Paris Olympics: Horse of Year Show offers equestrian selection lifeline for homegrown prospects

Competition is heating up for New Zealand equestrians all vying for a spot on the Olympic team heading to Paris in July.

A team of six will be announced - three for eventing, plus a reserve, and individual riders for show jumping and dressage. 

Most Olympic hopefuls are competing overseas, where there's larger events to improve their selection chances, but at this year's Horse of the Year Show, Maddy Seivwright is fine-tuning her moves before Eventer of the Year and is a chance to impress. 

Seivwright feels hopeful. 

Maddy Seivwright prepares for Eventer of the Year competition.
Maddy Seivwright prepares for Eventer of the Year competition. Photo credit: Newshub

"I'm excited," she told Newshub. "I think I have a lot to prove performance-wise and I have to make sure I'm in form."

Equestrian is the only Olympic sport that involves animals, and where men and woman compete on equal terms. Eventing is the triathlon of the horse world, as riders have to excel at dressage, show jumping and cross country. 

"You have to be well trained in all phases," confirmed Seivwright.  

Top riders are well sponsored, which is why many are based overseas. Olympic bronze medallist and Equestrian Sports NZ high performance manager Jock Paget says the sport takes huge commitment and dedication, as well as funding.

“To take a horse from NZ to Europe, compete and come back, you’re talking $100,000 minimum, just to get there and back,” he said.

Aiming for a spot on the team is dressage rider Melissa Galloway, and show jumpers Phillip Steiner, Sharn Wordley and Brooke Edgecumbe, among others. Based in the UK, eventing power-couple Tim and Jonelle Price also hope for selection, and are former world No.1 and No.2. 

"We're on a good trajectory this year," said Tim Price. "Us, as a couple, hopefully will go to the Games.

"We'll see, but we are excited for the New Zealand team."

Jonelle Price says their eventing season will begin on Friday. 

"I hope to have four horses in the framework," she said. "It's early season for us here in the UK.

"At this stage, it's just about getting the horses out, and hoping the winter prep pays off and we can post some results." 

Paget says the full team will be announced in June and has high hopes of bringing a medal back from Paris.

"It’s as strong as been for long time, so I'm happy with that."