With his World Equestrian Games debut as the New Zealand Eventing High Performance Manager, Graeme Thom is looking forward to seeing how the week plays out for his team of established veterans. Named as the High Performance Manager in 2017, the Canadian-born eventer says that this group “is the best group of people I’ve ever met in my entire life.” As for the competition, Graeme is excited to see how the new short-course format in cross-country will pan out.
"I went to the 2006 WEG in Aachen, but this is a different level as far as cross-country goes – it’s a shorter course so we’ll see how that plays out. It is going to level the playing field quite a bit. If you go back in the past 40 years, there’s only been six nations that have won an Olympic medal and I think that’s going to change as we move forward. As far as the overall structure and organization, I think the people here (at Tryon) have made a huge effort and are catching up very quickly. We keep seeing everything get better and better so we’re happy.”
“Let’s just hope they’ve got it right and we get ten inches of rain and it’s hot as hell. The cross-country is going to be influential on putting me in front.”
This will be Blyth Tait’s first WEG appearance since the 2002 WEG in Jerez, Spain. Aboard the 14-year-old gelding, Dassett Courage, Blyth will be looking to bring his experience to the table and bring home a medal for Team New Zealand.
“It’s the first time I’ve ridden on a team with the two Price’s and I’m kind of treating it like it’s my first championship since it’s been so long since the last one,” says Blyth. “[Dassett Courage] is the sort of horse that suits me – he’s small, he’s athletic, he’s quite quick-thinking, and he’s consistent over all three phases. His final preparation was at Cappoquin CCI3* and we placed 7th which I was happy with.”
Paired together since 2013, Jonelle Price and her 15-year-old mare, Classic Moet, have all the experience together. She and “Molly” competed at the last WEG in 2014 in Normandy.
“I’ve had her for a few years now – she’s very experienced at the four-star level. Her strength is the cross-country and we brought her here hoping the hill and the speed would be influential and if it’s not, then I’m in trouble,” explains Jonelle with a laugh. “Let’s just hope they’ve got it right and we get ten inches of rain and it’s hot as hell. The cross-country is going to be influential on putting me in front.”
From left: Dan Jocelyn, Sir Mark Todd, Blyth Tait, Tim Price and Jonelle Price.
The legendary Sir Mark Todd brings the most experience to Team New Zealand. As a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Mark compares his mount, the 11-year-old gelding, Mcclaren, to his past Olympic champion, Charisma.
“I only got him at the beginning of last year and he’s come a long way in a short time. If WEG had been a four-star level, he probably wouldn’t be here but it’s a three-star. What he has done, he’s always stepped up to the plate and I think he’s an amazing horse. He’s very good in all three phases,” says Mark. “He has been compared to Charisma – there are a lot of similarities. They’re both small, dark brown horses, but this one actually jumps a bit better. They’re both very fiesty.”
"She feels very ready to put in a good performance. Whether it’s rain or whatever the conditions bring, hopefully we have a good dressage and we stay well throughout the competition.”
Alongside his wife, Tim Price will be competing on the 11-year-old mare, Cekatinka. Originally a part of Jonelle’s string of horses, Tim took over the ride and has managed to keep her once Jonelle became pregnant last year.
“Cekatinka is a little black mare similar in stature to Jonelle’s mount, Classic Moet. She’s a little cracker. She’s good on the flat and she’s fast on the cross-country but she lacks a touch of experience,” explains Tim. “What she’s done, she’s done very well – I’ve done seven CCI3* events with her. She feels very ready to put in a good performance. Whether it’s rain or whatever the conditions bring, hopefully we have a good dressage and we stay well throughout the competition.”
Dan Jocelyn hasn’t competed on Team New Zealand since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens where they placed 5th as a team.
“I’m glad to be back here. It’s been a long time in between. It’s very exciting, it will be good to ride with these guys. I’m looking forward to getting started,” said Dan.
And for his mount? Dan is looking forward to competing the 10-year old gelding, Grovine De Reve, who he describes as an all-around horse.
“He’s solid in all three phases. He’s had a good buildup, we did a few three-stars this year. For me it’s a big thrill."
Photos by Libby Law Photography
Written by Lizzy Youngling
Lizzy Youngling has been a die-hard equestrian groupie since the age of three. Although not in the saddle as much as she’d like, Lizzy is a fan of all things horses. When she’s not writing for Noelle Floyd, she can be found at the boathouse training with the United States Rowing National Team in Princeton, NJ with the hopes of competing at the 2020 Olympic Games.