Smiths in frame for France
Following their success at the national endurance championships, Andrea and Georgia Smith have both been named in the endurance high-performance programme squads for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France.
The Smith family from Mangaweka did the trifecta at the national championships at Easter, with mother Andrea winning the CEI 3-Star 160km, daughter Georgia the CEI 3-Star Junior Youth 160km, and younger sister Brigitte the CEI 2-Star Junior Youth 123km. All three were also awarded best conditioned prizes for their horses.
Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) high performance director Sarah Harris said as far as she could determine, it is the first time a junior has been named in the senior squad and also the first time a mother and daughter had both been selected.
"They are at a very high level, they operate so professionally - the whole family really, from Murray through to Brigitte. It's a really exciting time for them as a family and also for the sport, to see some really talented riders coming through."
The world equestrian games will be in Normandy, France, in August 2014 but the team won't be named until next May.
"They [the squad members] will have had a North Island and a South Island championship and also the nationals around Easter next year so they will have a pretty clear indication of their chances of making the team," said Harris.
Smith said the family has many things to consider regarding travelling to France with two of their best horses.
"The big handbrake is of course finance and we will have to do a lot of fundraising. We couldn't justify bringing Max [Glenmore Tariq] home as he is a gelding but would prefer to pre-sell him. We would only take [Glenmore] Vixen if we can bring her home again as she is a young mare we want to do a lot more on and then breed from in the future."
Harris said she understands the difficulties team members face and ESNZ is doing all they can to get funding for the multi-discipline team to attend the world championships.
"It's really tough because with horses it takes a long time to get them to the elite level and those horses are a big part of their life. They go from the high of being at the worlds on one hand to the bottom on the other of having to sell your horse at the end. It's a double-edged sword."
Smith was already in the high performance squad but this is the first time Georgia has been selected.
"It was expected I would still be on the squad so it's about renewing goals and keeping on moving forward. Georgia has been selected on Glenmore Vixen but has to do one 160km at the required speed as a senior rider. I think she was very surprised but thrilled to be considered."
Max is 10, and barring any injuries, he could be expected to compete for many more years. Vixen is 8 and once her endurance career is over the Smiths plan to breed from her.
"What age can a horse compete until? How long is a piece of string? If they are good and sound and done properly from the start, some are still going when they are 18. The horse that won the world cup last year was 17," Mrs Smith said. "We've always got horses coming through because of breeding but you don't know how good they are going to be. He [Max] is exceptional."