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Kimberley Bird returned home recently from a five-week trip in the North Island where she’s been mixing it with some of the big names in the equestrian world. One golden result in Taupo though has elevated her into the spotlight to join those she’s been competing against. Matt Markham caught up with the Ashburton rider to discuss her success.
She’s a tough old game the equestrian world.
Hours spent on the road, travelling from one show to the next tacking up horse after horse all the while dreaming of getting that clear round that brings you to the judges’ attention.
For many, it’s a pipe-dream – there might be visions of one day riding at Badminton, or wearing the Silver Fern of New Zealand, but it’s a brutal sport which can spit you out as quickly as it swallowed you up.
So success, wherever it might come is important. And needs to be celebrated.
But when you succeed on the biggest of stages, it’s even more important as it’s something which very few get the opportunity to achieve and for Ashburton rider, Kimberley Bird, December has been one of those months.
Bird returned to her Mid Canterbury home just prior to Christmas having ticked off the biggest moment of her still very young career in the saddle when she claimed victory in the fourth round of the FEI World Cup at the Taupo Christmas Classic.
But for the 23-year-old it wasn’t just a moment where years of experience in New Zealand’s most elite and toughest show jumping series came to fruition.
Instead, she was having just her second start in the series and emerged on top of 12 of New Zealand’s best riders, jumping at heights of between 1.4 metres and 1.6 metres.
“It was pretty amazing,” Bird said.
“Even just to be competing at that level, let alone winning, it was a surreal feeling and one which probably still hasn’t really sunk in.
“I went into it with no real expectations, I just wanted to enjoy it and see what happened but it unfolded pretty quickly and all of a sudden I was the winner.”
Riding her 10-year-old Holsteiner mare, Cera Cassina, or Beezie as she’s known around home, Bird was one of four riders to receive a fault for knocking off a rail in the first round of the competition.
That put her in the box seat if she was able to produce a clear jump in the second round and as the second last rider in the competition, she headed out into the arena with it all to play for.
“She (Beezie) jumped like an absolute superstar.
“I couldn’t believe how well she handled it.
“She knew exactly what she was doing and went out there and did it like an old pro and we got the clear round and there was only one rider left after me, so we didn’t have to wait too long.”
When that rider, Briar Burnett-Grant of Taupo, collected a rail at the last fence, Bird was declared the winner – much to her delight.
“That initial feeling, that was pretty special and it’s something I hope I get to feel a few more times yet too.”
The win while a surprise, probably shouldn’t have been.
Cera Cassina had been in hot form winning the 1.45 metre class the day before the World Cup event and then had also been victorious the week prior at the National Young Horse Show winning the one star 1.4 metre FEI class.
“She’s a real pro.
“She’s got a bit of mind of her own at times and can be a bit of a hot head, but she’s got a beautiful action and knows what she’s doing.”
The World Cup Series now moves to Dannevirke early January for the grand final where there are points-and-a-half on offer.
However, just the best four scores count for riders, and each of the four in contention for the series crown carry a drop score.
The winner of the league has the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas next year.
Back in Ashburton for the festive season, Bird was looking back at a strong 2019 calendar year but also had a casual eye on what lies ahead in 2020 where she will now be known as a force to be reckoned with on the annual circuit.
With no real major competitions at the ultimate heights in the South Island, she’s forced to travel a lot to compete if she wants to hone her craft and that means a massive undertaking from not only herself, but also her family.
“I’ve got some pretty amazing support around me, Mum (Kate) and Dad (Alan) are incredible and then there’s the wider network of people who all step up and make sure things are ticking over at home for me.”
A noted breeder of her own stock, Bird likes to produce and develop her own horses for the ring.
While it might be easier in some instances to purchase ready-made show horses, the satisfaction of achieving huge results on a horse you’ve moulded and grown yourself far outweighs everything else.
“I’m a bit of a breeder.
“I had one born on Christmas Eve while we were crossing the Cook Strait, but doing the job on a horse that you’ve bred and raised yourself is extremely satisfying and a really special part of it all.”
In between the riding and schooling, Bird doesn’t have much time for anything else, but is currently working while doing a little bit of study on the side, but she would probably admit that her full attention is more on the remaining events of the showing season.
Upcoming features include the National Championships in Christchurch, a trip to Marlborough among other events and everything culminating in the annual Horse of the Year competition.
And after the result in Taupo, the name Kimberley Bird won’t just be another on the entry sheet, but instead one which everyone will be out to keep an eye on.
© The Ashburton Guardian - 31 December 2019
Mid Canterbury’s teachers as influencers of youth, do one of the most important jobs around, but they do their job in an increasingly tough environment. Reporter Sue Newman looks back at a year in education that was marked by some significant wins, but one that also faced the turbulence of strike action and an endless struggle to fully staff schools.
If you count the success of a year in dollars, then 2019 has to be a huge win for the Ashburton District’s schools – between three of them they were told they’d receive an investment of around $75 million that will see Allenton, Ashburton Intermediate and Ashburton College rebuilt, to varying degrees.
Allenton and Intermediate were given their big news in 2018 and this year has been one of planning for them; 2020, hopefully, will be one where construction actually starts. It’s a long road in education from the first tick in a project until the last.
But for Ashburton College, the year was huge. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited the school, toured the (tired) campus and announced that $50 million would be invested in the school to replace virtually every building.
As the year ticked by, the news got even better, $50 million became $60 million, because an error had been made in roll calculations against classroom needs. Principal Ross Preece was ecstatic.
He knows it’ll be a long road from today’s 50-plus-year-old campus to a brand spanking new one, but he and his staff reckon the wait until completion in 2025 will be worthwhile.
Most schools that were eligible to pick up the government funded bulk donation grant signed on by the end of the year. This means they’ll receive a cash hand-out to cover the things that the voluntary school donation did.
It was exactly that, voluntary, and that meant no school ever received every dollar from every student. The new option is a government gift of $150 a student, a hefty pay day for many schools, but of course there are fish hooks in that schools can no longer claim back cash for some of the extras they provide. The $150 grant covers it all.
For the first time in many years, the school year was marked by strike action. Stop work meetings and, on two occasions, large rallies, saw schools closed and placard-waving teachers marching down Ashburton’s State Highway 1.
The heart of the community was with them. Those rallies saw a surge in public support and greater understanding of the reality of life in the classroom 21st Century style. The strike action worked, settlements were forged, but not all issues were resolved.
Teaching is still in crisis with low numbers of people entering the profession and schools struggling to find the staff they need. As principals keep saying, it’s about getting the right person in your classrooms, not just any person.
Here’s hoping in 2020 the penny will finally drop, the Government will accept that teaching is a critically important profession and pay scales will be rejigged accordingly.
And it’s not just qualified teachers who have been putting up their hands in protest, support staff have been flying their own flags. These are the people who essentially allow classroom teachers to get on with teaching while they work alongside students with learning challenges.
Unbelievably, some of those people are barely earning a basic living wage for doing a job that is at best challenging.
Change is constant in education, but as the year wound down, a government task force released a to-do list for the future, one that contains some pretty sweeping changes that will impact on our district’s schools.
The way boards of trustees work will change, the ability for families to access out-of-school zones will be limited and there will be better support systems put in place for schools and students, no argument there.
Across the district a number of senior teachers retired after many years in the profession, taking with them a working lifetime of skills. Each one of those retirees will have had a significant impact on the lives of thousands of young poeople.
All departures from schools are significant, they all leave their mark and a big gap to fill. The impact is even greater when it’s at the top.
And this year we farewelled principal John Schreurs from Mount Hutt College. Departures mean arrivals and we welcomed Jack Saxon to the district we call home.
By Sue Newman - © The Ashburton Guardian - 30 December 2019
They might not have figured at the pointy end of the competition, but the Mid Canterbury Under 15 cricket side at least walked away from last weekend’s Regional tournament with their heads held high after a strong win to finish the week.
The tournament, which saw sides from South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, Canterbury Country, Buller and two Christchurch Metro sides was held in Timaru throughout the course of last week and apart from an abandoned game early in the competition, all other games were completed.
The Mid Canterbury side had a tough start to the week, losing first up to Metro Red.
Chasing 124, they were all out for 70, with only two players managed to reach double figure scores.
They then took on the host region, South Canterbury and despite a handy effort with the bat from Lachie Jemmett (73) and Jack Irwin (30), who posted a 110-run partnership, they were unable to get the win on the board.
Their match against Buller was abandoned due to the inclement weather before they took on neighbours, Canterbury Country, in what turned out to be a gripping match.
Mid Canterbury batted first and posted a competitive 174 with the bat, with Toby Robinson (58) and Patrick Currie (29) contributing well with the bat.
In the Country run chase, the Mid Canterbury bowlers did their job well but were unable to get that last wicket, with Country chasing down the target with one wicket to spare.
Hugh Sanders was the pick of the Mid Canterbury bowlers, taking 3-35 off his five overs.
It was another close affair in the match against Metro Black.
Again Mid Canterbury batted first and posted 184.
Jemmett (63), Robinson (47) and Currie (51) were all in on the runs again but just like their previous match, the Mid Canterbury bowlers were unable get the wickets on the board with Metro chasing down the target with five wickets remaining.
Nicholas Stringer was excellent with ball in hand, taking 2-25 off five overs.
Mid Canterbury rounded out their tournament week in style though by beating Buller on the last day of the competition.
Batting first, Mid Canterbury made the most of their opportunity scoring an imposing 210 all out.
Again, Currie was in the runs, scoring 82 to round out the week as Mid Canterbury’s leading run scorer, while Seb McMillan was also in on the action scoring 33.
He then turned around and did the damage with the ball as well, taking 3-26 off six overs, while Sanders and Jack Middleton each took a brace as Buller were rolled for 141.
By Matt Markham © The Ashburton Guardian - 22 December 2019