Franklin riders clean up at Horse of the Year
A Karaka rider has become the country's latest equestrian hero, after she won the prestigious Olympic Cup at Horse of the Year.
Lily Tootill, 20, beat big names to conquer the nation's biggest showjumping event, including previous winner, Helen McNaught-McFarlane, Olympian Maurice Beatson, showjumping queen Katie Laurie, and Keeping Up with the Kaimanawas' Amanda Wilson.
She said it was a huge feat for her and Ulysses NZPH, aka Ronald, as well as taking away second in the young rider title, and sixth in the lady rider title earlier this month.
"It's pretty surreal, everyone's asking me if I've come back down to earth, but I've been so busy I never really went up. It's absolutely fantastic, of course I was wanting to win, but I never thought we would at this stage.
"I was so happy to be able to take those places home. The young rider will be a big one next year because it will be my last one I can compete in, and lady rider is something I'd definitely like to be able to get my hands on in the future."
Tootill and Ronald will head to Australia later this month to compete in a Trans-Tasman team test, which she said she was looking forward to.
"I want everyone to enjoy the track and the team to work well together and do the best we possibly can."
The young woman was not the only Franklin rider to have struck gold at the event.
Waiuku's Tyla Hackett, 15, won Junior Rider of the Year on her mount Gin, and said she was extremely happy with her accolade.
"Its always an amazing feeling being able to compete against the best in the country - to come away with a place is good but a win - well that's even better. All in all it's a great experience."
Pokeno's Rachel Stock won the FEI Team Test, the FEI Championship Test, the FEI Musical Freestyle, and Horse of the Year Para Dressage, while Karaka's William Willis had his best competition after taking out the Norwood Gold Cup on Dollar Roll MS.
Being back in the saddle for the last two seasons after a 15-year break from riding, Pukekawa's Holly Thompson won Rising Star Riding Horse of the Year on GV Jackson. She said the accomplishment had her on cloud nine.
"We have worked really hard this season and didn't expect to win. We've had a very successful season including winning the Newcomer Riding Horse Title at the National Horse and Pony Show but (I) knew HOY was going to have a bigger atmosphere and I wasn't sure how he would respond."
Pukekawa's Maddie Smith had a stellar show, and it was a huge highlight for the 13 year old. Less than two years ago she was kicked by a horse, which broke her jaw, teeth, fractured her sinus, and needed more than 100 stitches. The youngster has come away in leaps and bounds, and won the Category B pony Show Hunter of the Year on Starlight India.
"Because I was riding two ponies I did not really have time to think about the atmosphere, but the weather made it not very nice to ride in," she said.
Caitlin Benzie of Waiau Pa won Young Dressage Rider of the Year on her mount Rosari Royal Gem.
"It was really cool to be able to compete at HOY again, it was my fifth year competing and was still just as exciting as the first time. The atmosphere was quite quiet on the first day, but really built up for the next two days, it really helped to perk Jason up and get even better work out of him."
Pukekawa's Katie Readings, 10, took out the Junior Rider of the Year 11 years-and-under title on Waiora Black Latte.
"I always look forward to HOY as it is something we work towards during the season. This is my sixth HOY and I still get a huge thrill when they call your name in the prizegiving. The atmosphere is really friendly between all the riders and we have so much fun, especially this year on Saturday when some events were postponed and we all had a big mud fight.
"Although I was really pleased to win my rider title, the biggest highlight was getting third in my first time show jumping at HOY in the 1.05m class and getting to compete in the slalom during the extravaganza on Friday night."