After dominating in the South Island, North Otago equestrian Lorraine Ward-Smith has added a horse of the year title to her growing collection of accolades.
Riding 5yr-old chestnut mare Fernlea Diamond Day, she claimed the level two dressage horse of the year crown at the annual Horse of the Year show in Hastings recently.
Dressage is defined by the International Equestrian Federation as “the highest expression of horse training” where “horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements”.
Mrs Ward-Smith, who runs Fernlea Stud south of Oamaru, said the discipline, featured in the Olympic Games, included nine competitive levels, starting at level one, with level nine the “grand prix” of dressage.
Despite her horse being relatively young, the duo have dominated the competition around the South Island in the 2016-17 season.
Mrs Ward-Smith and Fernlea Diamond Day have won the Otago, Canterbury, Southland, South Canterbury, North Otago, Ashburton and Marlborough regional dressage titles, and finished second in the South Island dressage championships.
She has also won the level two South Island musical/freestyle dressage title and the national super five level two horse title.
She was delighted to win the level two horse of the year title, her biggest to date.
“I was absolutely stoked. You breed these horses, so there’s a huge amount of satisfaction. All the decisions we made six years ago with the breeding are paying off.”
With one national horse of the year title in the bag, Mrs Ward-Smith was confident her mount would only get better as she got older.
“Ultimately, I’m looking at a 10-year plan with this horse .. it’s about getting to the grand prix. It’s going to take about seven years. Dressage is a long-term sport.”
As well as consuming lots of time, dressage can be financially demanding and travel-intensive.
Mrs Ward-Smith said it cost about $3000 to get herself and her horse to Hastings.
“It’s a huge financial investment to be away from home .. it’s a big deal to head away with the horses. It’s about 10 days’ travel for two days’ competition.
“To be honest, I thought she should come out on top, because of the percentages she’s been getting. But when you haven’t eyeballed the North Island competitors, it’s hard to know.
“Riding the horse was the easiest part of the trip.”
She said she did not come from a “horsey family” and didn’t have her own horse until she was “married with three children”.
“I always wanted a pony as a kid, but we lived in town (Dunedin).
“There was a lady that had a pony in her yard so one day I just went up to her front door and asked if I could ride her pony – she said yes.”