60,000 descend on Hawke's Bay for Horse of the Year

The cancellation of Neil Diamond's concert on Saturday night could've seen host Hawke's Bay take a big financial hit - but all is not lost.

Sixty-thousand people are still flocking to the region for a much bigger, alternative gig that's now in its 20th year.

You won't hear 'Sweet Caroline' there, but Horse of the Year crowds don't care.

It's the Glastonbury of the equine world in New Zealand.

"Shopping, a girl's weekend - it's Lynette's religion," said one attendee.

"It's really motivational and inspirational to see people strive at something they are really good at," said another.

Hawke's Bay's celebrating 20 years as host and it's the region's biggest week of the year, pumping $12.5 million into the local economy.

This global event has attracted 24 international riders and judges downunder- including, for the first time, the Burghley horse trials event director.

"We're always slightly worried when the New Zealanders come over to Burghley, they do so well," said Elizabeth Inman.

"But we have to keep bringing on the next generation and certainly over here, you have so much talent in your riders and you need events like this to bring them on."

Eighteen-hundred horses, 1400 riders - among them, three generations of the Pottinger family.

Olympian Judy "Tinks" Pottinger represented NZ at Seoul, Burghley and Badminton in the 80s. She's here supporting daughter Amanda, one of NZs rising eventing stars.

Along for the ride is 94-year-old grandmother Helen "Tiny" White, who was the queen of NZ dressage in the '70s.

"I get a bit nervous when I see her coming through over those big fences and I think 'Thank god she's over that, ooh'," Ms White said. "It's a bit nerve wracking."

Said grand-daughter Amanda: "I've never had extra pressure. I put more pressure on myself than anyone putting pressure on me, to be honest."

A year in the planning, this is like a finely tuned military operation.

Two thousand bales of hay have been trucked in, 4km of fencing, plus 130,000 litres of water for the horses.

For the 3000 campers on site, there are flies to keep at bay and gear to keep pristine.

For Ms White, who leaves her rest home every year to take in the spectacle, this new generation of riders are making it world class.