Drought a major factor in cancellation of National Horse and Pony Show

A dressage competitor riding at Manfeild Park in 2017. The venue has lost The National Horse and Pony show, due to the ...

DAVID UNWIN/STUFF

A dressage competitor riding at Manfeild Park in 2017. The venue has lost The National Horse and Pony show, due to the drought.

Manawatū’s drought has cost the region thousands of dollars in visitor spending money with the loss of a major equestrian event.

The four-day New Zealand National Horse and Pony Show is one of the biggest in the community following Horse of the Year, club chief steward Maxine Mulligan said. 

It had been scheduled to take place at Manfeild Park in Feilding this weekend, but the committee behind the event were so concerned at the effects from drought conditions, they felt forced to cancel. 

“It’s a pity, but people have been very understanding. They appreciate that we were concerned about the welfare of the horses,” Mulligan said.

“We had competitors coming from the South Island, and many people coming for the weekend, who would have been spending money in the community. Motels, food outlets, petrol stations, all benefit from it usually.”  

There had been no criticism of the venue itself, she said. The decision had been made ahead of last week’s rain, despite the forecast, because those travelling needed as much warning as possible. It was the first time the show had been cancelled that she knew of. 

The dry ground had been too hard for horses to safely be “warmed up and walked up” in the surrounding fields, before the competition, she said. 

“Our main competition surfaces had irrigation, but the other fields couldn’t be irrigated.” 

As many as 250 horses were typically entered, with many groups of family and friends travelling to support the riders. But this year there had only been 54 entries by early January, when the numbers would normally be over 200.

“Again I think it came back to the drought. People were aware Manawatū had been declared a drought area just before Christmas.”

The event had also faced other difficulties that weighed into the decision, including the loss of the old Feilding jockey club grandstands, previously used as support buildings for the event. They are no longer open due to earthquake safety concerns, so the cost for marques would have added to the event’s costs, Mulligan said. 

The National Horse and Pony Show had been held at Manfeild for the last two years, after being moved from Hastings, where it had been held for a number of years after being based in Dannevirke.

“It’s always been in this area in the school holidays. This year’s drought has been so different because it’s been so dry so early, we had six months rain and then the tap turned off, and it just went rock hard.” 

Next year’s event is scheduled for January 10 to 13, but the venue is still to be decided. 


 – Stuff

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