From Humble Beginnings to One of the Best

 From Humble Beginnings to One of the Best
It is fitting that Heather Nicholson is considered the matriarch of the Kihikihi International Horse Trial.
The mother of the former world number one eventer Andrew and the hugely-respected course designer John was the first one to moot the idea of a horse trial at the Kihikihi Domain.
The going was far rougher than it is today, but thanks to the dedication of a hearty few, the idea grew legs and became the internationally-recognised event it is today.
It was driven largely by Heather, Robyn North and Murray and Cathy Houlbrooke. The four had a bit of a wander around the proposed track and decided it was do-able, and put a proposal to the ‘domain users’. When that seemed to be taking too long to gain approval, John stepped in and quickly the dream became a reality.
The Crossing (event) had stopped being run and the consensus was that something was needed to fill the void.
Cathy Houlbrooke remembers it well.
“It was a very tough call to replace The Crossing,” she says. “We didn’t have much time, but with a donation from Libby Sellar to build Amy’s Wall and a whole lot of door knocking, we raised enough to get a Lotto grant and were under way.”
It was a real family affair for the Houlbrookes, with son Bevan also involved and daughter Lisa the eventer. Cathy and Murray stepped back in 2011, but can still generally be found at the event each year, with Bevan still having a helpful hand in behind the scenes, and particularly in looking after the website.
Robyn North led a small but efficient team and in less than five years, the event was holding its own both on the books and in the national scene.
The first year the dressage was on the rugby paddock and the showjumping on the very muddy speedway track. The move to Paul Kay’s polo field was hailed as a huge step.
In the early days the office was under the grandstand, with Robyn North’s truck the administration centre.
Over the years, the event has won awards – a real tip of the hat to those behind the scenes. Cathy is particularly proud of the event being crowned the 2005 supreme winner of the Trust Power New Zealand Community Award.
Bevan Houlbrooke was also administrator of the year at the Waipa District Sports Awards in 2007. They are just two in a very long list of awards won by the event, which has been voted Eventing New Zealand’s best North Island by the riders in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015.
There’s a strong community ownership of the event too with many who are not remotely horsey proudly volunteering each event.
The event was also host to World Cup rounds for some years, which always attracted top Australian combinations.
Kihikihi has become renowned for its cross country – as much for the beautiful dressing as the challenge it provides each and every rider across the grades.
This year, the 20th birthday of this iconic event will be celebrated in the best possible way . . . with a party and cake.


Date Added: Wednesday, 6th April 2016