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NZ Horses of Distinction: New awards, new breeding initiatives

Popeye (Cardento x LioCaylon x Haajii xx) ridden by Tom Tarver-Priebe

By Sally Reid
Photography: Pegasus Photography

The New Zealand Warmblood Association (NZWA) has introduced annual honours for breeders of the country’s top three performers in jumping, eventing, and dressage.

The ‘Horse of Distinction’ award is a welcome recognition of their efforts to produce world-class progeny, as well as an added incentive to do so, and also acknowledges the efforts of riders and owners.
The inaugural winners are Popeye (Cardento -LioCaylon x Haajii xx) for showjumping, bred by Kim and Greg Best; Windermere J’Obei W (Johnson - Pompeii Court xx x Amyntor xx) in dressage, bred by David Woolley; and Tresca NZPH (Fuego Du Prelet - Barbarian x Meldon [Clev. B]) for eventing, bred by New Zealand Performance Horses.
The awards are the brainchild of the NZWA’s vice president, Kieryn Walton, a woman of exceptional mental and physical energies. She runs a successful breeding and competition yard, singlehandedly builds (and fences) all her facilities, and rides to Grand Prix level in dressage… As well as working full-time as a detective for the NZ Police Force. As a sideline, she is in the process of building her own horse truck. “The awards came about because I wanted to see the breeders rewarded for breeding horses that go on to become outstanding performance horses,” Walton said.
“At the end of the day, we are breeding horses for sport, whatever that is, so when they prove themselves to be true performance animals, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that the horse has achieved, maybe even exceeded, the dream that the breeder had in the back of the their mind when deciding to make that particular cross.
“A few years ago, I instigated the awards for the Classification Tour which is all about the breeding stock and type and conformation of those horses without a rider. I felt it was very important to encourage the breeders to continue to strive to breed the best possible horses for our riders in all sports, but particularly Olympic sports. Breeding is a hard, expensive, often soul-destroying game. The riders and horses get all the accolades when out competing and being successful: They win titles, they are selected for squads, they get their names in magazines and articles, they get sponsors.... but this is only possible on these exceptional horses because someone, a fair few years ago, had the concept of creating that foal, they used a mare that they rated for some special reason, they most likely trawled for hours through stallion options, researching bloodlines, competition results, ability to produce GP horses. The breeder spent the money getting that foal, they bought the service/semen, paid the vet fees (which can amount to thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands) and they then probably sold the resulting foal in order to pay for the cost of breeding the next one.
“Without these horses, we riders would not realise our dreams of riding the best horse we can find for our purposes, so I wanted to see the breeders rewarded. I often think to myself when I see a horse of exceptional talent and quality that that horse would excel and be at top of its game with any good rider, but that rider would not be at the top of their game without that really good horse... So breeding is so very, very important... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber