Georgia on her way to a clear round in the final jump-off. Photo Lea Jordan

They are an unlikely but formidable combination: Waiheke rider Georgia Bouzaid and her Kaimanawa pony Bill are turning heads on the pony grand prix showjumping circuit.
Up against experienced riders and pedigreed ponies, 14-year-old Georgia and her once-feral mount first tasted success three weeks ago at an Equissage Pony Grand Prix
Series event at Woodhill Sands, near Helensville. In her very first grand prix event, Georgia and seven-year-old Redcliffs Bill (his competition name) were surprise winners at the 1.2m jumps height.
Last weekend, the pair proved it was no fluke by claiming second in their event at the Continental Cars Audi World Cup Festival, a major national meet held at Woodhill Sands, for which the jumps were set at 1.3m. Yet she almost missed the jump-off – nearly falling at the final hurdle in the elimination round.
Trainer Kate Hewlett says the pair have come on in leaps and bounds since Georgia acquired Bill last winter.
“They are competing against ponies that have been doing grand prix events for years. After they won their first event, we ummed and ahhed about entering the World Cup Festival which is a really prestigious event – as big as it gets.”
The first round was nearly a disaster when Redcliff Bill put in an extra stride at the last fence, firing Georgia out of the saddle. She managed to just cling on until through the flags. Had her feet touched the ground she would have been eliminated but after close scrutiny from the judges her clear round took her through to the final.
She joined New Zealand pony royalty in the jump-off and rode the round of her life. She was one of only two riders to go clear but was pipped for time by leading Morrinsville rider Emma Watson.
“It was really exciting,” Kate says. “She was third to ride and the tension mounted as more kids went through and would hit a rail and then one withdrew.
“It was pretty emotional to end up in second spot.”
It’s highly unusual for a Kaimanawa  pony to do so well in open competition but Bill is “very special”, Kerikeri-based Kate says. He was given to the training team of Kate and partner Tim Featherston in 2014 as part of the Kaimanawa Heritage Horses programme, which provides a national training competition for wild horses and ponies found in the Kaimanawa Ranges. Under the programme, suitably skilled trainers are randomly assigned adult Kaimanawas that have never been touched by humans.
They soon realised Bill was something special. “He’s one out of the box. A lot of Kaimanawas tend to be a bit shorter but he’s a bit more leggy and has more spring. But they are pretty intelligent ponies which is why they have trouble with some people.
“Georgia has this amazing bond with Bill. When she first went out and caught him in the yard he took one look at her and let her catch him. Then he let her catch him in the paddock which is unheard of. He actually picked her.”
Georgia is coached on Waiheke by Cindy Page but, with fellow local riders, attends occasional training camps at Kerikeri. This summer, she finished school early to spend three weeks on tour with Kate and Tim, attending shows at Woodhill Sands, Feilding, Hawkes Bay and Taupo before entering her grand prix debut.
Georgia has a few more big shows leading up to the season finale, the Horse of the Year show in Hawkes Bay in March.
“They are a very consistent pair.” •  Geoff Cumming

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