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Play time: From left, Roya Yavari, with Cabby, Jude Nickolls, with Sammy, Matt Delany, with Hug and, rear, Ashlea Pope, on Nepu, at Shotover Equestrian

It’s a playground – for horses.

In just over a week Shotover Equestrian, the brainchild of talented horse rider Jude Nickolls, will be open for business on just under 14 hectares of land at Shotover Country, off Headley Drive.

Nickolls says there’s nothing else like it in the lower South Island.

She got the idea, initially, from Vicki Wilson – who starred on TV show Keeping up with the Kaimanawas – when she sent a couple of her horses up north.

Wilson had obstacles for the equines and Nickolls wanted to replicate them in Queenstown so she had “somewhere to play” herself.

Since February she’s been working on the project, which includes private yards for her horses and, eventually, a gallop track, an 85-metre by 65m jumping arena, kitted out with jumps fitted with quick-release cups with a sand and rubber surface, a grass embankment “grandstand” and an obstacle course.

The latter so far has a couple of balance beams, a tilt slab, and a set of sturdy stairs in place, with a wobble board in the making.

All of that’ll be available to hire for anyone with horses.

The area, right beside the sportsfield, is fenced, and landscape planting’s been done – once established it’ll provide hedging.

Nickolls is fizzing about seeing the project come to fruition and the potential benefits it’ll create for horses and their riders.

“It’s so cool … it makes me so happy – it gives me little shivers.

“It’s something different instead of just going around in a circle and jumping.”

The obstacles will keep horses interested and help increase their confidence, and the confidence of their riders, in a safe environment.

She says it’s incredibly rare to have a facility like this in a suburb, so close to an airport, and she hopes visiting trainers will take advantage of it.

“A lot of trainers are flying into Queenstown and going out to Central Otago and missing us.

“If we can share these trainers people here can benefit, but we haven’t had a facility for that.”

She’s officially opening Shotover Equestrian next Saturday. Money from hires will be invested back in to the project to create more features.

Anyone’s welcome to “come and play” or watch.

“I hope everyone will respect it and love it.”

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz