An emotional Merran Hain took the stage as one of five inaugural inductees into the Horse of the Year Hall of Fame in Hastings last night. The other four are the Holden family, Tiny White and the late Hugh Thompson (all of Hawke's Bay) and John Cottle (Auckland).
Gisborne equestrian great Hain was almost lost for words as MC Stuart McLeod read her impressive Horse of the Year record, which included multiple victories in nearly all the main trophies. She was "very honoured" to be included in the line-up. "As I stand here, I give everyone hope," she said.
Thanking fellow competitors over many years, Hain said the one thing everyone needed was dedication. "I don't have a lot of talent ... but if you have dedication you will continue to learn all your life." Equestrian had brought her a lot of friends and plenty of fun, she said.
She thanked her family, the judges, course builders and all those who contributed in every way. She made special mention of her horses and choked back tears when mentioning two of of the country's greatest - Smiley John and Tregonning.
Hain QSM is the only rider to have represented New Zealand in all three Olympic disciplines - showjumping, eventing and dressage. She has won all the major Horse of the Year titles and holds the honour of having ridden more horses in more competitions than any other rider.
She has won the Lowry Medallion nine times, Lady Rider four times, Hack of the Year five times, Rigoletto Trophy twice and Show Hunter of the Year twice, among other awards.
Last night's awards were held as part of the week-long Horse of the Year Show. Stories were swapped and tears wiped as inductees were honoured. The roll of honour will hang at Hastings District Council.
The late Duncan Holden, grandfather of Gisborne-based Caroline Witters, changed equestrian in New Zealand after discovering showjumping while offshore and introducing it here in the 1950s. He was instrumental in setting up the New Zealand Horse Society and was the driving force behind the first Horse of the Year Show. Son Peter won the first Olympic Cup as Showjumper of the Year in 1953 and Duncan Holden's late wife Helen introduced dressage to New Zealand and won many titles herself.
Hugh Thompson (Hawke's Bay) represented New Zealand many times in showjumping, won two Olympic Cups, two six-bars and the Lowry Medallion for Rider of the Year.
Tiny White (Hawke's Bay) is one of the nation’s longest-surviving equestrian competitors. Over the years she rode for New Zealand in dressage, won many of the nation’s most prestigious trophies, judged and continues to support the sport in various ways.
John Cottle (Auckland) represented New Zealand at Olympic and World Cup level. He and his fabulous band of horses have achieved clean sweeps of all the major titles in New Zealand. He has won the Olympic Cup a record six times, the Norwood Gold Cup four times and many other elite titles.
KCHoY show director Kevin Hansen said the Hall of Fame was the perfect way to honour some of the great names. "This will become a treasure for our show, our sport and our nation, and we are proud to have everyone together this evening to celebrate such achievements," he said.
Photo: Merran Hain competing on her famous horse, the late Tregonning. File picture