Matthew Irvine just had his dreams come true.
The 14-year-old from Central Hawke's Bay and his former games pony Funhouse won the most sought-after Farmlands Pony of the Year crown at the 2014 NRM Horse of the Year Show in Hastings today (Saturday).
And while he may have been dreaming about the victory for a while, the chances of him pulling it off in just his third three star grand prix start seemed unlikely.
However, the score card tells a different story, and the Lindisfarne College Year 10 student finished the class with three clear rounds – the only one to do so.
His journey to HOY started in December when his mother entered him in a mini prix at a Taupo show. Irvine changed the entry without her knowing and lined up in the three star.
By his own admission, it was scary, technical and he didn't win a ribbon, largely because despite walking the course with former Olympian Maurice Beatson he didn't follow the instructions.
“Mum was not thrilled at all.”
But that's all history now.
Irvine, a rugby rep who is instructed by Atlanta Olympic silver medallist Sally Clark went into today's class relatively nervous..
“When I walked the course, I didn't think it was a bad size, but quite technical,” says Irvine. “Then when I got to the second round, it all went up another role, and I was like, 'oh', and then in the third round it went up another and I thought, 'this pony is going to have to help me round here'.”
Twenty-nine started the class, with just 11 coming back for the second round. From there, the top four returned – Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) on Mighty Maximus, Lucinda Askin (Canterbury) on Totem, Sharnaye Lammers (Whangarei) on 2012 Pony of the Year, the Kaimanawa Watch Me Move, and Irvine.
All were on scratch, but Burnett-Grant added four faults to her card after taking the first fence, Askin was careful but paid for that with two time penalties, Irvine was clear and while Lammers gave it a good nudge, she took two rails en route.
Irvine has had the eight-year-old mare for two-and-a-half years. She was bought sight unseen off Trade Me.
“I had to start from scratch with her, and spent all of last season doing 1.1m and 1.15m and learning the correct striding. This is my first season doing grand prix.”
Pink – as she is known at home – missed the first six weeks of the season after sustaining a paddock injury and having to have surgery.
“She is a nice natured pony, a quick learner and a great pony.”
However, she also has plenty of attitude and thinks she is the queen bee..
“This is my first Pony of the Year class and just so exciting.”
He was also part of the winning Hawke's Bay team to take the Pony Club Nations Cup this morning aboard Epsom.
To celebrate, Irvine was planning to have pizzas for dinner. He was also planning an early night . . . to start dreaming about winning the 2015 Pony of the Year crown.
Farmlands Pony of the Year: Matthew Irvine (Central Hawke's Bay) Funhouse 1, Lucinda Askin (Canterbury) Totem 2, Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) Mighty Maximus 3, Sharnaye Lammers (Whangarei) Watch Me Move 4, Timothy Richards (Ohaupo) Mangakaraa Carbon Copy 5, Steffi Whittaker (Canterbury) Moonlight Glow 6