World championship team bronze medallist Clarke Johnstone has extra motivation to get out on the cross country course of the Kihikihi International Horse Trial starting on Friday.
The 26-year-old, who has recently relocated to Te Kowhai, is a two-time winner of the prestigious CIC three-star division at the BNZ-sponsored event,
Olympian and world champ Vaughn Jefferis has donated the Bounce Trophy for the winner of the division, in honour of his superstar horse who died last year.
"Vaughn has been my trainer for a long time and Bounce was one of the best horses ever, so I am very motivated to win ... I would love to be the first name on that trophy," Johnstone said.
Johnstone is in good form going into the event.
Aboard his new horse Balmoral Sensation, Johnstone won the Eventer of the Year crown at the NRM Horse of the Year Show in Hastings last month after just six weeks together.
He has been quick to credit Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata), who produced the David Goodin-bred grey gelding.
"Donna has done all the work on this horse," Johnstone said.
"I am very lucky. I was very pleased with how he went in all three phases at HOY ... and yes, I do hope this is my new superstar. He is a beautiful mover and fantastic jumper."
Johnstone, a youth talent development coach and member of the Equestrian Sports New Zealand High Performance Accelerator Squad, is looking forward to the much-talked about John Nicholson-designed cross country course at Kihikihi.
"John's courses are some of my favourite courses.
"He designs really thinking courses and you have to be on the ball. The distances are often difficult but the jumps are big and well built and the horses jump them extremely well.
"A lot comes down to the rider and having a really good plan in place. He is a brilliant designer."
With five mounts entered at Kihikihi across the grades, Johnstone is in for a busy weekend. Sensation will be his only three-star entry, but he also has Call Me Al (owned by Heather and Alan Cato), Sportsman (owned by Rhys Powell) and Quainton Labyrinth (owned by the Johnstone family) in the one-star and Cavorts (owned by Kay Buckley) in the pre-novice.
"Sensation has never done the three-star at Kihikihi before, and while I haven't found a type of jump that he is not good at, it will certainly be a step up.
"This is one of the hardest courses around ... it is up there with many courses around the world ... so it will be tough."
- Fairfax Media
How excited are you about the 2014 Commonwealth Games?Related story: After the hype, time to let the Games begin