Dark Horse Comes from Behind to Nab Title

Redcliffs Pinot certainly knows when to pull out his best efforts.

With his rider Lena Hayes, Pinot only started show hunter in August and certainly wouldn’t have started as a favourite in his classes at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show . . . but no-one told him that.

The 11-year-old, who is owned by Estelle and Nicola Laboyrie, had a sticky start on the opening day of his competitions but improved “dramatically” over the week to win the Junior Show Hunter of the Year title, nine points ahead of runners-up Madison Stuart and Lucky Leo.

“Everything just came together on those last two days,” says Lena. “He calmed down, got used to me, was just more comfortable in the ring and was definitely on point.”

It’s still sinking in. “It is just amazing really,” says the 20-year-old who is in her third year of a Bachelor of Teaching degree at Waikato Uni.

Pinot was a show jumper before Estelle bought him off a friend in 2022. It was she who thought he would make a good show hunter with his quiet manner, excellent jumping form and tidy knees. In 2023, Pinot was just doing the odd hunt and a bit of farm trekking, so Lena was offered the ride in late June.

Lena has been doing show hunter since around 2016 and was on debut at LRHOY but Pinot has been before to compete as a showjumper.

“It took us a while to get into the ring for our first ring but he improved dramatically over the week and here we are.”

She was over the moon when they placed fifth in an early class and never dreamt the title would soon be in their truck as well. “We went into HOY with no expectation. The idea was just for us both to get some experience.”

She had contemplated – just for a moment – not entering and instead going to the Pink concert. “His owner convinced me otherwise, and I certainly have no regrets now.”

Lena, who is trained by Leigh Taylor, says Pinot is very sweet and is thriving on the people and attention. “He loves going out and doing stuff. I think he has found a lot of happiness in his life.”

Two weekends before LRHOY, the Raglan combination had won the rising star award at Woodhill Sands which proved to be a bit of a lightbulb moment for them both.

Now Lena is looking forward to doing a little hunting over the winter with her eyes on an even bigger show hunter season next year.

For full results, head to https://www.evoevents.co.nz/resultClass/2135886027/147/9

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