By PHILIP CHANDLER
Glenorchy showjumping rider Grace Percy should be forever grateful she managed to fit in her finest sporting moment just before the Covid-19 pandemic killed off all events.
Three weekends ago, the 23-year-old, riding her chestnut gelding Kiwi Spirit, won the Premier Stakes at the prestigious Horse of the Year in Hastings.
They topped a 22-strong field by being the only combination to jump two clear rounds, with no time penalties, in the challenging 1.40-metre to 1.50m class.
It’s been an amazing first Grand Prix season for the horsewoman and her horse, after advancing through the grades together – they also won GP events in Christchurch and Ashburton last November, and notched two seconds, too.
Percy finished fourth in the series, but would probably have done even better had she not sat out several events, mainly due to farming commitments – she helps her parents, Anne and Stu, run Routeburn and Greenstone Stations.
Her Premier Stakes triumph is notable not just because of her remote location, but also because she doesn’t have a coach or a club – and only “average jumps” to train on.
It’s a tribute, though, to the bond between herself and the aptly-named Kiwi Spirit.
Her first hack, he was “a real weirdo” when her family bought him five years ago, she says.
“I actually can’t catch him at home, only mum can, but he only lets me ride him.
“You can’t pat his face, you can’t look at him. He’s quirky, but he’s really good when you’re on him – he’s, like, perfect.
Percy, who also had good results with three other horses she took to Hastings, says she rewarded Kiwi Spirit with sugar cubes and an equissage – the equine equivalent of a massage.
“He’s a bit shy, but when he wins something he pricks his ears up.”
She says her success makes her think she should give next season a decent crack -and she’s confident Kiwi Spirit’s got at least two more good seasons in him.