Cross country at Puhinui International Horse Trials is always exciting, and this year bought fresh new dramas with the two CCI*** overnight leaders both falling. This has paved the way for young 20 year old Ashleigh Mckinstry from King Country to take the lead.

Ashleigh, riding the 12 year Pioneer Makokomiko, was the fastest on the cross country, incurring just .4 of a time fault and jumping every fence clear. This puts her 6.4 points in front of next best placed Just Chocolate, ridden by Donna Smith. Donna had led the competition after dressage on her other horse, Balmoral Sensation, but had a spectacular fall in the main arena over a large cart styled jump. Both horse and rider walked away with just bruises but Donna reports she will be fit to ride her other horses tomorrow.

Ashleigh was full of praise for her horse Pioneer Makokomiko. “It was a tricky track, but he went really well. He is clever, tries hard and he and I have a great partnership.” She is hoping his strong showjumping skills will be there tomorrow when faced with the 1.25cm showjumping track.

It wasn’t a good day for Annabel Wigley, who has travelled up from North Canterbury. On her first horse, NRM Enzo, she was eliminated for missing fence 23, a simple table. Then on her second horse, NRM Frog Rock, Annabel had a soft fall early in the course, ending her competition completely. Both horse and rider are unhurt.

Simon Gordon, riding is in third place, having a good round with 4.4 time penalties.

Ashleigh Mckinstry comes from deep King Country, being based on her parents’ farm 45 minutes from Taumarunui. The Mckinstry family bred Pioneer Makokomiko, and Ashleigh describes him as being “a monster to start with, he bucked both me and Mum off!” Since those days, with a lot of work, horse and rider have gone on to develop a very trusting relationship since they started eventing 6 years ago. They have been rising through the ranks steadily, although the horse only completed part of the last two seasons after injuries.

Ashleigh aims to one day get to the Adelaide 4* event, hopefully next year, all things going well.

In the CCI 2* the 3 leaders after dressage all put in excellent performances to retain their placings with none adding any penalties to their scores from the first day. Shelley Ross and her lovely horse Coleraine Coaltown made the course look easy. Hot on her heels is Sam Taylor, also putting in an excellent clear round on Leo Degas. Donna Smith with Britannica MVNZ is third.

Clarke Johnstone, temporarily back in New Zealand from his English base, gave a lesson in cross country riding in the CCI1*, retaining his lead with a faultless round. Chloe Kennedy on Mustang Molly also jumped clear and within the time to keep her second spot. Sarah Young and High N Dry are on third.

The last test will be the showjumping on Sunday. The CCI showjumping starts at 11am. Entry to the grounds is free.

Leaderboard after 3* after cross country are:
1. Pioneer Makokomiko, Ashleigh Mckinstry with 57.4
2. Just Chocolate, Donna Smith, 63.8
3., Simon Gordon, 65.4
4. Moochi, Dannie Lodder, 73.8
5. Fontain, Monica Oakley, 75.6
6. Cortaflex Ski Whistler, Heelan Tompkins, 83
7. Alberta Tomba, Shelley Ross, 96.2

1. Shelley Ross, Coleraine Coaltown, 47.2
2. Sam Taylor, Leo Degas, 48.1
3. Donna Smith, Britannica MVNZ, 54.1
4. Kirstin Kelly, Kakariki, 55.5

1. Clarke Johnstone, Vincent, 46.9
2. Chloe Kennedy, Mustang Molly, 48.1
3. Sarah Young, High N Dry, 51.5
4. Annabel Wigley, NRM Cotswold, 53.1