From wild youngster to rising star
By Emma Sharplin –
Holly Thompson always knew that there was something special about her horse, Jack.
After two years of literally blood sweat and tears, Jack and Holly have taken out the New Zealand title of Verbac Rising Riding Horse of the Year.
Described as an emotional win, Holly couldn't believe it when her name was announced over the loud speaker in the showing section at the National Horse of the Year event earlier this month.
"It has been a long journey, and we didn't know how Jack was going to react to the atmosphere in Hastings, but he did not put a foot wrong."
But the journey of qualifying and competing at Horse of the Year hasn't been all smooth sailing. The Pukekawa resident purchased the stationbred horse two seasons ago, sight unseen and green broke, after seeing a video of him.
"I was getting back into riding after a long break, and the horse I had just wasn't working out. Then I saw the video of Jack, and I just knew there was something special about him."
A young horse that had been gelded late, and not very well handled, is near to a recipe for disaster, but that didn't deter Holly. She shipped Jack up from the South Island, and began work on the 'feral' gelding straight away.
"He was quite different from what we had been originally been told, and had a immense dislike for people. He tried to attack my fiancé through the fence. As much as I was told to move him on, I stuck with him and didn't give up."
During the 2016 and 2017 season, Holly and Jack have come home from every show placed. At Te Kauwhata A&P, they took out the Supreme Newcomer title, and at the Nationals in Fielding, they won the Ladies Riding Horse title. 
The next challenge was to ride at the national event, which would see Holly and Jack against the top show horses in New Zealand. 
"We were up against horses that were worth more than my farm, that were exceptionally bred, and riders who do this for full time job. I was just in awe when we got down there, and my main aim was to just survive," laughs Holly.
"Here I am with my horse whose father was 14hh pony and his mother a plain thoroughbred, while working my job as a Business Development manager for Halls. This was also my first Horse of the Year show in over 15 years, and it has dramatically changed from what it used to be."
Holly explained that despite the terrible conditions of the grounds, Jack didn't put a foot wrong. 
"You couldn't fault him in his workout, and that were the comments from the judges. All three were unanimous in the decision, and that he was 'foot perfect.' I am just so proud of him."
For Holly, the win was the icing on the cake to a stella season, and says she is looking forward to their future together in other dicsplines.
"I have had offers to buy him, but the answer is no. We have worked so hard to get here, so he is stuck with me now," laughs Holly.
"I hope to increase my confidence to compete in dressage next year, and maybe a little bit of jumping too." 
CAPTION: Holly Thompson and Jack, on their way to winning the Verbac Rising Riding Horse of the Year title in what can only described as terrible conditions. Photo courtesy – Show Circuit.