Youth Olympians return
Each country was allowed to send only one equestrian athlete to the 2018 Youth Olympics, and New Zealand sent Taupō-nui-a-Tia College year 13 student Briar Burnett-Grant.
Briar, 18, found out about the selection in February this year and went on to win the prestigious Horse of the Year competition in March, competing in an open class against New Zealand’s best riders on her horse Veroana.
With the competition season over until September, Briar settled into school life, training her young horses and spending time with her gravely-ill father Dave Burnett who died in August.
“Dad was rushed to hospital in February and then he was in and out of hospital many times before Horse of the Year. He watched all the days of the competition and it was a really big moment for us all when I won.”
Disaster stuck again in September when Briar broke her ankle while applying studs onto Veroana’s hoof.
“It was two weeks out from flying to Argentina for the Youth Olympics, and my first thought was, can I still go?”
She couldn’t participate in the opening ceremony and during the competition the team medics would strap her ankle daily, but Briar says she was in a lot of pain.
“Due to the anti-drug rules I was only allowed panadol for pain relief. It didn’t really work.”
She drew Maximo from the pool of horses and was allowed four training rounds, each 30 minutes in length, before the competition began. Coach Jeff McVean from Cambridge could only advise from a video link as he didn’t have the correct accreditation to get into the training area.
“We didn’t know it was going to be that strict. My sister Hannah was my support, she took video of my training rounds and we sent them to Jeff for comment.”
Briar was also glad she could count on other family members who had gone over to support her, her mother Karen, two sets of aunts and uncles. In the absence of any other New Zealand equestrian team mates or their coaches to call on, Briar had a little bit of help from the Australian coach, but no-one else.
“The chef de mission was [five times Olympian] Barbara Kendall and she was amazing. Always really supportive. Originally they were not going to allow Hannah to take video, and then they allowed it.”
She says the whole experience was amazing learning and she and Maximo placed sixth in the individual show jumping, with the New Zealand team coming in fifth. She said she tried not to think about her Dad as it just made her weak, and she managed to block out the competition pressure.
“I don’t get nervous, and the adrenalin blocked out the pain from my ankle. It was a very painful sixth place.”
With NCEA final exams looming, Briar came home on October 21 and says she is going to have a gap year in 2019.
“I am going to stay home with Mum and not rush into anything.”
However the European show jumping circuit is beckoning, and maybe beyond 2019 Briar will join her old coach and double Olympian rider Daniel Meech.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for her competing in North Island show jumping events with Briar saying she will be competing at the Taupo¯ Christmas Classic Showjumping event at Aratiatia from December 13 to 16.
Taupo¯ rider Briar Burnett-Grant, 18, got sixth place on her drawn horse Maximo at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires.