Katie is no stranger to breaking boundaries in showjumping. And it’s no wonder the assiduous New Zealander walked away from her first Australian Showjumping Championships with placings across the board for each of her four mounts. But it was the gargantuan journey, another first for Katie, who is accustomed to a smaller domestic show runs in her home country, that almost didn’t happen.
With her team-leading stallion out for the count in Katie’s show team, she admits to nearly bucking her entry to the 2017 Australian Showjumping Championships at the eleventh hour. “I thought, ‘Oh gosh, should I be doing this?’” the accomplished mum of two admits, whilst completing her entries to this year’s event. Gathering a team of four, with children and au pair in tow, proved fruitful for Katie, who confessed she would “feel like [she] was missing out” if they didn’t undertake the 1200km journey to the popular event that drew plentiful crowds and spectators over the five days of competition. And it was the ground and challenging tracks that drew her there, with Katie noting that she felt as though “Werribee would suit [‘Springfield’]”, and surely it did, as the pair snapped up the Reserve Senior Title in the coveted Senior Title Championship.
The David Sheppard designed courses that set the stage in the Pryde’s EasiFeed arena for the Senior Title proved to be a remunerative recipe for success for Katie and ‘Springfield’, as their introduction back to the “big tracks” as a combination, after a run of Mini Prixes in the lead up to the event. “They were really great tracks that built over the three days,” Katie said in regards to the accumulative approach to the final day’s challenge that attested to the pair’s success. Although it was Katie’s endearing approach in her proven partnership with ‘Springfield’ that lead them to their remarkable Reserve result, as she “took every day as it came, and [‘Springfield’] was just loving it, as he was confident and happy [on the tracks].”
It was the penultimate test in the first round on the final day that left the reserve leader board placings undivided, with Katie and her colleagues in competition, Steven Hill and James Arkins, sitting squarely on four penalties each, with competition taking to a jump off to determine the eventual result. And it was the draw of the jump off that spelled success for Katie who said that she “was actually lucky that I was the last one to go,” allowing her a glimpse into how the demanding jump off challenge would ride. With Hill and Arkins’ unmatchable speed spelling a tipped rail for each combination, Katie was able to catch the boys by tactfully “riding quite sensibly” to “just leave the fences up” as her aim. It was the question that was answered in spades by ‘Springfield’, as the crowd was silenced on the edge of their seats to eagerly watch Katie’s masterclass round that cinched the Reserve Title placing for the partnership.
As a double entrant to the Senior Title, Katie’s competitive prowess was also seen in combination with her second mount, eventual thirteenth place getter, ‘On The Point Eve’. The challenging Senior tracks proved this young horse to be one to watch, with Katie noting that “she is a really talented horse, although she’s a little bit quirky!” Her entry to the Title with the young mare was an exciting taste of future success for this partnership with Katie “really happy with how she jumped,” and hopes for continued advancements with “a few more miles going around the height,” citing that “she will be even better [in the future]”.
Rounding out Katie’s inaugural run at the Australian Showjumping Championships was another podium placing in the hotly contested Mini Prix event, on board eight-year-old ‘Eye Catcher’, in addition to an enviable tally of other notable results across the competition, making her now NSW-based team a formidable force on the Australian circuit.
As daughter of legendary Australian Olympic showjumper Jeff McVean, Katie noted just how progressive domestic talent is, saying “Australia’s got so many good horses and riders at the moment,” acknowledging her colleague and Senior Title winner, “if you just think that Kermo [Jamie Kermond] was a Reserve for the Olympics, it just shows how strong it is over here.” And there is plentiful opportunity for Katie to cut her teeth on our domestic competition scene from her newly established Armidale base, saying that she “just love[s] the fact that over here you can pick and choose what you do and where you go year round [in competition]”.
Photo: Stephen Mowbray
Words: Gabi Rivett