NZ Horse & Pony - - Cover Story -

Ris­ing star show jumper Emma Wat­son has a great role model to fol­low in her mum Melissa, who is a former Pony of the Year win­ner. Mor­rinsville-based Emma (12) re­cently won the Speed Pony of the Year with her su­per mare Fun House, but she has her eye on an even big­ger prize in the fu­ture, the Som­er­set Fair Cup. “I have al­ways wanted to win Pony of the Year,” says Emma. “I fin­ished fourth in my first time jump­ing in it this year.”

Emma’s mum Melissa (nee Rowe) won Pony of the Year in 1993 aboard the fan­tas­tic lit­tle sta­tion­bred Déjà Vu and was also in the win­ning Waikato team at Pony Club Champs in 1992, fin­ish­ing fourth in­di­vid­u­ally. Melissa (39) comes from a very horsey fam­ily, as both her great-grand­fa­ther and grand­fa­ther drove and trained trot­ters and were also both life mem­bers of Leamington Pony Club. Her par­ents both rode, and they hunted to­gether as a fam­ily for many years.

Melissa’s hus­band Bruce is a keen polo player, and all three chil­dren ride: Kaleb (14) has just fin­ished his first polo sea­son, and ‘wee tor­nado’ Ari is six and has a pony too.

“I don’t re­mem­ber ever hav­ing to push the kids into rid­ing; it was just some­thing we all did,” says Melissa. “We al­ways put a pony on the truck for the kids to ride around at polo. Emma did hate be­ing on the lead, so as soon as we had a trust­wor­thy pony she was off by her­self jump­ing ev­ery­thing she could – I think she was about four or five.

“We al­ways wanted to give our kids the op­por­tu­nity to ride, but it was up to them – they have to put the hard work in. This sport is too ex­pen­sive to do it just ‘be­cause’, but Emma wanted to jump and the big­ger the bet­ter − she al­ways had her eyes on ring one!”

Melissa was 25 when Kaleb was born and says her own rid­ing has been a bit on and off ever since. In be­tween Emma and Ari she had a cou­ple of nice young horses and started to get back out com­pet­ing in the age-group and Am­a­teur se­ries classes, but once Emma started do­ing show hunter, Melissa was torn be­tween be­ing with her daugh­ter and com­pet­ing her­self, and ended up sell­ing her horses.

These days Melissa still rides at home, help­ing Emma to work her ponies; most of the time she has three of her own and a cou­ple of school­ers as well, which helps cover some of the costs of run­ning her team. “I do look for­ward to com­pet­ing again – when Emma makes me a nice horse and I can fi­nally fit my rid­ing clothes again!” she laughs.

Melissa says that when she was grow­ing up she didn’t re­ally lis­ten to her mother at all when it came to rid­ing, so she tried to ap­proach help­ing her own chil­dren in a dif­fer­ent way. “I wanted them to be cow­boys

The best days of all are when the five of us get to go hack­ing to­gether.”

first and learn by hav­ing fun and muck­ing around,” she ex­plains. “I liked to ride with them and help by show­ing them, not stand­ing on the ground get­ting sick of my own voice.

“Emma is one of those lucky kids who just has a feel for a horse. I would like to think we have a sim­i­lar style but Emma is far more nat­u­ral and has stronger legs than I ever had. Of course she has much to learn, but hav­ing con­fi­dence and feel is a great start. It does my head in when she for­gets some of her cour­ses, but to be fair I did plenty of that too!”

Emma goes to Jeff Mcvean for a les­son about once a month for a bit of fine-tun­ing; Melissa also trained with Jeff from the age of 13 so it was only nat­u­ral for Emma to fol­low. Melissa con­fesses she loves hand­ing Emma over to Jeff at shows for the big classes – then she gets to play mum and just take pho­tos.

Melissa is a lit­tle sad that her fam­ily is split most week­ends, with the boys head­ing to polo, and Melissa and Emma off show jump­ing, but says they are lucky to be do­ing things they love. “The best days of all are when the five of us get to go hack­ing to­gether,” says Melissa. “We sup­port our kids in any sport they take up and are with them all the way, coach­ing, man­ag­ing or just there watch­ing… ex­cept for cricket. We have de­cided no more cricket − it’s far too bor­ing!”

Emma, mean­while, thinks rid­ing is a cool way to spend time with her mum. “It’s very spe­cial know­ing that Mum has done it all be­fore and that I can trust ev­ery­thing she tells me,” she says. “Another pos­i­tive is that Mum is good at pick­ing nice horses and ponies for me. I am pretty lucky about that.”

ABOVE Melissa won the Pony of the Year tro­phy with Déjà Vu in 1993, and Emma is keen to em­u­late her. LEFT AND FAR LEFT Melissa says her tal­ented daugh­ter Emma has a nat­u­ral feel for a horse

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