Bit between teeth as local riders mount up

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Queenstown riders saddle up this weekend to compete with the big guns at the Wakatipu’s biggest one-day equestrian event.

The event, in its third year, doubles as the South Island champs as more than 130 riders take on the Speargrass Flat Road course for dressage, show jumping and cross-country.

Aspiring local riders will be in the presence of some of Australia’s finest – Sam Lyle, who coached the silver medal-winning team at Beijing last year headlines the list, alongside Olympian Shane Rose and Queensland Rider of the Year Niki Chapman.

Top Kiwi riders Annabel Rigby and Emily Butcher are also taking time out to walk the course with local riders on Saturday before the competition begins on Sunday.

Event coordinator Jan Hunt says the weekend is a great opportunity for local kids to see that “[top riders] all started in the same place and if you just persevere, you can achieve your goals”.

About 13 local riders take on the one-day trial – including Grace Manners-Wood, who’s the first Wakatipu Pony Club member to progress to the novice class on her mount Total Justice.

While the event isn’t on the official calendar, it’s still important as it gives riders the opportunity to score points for leader boards, Hunt says.

A fun “outback v high country” race between Aussie and Kiwi riders is tipped to be the highlight of the day.