North Canterbury rider says jury isn't out on Big
A broken leg and a vacant mount resulted in Brent Jury rushing back for the prestigious Puhinui three-day equestrian event this weekend.
Considering the North Canterbury farrier has had only five weeks preparation with his big Grosvenor gelding, SE Big, it could be suggested Jury is going into the three-star event half baked.
Jury is having none of that; he may have some regrets about delaying his hay-baling duties on his property but has no doubts the decision to reunite with Big after an 18-month separation is the correct one.
That is the feelgood side to this story.
The downside is it required Sophie Wigley to break her leg a week before she was supposed to ride Big in the national one-day three-star event at McLean's Island early last month.
"That put Sophie well out of action, so Big was all ready to do go," Jury said. "She said 'if you want to ride him, you may as well ride him'.
"I hadn't ridden at that level for about 18 months, but we just clicked pretty well again, and away we went."
Big finished second on the three-entry field and when some friends suggested Jury have another crack at Puhinui - where the combination had finished third in 2011 - he agreed.
Jury, who has ridden other horses since handing Big over to Wigley, was encouraged by the way the gelding responded to his new riding style in the dressage.
"We didn't have much time to get in the groove but his score was OK and he went really well at McLean's Island. It was like riding a bike."
The ex-thoroughbred has never lacked courage and Jury immediately felt comfortable in the cross-country and showjumping. The dressage has been trickier.
Whether the horse settles in the dressage may prove crucial to whether this outing is judged a success.
"There's a few old ghosts when he goes out there, when there's a bit of atmosphere, and they are always going to be there. But, apart from that, fingers crossed, he is going to be a little better than in the past."
Once the dressage, which will be staged this afternoon, is completed, Jury knows he can relax and have some fun on the 13-year-old mount. Big has the reputation of being a clean jumper and should thrive on Puhinui's semi-rolling open country.
"He is one of the best cross-country horses around. He's like a Scud missile; he just locks on to it and goes at it from whatever angle and whatever point of the jump that you ask."
Allowing Wigley to ride the horse for the last 18 months, after she shifted down from working near Tokoroa to take up employment at a Rangiora veterinary practice, wasn't a difficult decision.
"Not to her. She's great with him, she's experienced and he knows his job and you don't need to be aggressive with him. She is a soft-natured rider, which suits him great."
Eight combinations have entered the three-star event, including Olympian Matthew Grayling. Angela Lloyd, who won the one-day title at McLean's Island, will also be among Jury's competition.
Last year's winner, Ashleigh McKinstry, and her part Kaimanawa Pioneer Makokomiko, have missed work due to injury, so will not be defending their title.
Jury is the only Cantabrian to enter the three-star category.
Annabel Wigley, the sister of Sophie, has entered Benrose Rockstar in the one-star competition, along with Southland's Clarke Johnstone, who has Leo Daga - usually ridden by Canterbury's Sam Taylor.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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