Benge mounts up to win another national title
STRONG ENTRIES: Whanganui's Rebecca Benge added another championship to her resume with the Under 17 title at the conclusion of the National Individual Mounted Games at the racecourse yesterday afternoon.
The fields were big enough to run multiple finals for most grades at the National Individual Mounted Games at the Wanganui Racecourse over Easter Weekend.
Starting on Good Friday, around 90 ponies for over 75 riders entered the events, covering Under 12's through to Over 35's.
There was depth to several divisions as the Under 17's had A, B and C finals for their classes, with eight horses for each lane.
The Open grade also had an A Final down to a C Final, while the veterans, Under 12's and Under 14's had A and B finals.
Each grade had three qualifying sessions throughout the three days of competition, with the combined points deciding finalists, and then the finals were decided by who got the most points in the playoff.
From standing starts beside their mounts, the riders raced to grab and place flags, ride around the poles, and most importantly stay together as a rider losing their bridle could mean a long run to chase their pony down.
Benge, who had won three team titles the weekend before at the NZ Mounted Games in Hawke's Bay, took out a very close Under 17 A grade.
"It was a hard fought final, there was five points in the split between first and fourth," said mother Jean Benge, also the vice-president of the national body and the event organiser.
Rebecca Benge then immediately backed up for the Open A final, which was comfortably won by Manawatu's Hannah Burrows, with Benge coming fifth.
The Over 17's title was won by Kerikeri's Holly Andrews.
The competitors and their supporters then attended an end-of-season function in town last night.
Many had travelled from Auckland and from down in the South Island to take part.
It marks two years of Whanganui hosting the national event, as they were scheduled to do so this year but also stepped in at short notice in 2017 when the original Auckland venue was savaged by storms.
The local weather played ball over the weekend as the rain held off mostly, with the only shower being on Saturday night after competition had finished for the day, with yesterday again providing blue sky.
Jean Benge said next year's nationals will be in the South Island and while they were all looking forward to a break, Whanganui will no doubt put its hand up to host again some time in the future.
"Everything has been great, and people have said they had a great time. It's gone really well, really pleased."
By Jared Smith
Wanganui Chronicle 2/4/18