NZ high performance eventing squads named
There are no surprises in the high performance eventing squads named today by Equestrian Sports New Zealand.
As expected, world No 1 Andrew Nicholson has a swag of horses in the squad - six in fact - which is testament to the work he has put in during the past five years to develop a world class stable.
Joining his 2012 Olympics mount Nereo and Burghley champion Avebury are Mr Cruise Control, Quimbo, Calico Joe and Qwanza, all horses who have tasted reasonable success at three or four-star events with Nicholson during the past 12 months.
Sir Mark Todd and Jock Paget, other key contributors to the bronze medal-winning team at London last year, each have three horses in the squad.
Todd still has Campino, the young horse he rode in London, in his stable despite putting the feelers out in the market post-London, and 2011 Badminton champion Land Vision is back after missing the 2012 season - and the Olympics - through injury.
Paget's top three horses - Clifton Promise, Clifton Lush and Bullet Proof are all in the squad, while joining fellow Olympic team members Carolin Powell (Onwards and Upwards and Boston Two Tip) and Jonelle Richards (Mere Oak) in the high performance squad are Clarke Johnstone (Orient Express and Incognito) and Lucy Jackson (Kilcoltrim Ambassador and Willy Do).
Johnstone, a member of the 2010 world championship bronze medalling Kiwi team, only missed Olympic selection last year through injury to his top three horses, while Jackson was the team's reserve.
The selectors are not considering Powell's double Olympic horse Lenamore for Rio, but the 20-year-old will likely to be competing at Badminton in May.
Four up-and-coming riders have been named on the accelerator squad - Jesse Campbell, Joe Waldron, Lizzie Brown and Tim Price, Richards' husband.
Both squads have an open door policy and can be changed at any time.
ESNZ was one of the big winners when government funding was divvied up at the end of 2012, with an increase from the last Olympic cycle of 125 per cent, but high performance director Sarah Harris said there was no complacency.
The squads reflected only those combinations who had the potential to produce an individual podium result at the Rio Olympics in 2016, she said.
"We want to be continually pushing to be better with a world-leading programme. We are recognised as such, but we are always looking to improve anything that leads to better results."
She sees the accelerator programme as vital to future of eventing.
"People will be added to that to ensure sustainability over time. We need to be identifying young talent - whether that be rider or horse - and working with them to accelerate their performances so they have the ability to impact at Rio."
Harris said it was vital that New Zealand develop depth of quality horses, an area they were lacking in before London.
The first major event on the international calendar is the Kentucky event in April, with Nicholson looking to make it three four-star victories on the trot after his successes at Burghley and Pau late last year.