Manutahi's Tim Myers is jumping his way to the top.
The 19-year-old apprentice farrier showed he was a force to be reckoned with in showjumping's top league when scoring an upset win on his 10-year-old gelding Pick Me in a World Cup qualifier at Taupo last weekend.
Myers has made giant strides in the equestrian code since stepping up from the young rider class to the elite grade this year.
When the Taranaki Daily News caught up with Myers this week, he was surrounded by flighty thoroughbred horses and busy tapping in nails on the one he was shoeing.
In a short break between clients, Myers revealed a little about himself and his sport.
One of five children to Manutahi diary farmers Bernie and Megan Myers, Tim has inherited the family love of horses and equestrian sports.
His uncle, Kevin, is a leading New Zealand galloping trainer and Kevin's brothers Peter, Dan and Patrick, along with Bernie have competed in the showring or on the racetrack.
Add cousins in top jockeys Kelly and Rosie Myers and it's hardly surprising Tim has caught the bug.
Myers lives at home.
"I'm still washed for and cooked for, so that's the way to go," he grinned.
Fitting in work and his sport is a juggling act. Most days, if he's not riding horses, then he's attending to the hooves and footwear of ponies, hacks and racehorses on properties around Mt Taranaki.
His day starts at 4.30am, with an hour's drive to New Plymouth to team up with his boss, master blacksmith and farrier Jock Good, of Inglewood, by 6am.
Then it's a 10-hour back-breaking stint manicuring hooves.
He's home by 5.30pm, in time to ride his two show jumpers, before a shower, tea and bed.
Any television to relax before heading off to bed? "Nope, not much, too tired."
There's little time to relax on weekends either, especially in the show season. Tim and his support crew, that almost always includes his father and chief driver, load up the horse truck and head off to shows around the country.
In the winter months, Myers takes a break from the horses and this year played rugby for the Southern colts (under-21s) side coached by former Taranaki representative Robin (Harry) Houghton.
"I really enjoy that. It's a change from the horses and freshens you up," said the utility back and former Hawera High School first XV rep.
Myers' main sporting focus before showjumping was rugby and wrestling, representing the Alton Wrestling Club.
"I didn't go too badly in that. I won a few trophies and managed to get a trip to America out of it."
The month-long trip involved competing in 10 tournaments.
"Wrestling was good fun and it keeps you fit and you also learn discipline."
Horses have been a focus since before Myers left school, starting at the local pony club before shifting to concentrate on show jumping.
He can't remember exactly how long ago it was that he learned to ride, saying: "I would have sat on one before I could walk."
Early on, Myers was keen to become a jockey.
"I always wanted to go fast," he said. "I was only 35kg when I was in the third form at school. But I got too big to be a jockey.
"Dad got me to ride trackwork when I was 11 and the horse bolted on me on the sand track at Hawera. He wasn't too happy and I didn't do much after that."
Myers admits he gets plenty of advice when it comes to riding.
"Dad still gets out there and shouts and waves his arms and keeps me in line," he chuckled.
Former New Zealand representative show jumper Robert Steele, who lives nearby, is another mentor. Others include former Australian show jump reps Sue and Allan Neaves, of Cambridge.
"Last year I took a horse over to Aussie and did 2 months with Rob Brown and had some training with him. I learned a lot from that experience."
It was on his return to New Zealand that Myers signed on for a farriers' apprenticeship with Good.
He's completed 18 months of his time and has 2 - years to go.
Myers recently had the chance to show his farrier skills in public, competing in competitions in New Zealand and Queensland. At the Royal Queensland Show, in Brisbane, in August, Myers finished third in the novice shoeing event and backed up with another third in the novice forge competition.
Closer to home, he impressed judges with placings in both the junior apprentice and senior apprentice events at the national farriers' competition in Palmerston North last month.
Myers is grateful of the chances his boss has given him. "Jock's really good to work for and is good when it comes to giving me time off for my shows and riding. He realises it's a big part in what I want to do in life."
When fully qualified, Myers plans head to Canada to work and ride.
As most participants in the sport will vouch, competing at the top level in show jumping is costly compared to a lot of other sports.
Myers budget for the current home season alone is around $6000, travelling takes up the bulk of it, along with expenses like feed and vet bills.
Prizemoney helps. Myers picked a $1500 winner's cheque for last Saturday's success, easily the biggest of his career so far and following several young rider wins before the step up to the top league.
"Selling horses that you develop is where you can make a bit of money too," Myers said.
He said his father came out of the Taupo event with his pockets fuller than his.
"Dad was feeling pretty game and bought me at the calcutta evening the night before and ended up getting double what I got. He took a punt and came up trumps."
Myers said the average age for a show jumper to reach peak form is between 10 and 14. That puts Pick Me at the start of the zone and the future is looking rosy.
"I'm lucky to have the horse I've got at the moment. He's jumping really well."
Pick Me was bred by Havelock North-based New Zealand Performance Horses (NZPH) and Myers spotted the horse's potential when he was in his first season as a novice.
"He [Pick Me] was the first hack I got when I came off the ponies, so he's proving to be not a bad buy."
Split second decision making is needed when competing.
Asked if he had ever strayed and taken the wrong course when competing, Myers was quick to answer "absolutely."
"I'm bloody tempting fate here, but I haven't had a miss-navigation so far this season though. The compass has been set right, but it does happen, I can tell you."
Myers admits his chances of winning the one New Zealand spot to the World Cup next year would be 100-1. He's sitting fourth on the series ladder of 16 riders and has had fewer starts than half of his rivals.
He has 22 points, having picked up 16 last weekend, with the other six coming from his first-up fourth at the Feilding show early this month.
Dannevirke's veteran international Maurice Beatson leads on 42 points, having competed in all four rounds so far and winning the first two events.
"I can't really see anyone catching him now," Myers said.
Myers immediate goal is to gain further success in the remaining World Cup qualifying events, the first at Dannevirke early next month.
And he is targeting the end of season Olympic Cup at the Horse of the year Show in Hastings.
"Last year, it was to win the Young Rider Series. We managed to fluke him that, so that was good."
Meantime, Myers is pleased with how things are working out for him and Pick Me saying the last week's success was easily the highlight of his career.
"I'm rapt. Hopefully it won't be the last."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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