This past weekend was the inaugural Equifest at the National Equestrian Centre in Taupo and it was amazing!
Equifest was created in the gap that was left behind when Equidays was canceled earlier this year and was full of competitions, seminars clinics and demonstrations to cater for all horsey people. And shopping, lots of shopping. I posted a bunch on my instagram stories throughout the weekend so if you want up to date updates in the future, make sure you are following me there. Here’s the link to my account.
I was lucky enough to win one day pass from Vicky Wilson, one of the Equidays Ambassadors, and bought a second one so I could make it a weekend. I even managed to get a ticket for Friday night show before it sold out. I would have loved to go to the Saturday night show which was apparently amazing but they sold out super quick.
The event started on Friday morning but I decided I would just go Friday evening so I wouldn’t have to take a day off work since I’m using those for my summer holiday. I did work some extra hours during the week so I could shoot off a little early on Friday afternoon and packed my horse mobile Petal for the trip, Taupo is about 3.5 hours from New Plymouth and the trip went quickly. I’ve been wanting to try out my SUV as a camping option for future horse shows (because I’m trying to be more budget-conscious so I can put more money into fun things like clinics and lessons) and it was great. It fits a double air bed perfectly and I had the best sleep the two nights I was there. I’m going to sort out some curtains and other bits and pieces to make it even better but it was a great trial run.
When I got to Taupo, I checked in at the campsite and then went straight to the National Equestrian festival for the Friday night show. It was speed night with a Table C showjumping competition with a pony and horse class. It was a hard course and the arena was tiny thanks to the grandstand taking up lots of room. The distractions were numerous too which lots of the horses had issues with. The majority of show jumping is done outside in New Zealand and many of the horses were obviously having a hard time with an indoor arena full of hundreds of people. The big screen in particular was causing issues, It was right next to jump two and almost every rider took their mount near it before they started to try to get them used to it. There was one slightly controversial moment when the screen was turned off when one horse was really losing their mind over it. The combo went on to win the class so there was a lot of mumblings of the unfairness of it all in the stands.
It was an entertaining competition though with lots of disobedences, crashed into jumps and a few falls. No horse or riders were hurt though. There were some amazing saves too when riders almost fell off but managed to scramble back on and keep going. There were quite a few retirements which I think was mostly due to the atmosphere and the worked up horses. I don’t know why it worked out this way but the majority of the pony class were appaloosas which is not the most common breed in NZ and the horses were mostly dark browns (probably thoroughbreds). Amanda Wilson was one of the commentators for the night and also competed her World Cup gelding Showtym Cassanova but didn’t go clear. I called it a night after the Table C competition and headed to the campsite instead of watching the polo match since I was pretty tired.
Saturday was a stunning, sunny day and I got there before the gates opened. I slathered on the sunscreen but decided I didn’t need to do my legs despite wearing shorts which was a bad, bad idea because I got so burnt thanks to sitting in the sun. The gates lead you cunningly straight into the shopping area so I had a quick look before deciding to come back later. I headed off to the indoor arena to watch the vaulting demonstration which was amazing! Those riders (and the horses) are fantastic! I kind of want to give it a go sometime but I’m not sure about how flexible my 31 year old body is these days. I bounced around between a few of the other clinics and competitions before meeting one of my oldest and best friends to spend the day with. I also managed to fit some shopping in and got some awesome deals which I’ll do a haul post later about. After the shopping we went to watch Russel Higgins who was doing an Introduction to Liberty educational session. He was amazing and his horses were so in tune with him. He ended up showing us some liberty work with three of his horses at once which was wicked. Really made me want to do one of his clinics one day.
One of the main reasons I went to Equifest (apart from embracing my true horsey self) was to see and support another of my friends, Murray, who was one of the educators. Murray runs Kaipaki Horsemanship in the Waikato and specialises in starting young horses, schooling and coaching, drawing together the fundamentals of dressage and horsemanship to do this. He also breeds some amazing sport horses out of his Clydesdale stallion Saint Clifford Bay.
He ran three sessions over the weekend educating people on his methods for starting a young horse which are so gentle and kind and really focus on working with the horse and not against it. He bought one of his Saint Clifford Bay babies Lilly to show his techniques with. She was fresh off the King Country hills and had only been lightly handled before Murray started her at the show. I wasn’t there for the first session on Friday but most of the session was spent getting her locked on to Murray and look to him for leadership and safety in the midst of the massive show. On Saturday she was soft and locked on quickly which meant Murray was able to introduce the saddle and get on her. She was such a generous and chilled out horse on Saturday but Murray is so kind and experienced that he got her to that stage fast. He reiterated multiple times though that this was just a demonstration and it usually takes at least 6 weeks to get a horse started and Lilly was being extremely generous. He was careful not to push her just for the sake of the demonstration. It was a great session and it was awesome seeing Murray doing his thing.
We headed back to Murray’s stand after the demonstration to congratulate him and hang out for awhile. We had a look at a few more of the stalls and I ended up talking to the NZ racing people about Birdie to go into the draw to win a prize which turned out to be a great experience since they were able to find some videos of Birdie running (and losing) some races before I got her. It was so exciting to see her before she came into my life but I felt pretty sad when I saw her jockey whipping her lots in one video. I’ve got the videos for myself now so I’ll do a post about it at some point.
We were nearing the end of the day by then so a bunch of us who didn’t have tickets to the night show ending up going to one of the many hot pools in Taupo for a chilled evening and then to dinner at one of the houses. We reminisced about the old days and had an awesome evening before heading to bed.
This post is super long so I’ll do another post to cover the Sunday at Equifest. It was a cold, wet day but it was still lots of fun. Right now I need to head out into the bad weather to feed Birdie.