A Different Way For Every Horse
With just four hours to take a horse from wild to willing, competitors in the IRT The Way Of The Horse showed that not only were they incredibly talented and natural horsemen and horsewoman but they had a complete understanding of their horse.
The trainers were given an arena with plenty of obstacles and just 15 minutes to show off their training in front of the three judges, Andrew Nicholson, John Lyons and Jonny Hilberath. Along with the judges, there were packed stands of eager onlookers waiting to see how the horses would handle the new open space and how the four trainers would manage their nerves.
Number one to enter the arena was the first representative from New Zealand, Emily Weibel who had already made it clear that she wouldn't be riding her horse today. Explaining her reasoning to an understanding crowd while working with her horse on the ground.
The second trainer out, for New Zealand, was Tui Teka who showed everyone how much could be achieved in just a few short hours with an unhandled horse. "I'm really happy with this wee filly. I couldn't be happier," Tui shared with the spectators. In the last half an hour leading up to the display, while the trainers had their last chance to work with the horses, Tui had a little trouble with his horse. "I knew she had a little bit of fight in her from the beginning. But, I pushed her through that," and he came out on the other side of it, better for it. In a display of horsemanship, while maintaining his sense of humour, Tui used every obstacle in the ring. To finish, with a roaring crowd, he stood on his horses back and cracked his whip, without even a flinch from his equine partner. As he left the ring, announcer Tim Dreverman shared his thoughts, "what a tough act to follow."
Third to enter the ring was the first of the Australian visitors, Sharna Little. In a display of positive reinforcement, she started by getting on while turning the horse into the fence to ensure she had control, before setting off around the arena. "I knew my guy would be a little bit nervous in here, so I made sure I had enough control first," she explained. "I think it's the right thing for my horse if I let him move around a bit. I don't mind where he goes." Sharna too used most of the obstacles in the arena with an emphasis on setting up the horse for the future, not just the competition. "I want this horse to go home happy, and I want his owners to have a good horse," she said.
Australian, Brett Davey was the final competitor to enter the arena and show what he's been working on with his horse that he named Checker. "Checker has been super throughout the whole competition. He has adapted really well to everything." To start with, Brett saddled up using a jump saddle, explaining, "I think in the history of this competition, no one has ridden in an English saddle. So, it's either really brave or really silly." He then set off long reining Checker. "I'm driving him so I can test out the breaks and steering before I'm actually on there," he said with a smile. "I'm starting this horse with the idea in mind that it will go on to be a top-level performance horse one day because that's all I know!" With a time check given to him, Brett laughed as she said, "that went bloody quick, didn't it." With just five minutes left to go, it was time to get on. "This is where the driving is going to either pay off, or not." A bit slow to get going, Brett was soon moving beautifully around the arena for the last few moments.
With the four horses and four trainers back in the ring, the crowd went wild as Tui Teka was announced as the winner of the IRT The Way Of The Horse for 2017