By Diana Dobson.

Samantha Felton is making up for lost time. The eventer from Matangi spent four-and-a-half months on the sideline last year, after breaking her pelvis, and could only watch the Kihikihi International Horse Trial from a Gator (utility vehicle).

But this year is stacking up to be very different. At the recent NRM Horse of the Year Show, the 22-year-old finished first and second in the CIC2* and was fifth in the CIC3*. That came on the back of winning the one day champs in Christchurch early in the season. And now, she has the BNZ Kihikihi International Horse Trial – being held April 11-13 – in her sights.

“Kihikihi is always a very big track, so for me it is more about having a really good round.” But Felton, a member of Equestrian Sports New Zealand talent development squad, is a big fan of the John Nicholson-designed course.

“It is always beautiful, and John makes them very positive to ride. They are big and scary but give you a really good feeling when you get home, and the horses feel good too. These are courses that make the horses confident when you ride them well, so if you ride them bravely you are rewarded.”

She’s competed at Kihikihi for four or five years she guesses, and while she was winning the CIC2* one year, a loose showjumping round saw her slip to fifth for her best-ever result in the grade. She has however, won the pre novice divisions.

This year she will line nine-year-old Ricker Ridge Pico Boo up in the CIC3*. The horse was impressive in his first 3* start at the Horse of the Year Show, where he finished fifth. “I have had him since he was three and he is my first horse I have brought on and trained myself. I was totally stoked with him at HOY,” said Felton.

She will also compete in the CIC2* with eight-year-old Ricker Ridge Estada, who was second in the same class at HOY and newcomer Ricker Ridge Rodstar in the CNC105 young horse who only came off the racetrack in September.

“He’s taken to eventing like a duck to water!”

Felton works part time as a marketing coordinator for KiwiNet, leaving the bulk of her day free to ride, thanks to plenty of support from her family.

“The accident in February (2013) was just one of those freak occurrences,” says Felton. It slowed her down for a bit, and meant she could only watch the 2013 Horse of the Year Show from the couch.

“My plan had been to win the CIC2* at HOY last year, but we achieved that this year – just 12 months late!”

She also headed to the United Kingdom where she spent time with Olympian Jock Paget, who she trains with whenever he is home. “I went over there to check out the scene, and am still contemplating basing there from early 2016, but much will depend on finding the necessary funding.”

She trains with Paget, but also dressage coaches Tracy Smith and Penny Castle. “Jock is amazing – in 2008 I won the 1* junior at Richfields and that included a 10-day scholarship to train at Clifton Eventers and that is when it all started. He has been my long term mentor and coach since.”

Last week Felton spent an entire day under Paget’s watchful eye, training all six horses and making sure she is on song for Kihikihi.

Photo by Libby Law

Date Added: Wednesday, 9th April 2014