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Olympic equestrian Jock Paget will visit South Canterbury later this month to promote the proposal for a new world-class eventing venue at the historic Craigmore Station.

Paget, who was part of the bronze medal-winning equestrian team at the 2012 London Olympics, is now based in New Zealand and is the Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) high-performance coach. His career has included wins at the world’s pinnacle four-star events such as Badminton, in England, and he is at present working towards the Tokyo Olympics.

It will be his first visit to South Canterbury and is a huge coup for the local equestrian fraternity.

“We are really excited that Jock has come on board. It’s amazing for a little group like ours,” South Canterbury North Otago (SCNO) Eventing Group spokeswoman Sara Rowley, who is one of the main drivers behind the proposal, said.

Rowley hopes Paget’s presence will give the new eventing course the boost it needs to ensure it will become one of the key equestrian events in New Zealand.

Rowley has long thought Craigmore, previously the stage for the Aoraki Arts Festival and annual Daffodil Day Country Fair, would be the ideal location for a world-class eventing venue in the South Island, not only because of its stunning natural beauty and flat to rolling country, but its central location – two and a-half hours travel from both Christchurch and Dunedin.

For more than a decade, SCNO Eventing has been without a course in the area, meaning riders from pony club right through to FEI level have had to travel for competitions.

But what started out as a throwaway comment from Craigmore owner Bridget Elworthy is now on its way to becoming a reality.

“I was talking to Bridget on the phone in the UK and she thought I sounded exhausted,” Rowley said.

“We had been tailing and were really busy on the farm, and I was trying to pack three children up and several horses and ponies to go and do some cross-country training at McLeans Island [in Christchurch].

“Bridget said ‘that’s ridiculous Sara. You need to organise a cross-country course at Craigmore!”‘

Jock Paget on Angus Blue from Oceania where he was part of the winning New Zealand team. Photo: Diana Dobson/The Black Balloon.

Bridget talked to her husband, Forbes Elworthy, and the concept has grown from there. They have a land agreement in place allowing the ESNZ Eventing SCNO group a 10-year licence to run events at Craigmore Station, the New Zealand Pony Clubs Association to run the Springston Trophy, and area eventing championships, and for the course to be used in agreement with management for clinics and training purposes.

Paget jumped at the opportunity to be involved in promoting the new venture. He will visit the venue on Monday, September 25 – South Canterbury Anniversary Day – and take part in a day of festivities to showcase the venue, including a novelty race and signing, an interview with him in the Craigmore gardens, drinks and nibbles in the homestead and ending with a three-course meal in the old stables.

“We are really hoping the whole community will get behind this venture. It is not only great for the equestrian fraternity, but will be a huge asset to Timaru and South Canterbury, attracting people far and wide to the region,” Rowley said.