Young equestrians prepare for champs

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Spur of the moment . . . Paige Hardwick (17, left) and Maddy Neal (15) saddle up on their ponies. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Two girls will saddle up and show off their equestrian skills when they represent North Otago at the New Zealand eventing championships in Masterton.

Riders competing in the championships will participate in dressage, show jumping and cross-country events.

Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Paige Hardwick (17) and St Kevin’s College pupil Maddy Neal (15) are excited about the championships, which start on Thursday.

The pair began to train in earnest about a month ago.

Recently, the girls spent time at a training camp to help prepare them for the championships.

Paige said she had her fingers crossed the pair could post good results and believed the training had prepared her well for the event.

Paige has previously competed at three national championships.

Horse-riding has been part of Paige’s life for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been riding since I was 3 and eventing since I was 12.”

Equestrian was something that ran in the Hardwick family, Paige said.

“My mum actually got me into it – she was riding when she was a kid.”

The event will be special for Maddy, as she has not competed at a national level before.

“It’s always different going into different events. I’m a little bit nervous, I guess,” she said.

Maddy also hoped she could produce a good performance at the Masterton event.

“You can never really tell how it’s going to go, apart from on the day.”

Maddy joined the Ashburton South Canterbury North Otago Pony Club seven years ago.

Both girls are excited about the cross-country section of the competition, a favourite event with the pair.

They are taking their own ponies to the event. Paige will ride Ivan and Maddy will ride Zac.

Both girls said support from their respective mothers had helped them succeed in the sport.

Paige hoped equestrian in New Zealand would continue to grow in the coming years.

“The more people we get interested, the more variety of events we’re going to have around New Zealand.”

The national eventing championships will be held at the Solway A&P grounds in Masterton from April 19 to 21.