British rider's coaching talents in demand
British three-day event rider Nick Gauntlett has long held New Zealand riders in high regard, but he was surprised to discover how few Kiwis were competing in his chosen sport when he arrived on our shores this month.
Gauntlett, who narrowly missed selection for the 2012 Olympics when his horse Penguin Ice was injured, has his sights firmly set on Rio 2016 and he is now exploring the possibility of coaching in New Zealand.
Just days after the newly married 34-year-old and his wife Amanda arrived in the North Island on their honeymoon, the pair received approaches suggesting Gauntlett's coaching skills would be valued here.
"There appears to be a lot of demand," he said.
Having competed against Kiwis for many years, Gauntlett said he believed New Zealand's geography contributed to the nation's success at riding.
"New Zealand riders are so good because they are so natural and have more space to learn to ride."
Given it was their first visit, the couple had no intention of looking for work in New Zealand but both had already fallen in love with the country and now plan to explore opportunities with Eventing NZ.
"I'm blown away by how beautiful and friendly a country it is . . . I love it here and I love my sport and if I can enjoy both things over here, especially when the weather is terrible at home, it will be perfect," he said.
Gauntlett, who has represented his country and was a World Championships silver medallist in 1997, said he would look at coming back during the northern winter.
"New Zealand is one of the world leaders in three-day eventing and unfortunately so many learn those skills here and then come to the UK to base themselves."
After visiting the Puhinui International event in Manukau two weeks ago, Gauntlett said he was surprised at how few riders were competing, especially given how successful Kiwi riders were internationally.
"In the top CCI3 class there were only 12 starters . . . in England we would have 80 to 100 and that's not our top level."
"Perhaps it's quality rather than quantity here," he said.
Gauntlett was concerned that the future of Kiwi riding success could be in jeopardy if young talent wasn't properly fostered.
"Some of the best riders in the world have left New Zealand and young riders in the future need help and inspiration from them."
He said the events themselves also needed money thrown at them and top talent attending to help raise the profile of the sport.
"Some events are struggling and it wouldn't take too much for them to fall by the wayside, giving the next generation fewer opportunities to learn and ride."
The Gauntletts will spend Christmas in Invercargill with family before heading back home to Gloucestershire.
- © Fairfax NZ News