Wendi Williamson is making history.
Next week she and her Dejavu MH, a horse she has trained and brought through the grades herself, head to Omaha, Nebraska, for the FEI World Cup Dressage Final.
It’s the first time New Zealand has ever had a competitor at the prestigious event.
Kumeu-based Williamson earned the right to make the long trek after a stunning victory in the Musical Freestyle at the 2017 FEI Pacific League World Cup Dressage Final in Feilding earlier this month. Their 75.725% score was a personal best and the highest World Cup qualifying score for the Pacific region.
On their way to the final, Williamson and Dejavu MH also set a New Zealand record in the Grand Prix with a mark of 71.22%.
“It is exciting and scary at the same time,” says Williamson, a mum of two who works as an environmental engineer.
The combination have been training with top UK coach Peter Storr this past week, and Williamson says it was big confidence-boost as they made that final decision to go to Omaha.
Following the final, Williamson plans to return to Europe to compete at a few shows, potentially a CDI in France, before heading back to New Zealand.
“Peter thought it would be a good time for us to get in front of a lot of the international judges as part of our preparation for the 2018 World Equestrian Games – all things going well.”
But for now, her thoughts are on the World Cup Final.
“My best hope is that the horse comes through the 50-60 hours of travel unscathed and feels and performs similarly to how he did at Nationals.”
The good news is that she knows just where they can gain an extra point or two, and her recent work with Storr reinforced that.
“The horse feels the best he has ever felt and my training is going better and better every day,” said Williamson. “The goal has always been international competition and the judges all say he is truly an international horse . . . so we are hoping the travel goes smoothly and we are able to show them what we are capable of.”
Dressage New Zealand sport manager Wendy Hamerton says it is a great milestone for the sport in this country.
“We are very excited for Wendi,” said Hamerton. “One of the biggest challenges for most is that they get to one of these huge international competitions and are riding in the warm-up alongside their own heroes. It will be the most amazing experience for her.”
And she is confident Williamson will handle it all.
“Wendi is incredibly focused and always looking for a way to get that next mark.”
Dejavu MH will travel with his groom Hannah Comrie to Amsterdam where they will join a charter flight with other dressage and showjumping horses heading to the final.