It’s been a very busy but rewarding showing season for Ashburton’s horse-mad Waddell sisters, Charlotte (19) and Natasha (16). They’ve been travelling with their horses all over the South Island, supported by mum Sonia, dad Justin and dog Max, competing in A&P shows, as well as other competitive showing competitions including the prestigious Horse of the Year in Hastings. There have been many early morning starts and lots of time spent living in trailers, but judging by the number of trophies on display the hard work has definitely paid off.  Niamh McCarthy caught up with the talented equestrian sisters to talk about their recent successes on the showing circuit.

Charlotte and Natasha are both talented competitors on the NZ showing circuit. Showing horses is a discipline where a horse is judged over various paces (walk, trot, etc.) on a circle. Riders are judged on how the horse moves, its conformation, and how both horse and rider are turned out. Competitors are given workouts to learn in advance which are then performed in front of a group of judges. Getting horse and rider ready for competition involves a huge amount of hard work and training. “It’s not just the rider who is the athlete but also the horse, and it takes a lot of effort to get them turned out for these big shows,” confirms Sonia.

A passion for horses is definitely in the blood. Sonia rode competitively, as did her mum and grandmother, and her family owned Carnesso Stud. So it’s not surprising that both girls were riding as babies and entered their first competitions at an early age – Charlotte at three and Natasha at four “just because the rules changed I couldn’t enter at three,” Natasha jokes. At 19 Charlotte now competes in the adult class – riding what is classified as a park hack. Her horse is Torbay and at home he’s known as “Peanut” because he’s an ex-thoroughbred racehorse who was called The Charging Peanut. Charlotte admits that as an ex -racer its taken Peanut some time to adjust to his new sport “They take a long time to cool their head.” But they now have a great working relationship and the wins are coming.

At Horse of the Year Charlotte and Torbay were placed 5th in the overall Youth Rider of the Year and placed 4th in the Park Hack lead-up class. They also won the coveted title of Supreme Champion at both Motueka and Little River A&P shows.

Naturally, younger sister Natasha has plenty of childhood memories of sitting on ponies and watching Charlotte compete and is proving to be as talented as her older sister. Natasha competes in the youth class and has two ponies: Uptown Charlie Brown, known at home as Charlie, and Uptown Hotshot or Gingie. Just like her sister there have been plenty of successes this year on the circuit of shows and competitions.

Natasha and Uptown Charlie Brown have been South Island champions three years running in their under 148cm class, and at Horse of the Year they placed in several classes including winning the rider class for 15-16 years. She was also the only South Island competitor to place in the Pony of the Year Open Title class, coming third out of fifteen high quality ponies. Uptown Hotshot has also been doing well for Natasha – achieving a Supreme title at Motueka A&P and winning the New Zealand National Showcase show in her saddlehunter pony class.

Competing at such a high level keeps the entire family very busy and both girls have a full agenda even when they are not in training for a competition. Charlotte, who recently finished at Ashburton College, is working with a local law firm and trains her horses every evening while Natasha is in Year 12 at College and fits in her schoolwork around training. Amazingly Natasha has found the time to be editor of the NZ Pony Breeders Society magazine which is published three times a year. “It’s only 40 pages,” she modestly says!

The girls and Mum also manage to find the time to do the odd bit of breeding and they break in horses for both themselves and others, plus Sonia gives lessons. So, what about Justin? “ I carry the bucket,” he laughs. It’s definitely a family affair for the Waddells and Sonia and the girls are very grateful to Justin who drives their horse float and does all the cooking so they can focus on preparing the horses. They are lucky enough to have an indoor arena on site to practice in for the cooler months and they also have lessons with local dressage coach Debbie Nelson as according to talented mum Sonia, “In terms of lessons they are beyond me now!” The family would also like to give a shout out to their local farrier Duncan Norrie who looks after their animals precious feet plus Ubersnug and Westwind Equine who keep them warm and looking great on competition day.

Coming up to winter all the horses will have a rest until mid August when its time to start preparing them for the circuit again, when the early starts and long drives in the float begin for another year. For Natasha and Charlotte, it’s the opportunity to qualify once again for Horse of the Year and Justin and Sonia are immensely proud of their talent and hard work. For Sonia it’s extra special as both her own name and her sisters’ names are already on some of the trophies the girls are now winning. “It’s definitely a passion. We all love it and we hope to do even better at Horse of the Year next year.”




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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.