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Still going strong 30 years on


A quiet beer just over 30 years ago gave rise to a long-standing relationship with one of the most popular events on the national equestrian circuit.

The 2021 Larsen Sawmilling Equestrian Championships starts tomorrow at Showgrounds Park in Gisborne.

And for the past 30 of those years, Larsen Sawmilling owner John Larsen has been the principal sponsor — a backing that almost did not get out of the starting gate.

Larsen was originally looking at sponsoring the Poverty Bay A&P Spring Show.

He mentioned this while having a quiet beer with colleague Hugh Morice at the Poverty Bay Club.

“Hugh had another sip of his beer and said to me ‘no, I have something better',” Larsen said while recalling how the sponsorship came about.

Morice was talking about the Gisborne equestrian show, which had been running since the early 1950s, and the rest is now a 30-year partnership.

While John is not what you would call a mad-keen rider, his bloodlines tell a different story.

His grandfather imported horses from the United Kingdom that were highly sought-after for polo and racing.

His mother was a showjumper and later owned horses which other riders competed on.

Each year Larsen offers a “Larsawn” garden seat as part of the prize for the Grand Prix showjumping winner and this prize has become something all the top riders want to win.

At the first Larsen Sawmilling-backed show, Olympian Harvey Wilson spotted a Larsawn gazebo and ended up buying it and carting it back to his Waitotara base.

“This (show) is really part and parcel of my business now,” says Larsen. “I wouldn't do it if not for the likes of the people I have met through showjumping.”

This year will be no different when many of those long-standing volunteers once again head to Showgrounds Park to support one of the nation's favourite events.

The three-day show will feature the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) CSI1* international 1.4-metre jump, along with all national series classes including the Equestrian Sports New Zealand Horse Grand Prix and the Country TV Pony Grand Prix.

Around 260 horses are coming from all over the North Island to compete in showjumping and show hunter classes. Quality fields will vie for honours across the grades.

South Islander Erin Duffy is designing the courses in ring 1, Heather McDonald ring 2, Kevin Hansen ring 3 and Joan Couper the show hunter arena.

Conditions are near perfect. The main arena has been irrigated and carefully prepared to ensure ideal footing.

The champs start from 8.30am each day. The FEI CSI1* jump is being held tomorrow and the horse and pony grands prix are on Sunday afternoon.

Entry is free.

MANY HANDS, LIGHT WORK: Helping set up a fence for the 30th anniversary Larsen Sawmilling Championships at Showgrounds Park are (from left) Georgie Coop 9, Lucy Hill 15, Ella Rouse 12, Lucy Moylan 8, Jessica McCann 15, and Victoria Dorward, 9. This group of happy helpers will also be competing over the three days of the champs, which start tomorrow. Picture by Liam Clayton