It was a great honour to be asked to judge in New Zealand and Australia, and a once in a life time opportunity to travel down under.
We decided to make a big trip out of it as if you go all that way you must see what the wonderful Countries have to offer. So with nearly 3 weeks in New Zealand and 3 weeks in Australia we planned to see to make the most of it and enjoy our trip as much as possible!
We flew to New Zealand (staying in Hong Kong for a couple of nights on the way) and on our first day met up with British judge Robert Parker Jones and Christopher Littlewood who were able to give us some very helpful tips on where to go. It was lovely to see some friendly faces the other side of the world and gain some really helpful advice. We hired a car and spent 10days exploring the South Island, I have to say what a beautiful Country but it did rain everyday which made us feel quite at home considering we are from Wales!
The show in New Zealand was the Northern Region Shetland Pony Enthusiasts, and even though it was a small show, there was certainly no lack in quality. My overall supreme was a lovely senior mare Murrayfield Indigo, and my reserve supreme was a lovely young stallion Gleneagles Phantom. It was nice to see some lovely youngstock and all the competitors were ever so friendly.
On the Sunday we went to a brilliant 3day event where we got to see some top riders including Blyth Tait tackle the show jumping phase. By this time the rain had cleared and it was very hot – anyone visiting make sure you take the suncream!
Many thanks to Sue Jackson for all her hospitality.
We then flew to Australia, and spent a few nights in Melbourne (which is a lovely city) before getting a car and driving out to Bendigo where the two day show was to be held. We were taken for a lovely Chinese meal on the Friday night with some of the show committee, which was a lovely welcome, and then shown how to get to the showground- so thank you Jo and Barbara.
Sally asked if my husband would judge the unaffiliated gelding classes and after lots of debate (mostly me!) Sally reassured me that it would be fine. So when I saw the schedule the night before to see he was given over 20 classes and championships to judge you can imagine my nerves!
The show started at 8am with a large class of maturity and futurity classes. I haven’t heard of these classes before but I think they are a great novelty idea. As far as I understand, you enter the class when your mare is in foal. You then enter the following year, when the foal is born, and again as a yearling. The classes are for 2year olds and then the 3 year olds. This was a very popular class with a HUGE trophy and the winner of the class wins the accumulated prize money made up of the 3 or 4 years of entries! So as you can imagine the competition is fierce and this was Matt’s first class to judge!
It was a long day of judging with some very large classes and very beautiful ponies in 35degree heat. How the competitors kept going is beyond me! They did a fabulous job showing their ponies and I was incredibly impressed with the standard. Mum always taught me that in a class it should always be the one you would most like to take home and in several classes I certainly could have taken more than one home!
I should also like to mention my champion foal M&M Valley Lodge Maloo, a miniature bay colt that had an incredible personality and would have quite happily fitted in my suitcase! The sashes he won were bigger than he was!
The supreme champion led pony was a very nice stallion; Lynvale Lodge Bentleigh, however anyone of the ponies in that championship were worthy winners and could have taken the championship. Congratulations to everyone who competed at the show. I was very impressed with the standard of ponies, which were turned out so well and in that heat as well.
I would also like to thank Sally for not scaring my husband off judging completely, and let’s hope he follows my footsteps onto the Shetland panel in years to come!
Highlights of our trip (other than the Shetland shows!) include:
White water rafting in Rotorua
Black water rafting and caving at Waitomo
Jet boat on the Shotover river
Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef & helicopter view of it
Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo – where we got a lot closer to wild animals than we ever thought we would!