 47.86.
Last out was Akers, who came home clear in 50.01. No round with Tina is complete without a few sideways runs at jumps and the odd leap, but Akers says that's fine by her. "When I ask him to wait, he gets a little wiggle action going because he thinks if he goes sideways he can go faster!"
Having won the Lady Rider title in 2011, Akers says it only made her hungrier for another victory.
"You know just how special it is to win," she says, "but it is one of the toughest classes of the show to win. Equestrian is a sport where you are equal, riding against men and women, but this is one just for the ladies . . . besides, it wouldn't have made a difference if there were men in the class."
Tina has had a quite season, having sustained a small injury over Christmas and missing out on many lead-in grand prix.
"It's nice to be in with a chance of winning, but you do need luck on the day. Everything has to go to plan and you just hope that everyone else is not quite as good."
Akers has taken 15-year-old Tinapai around the world, and says a decision by her parents to ship the horse home for her from the United States was probably the best one they had ever made.
"We are a very tight partnership, and while I couldn't sell him in the States, I would never sell him now. He just keeps getting better and better."
Meanwhile, in the Tri Nations, Australia continued its domination, picking up one bonus point for a round that included three clears.
New Zealand remain in second, also picking up a bonus point, with the Chinese third.
The final round is tomorrow night.
- Manawatu Standard
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