Games a dress rehearsal for world champs

FEARLESS:  Rebecca Benge shows no fear while sister Kelli clips her ticket on the way through at the National Mounted Games at Horse of the Year in Hastings last week.
PHOTO / Tyler Bumby

The National Individual Mounted Games in Whanganui over Easter Weekend will double as a dress rehearsal for world competition in August for one in-form hometown teenager.

Seventeen-year-old Whanganui High School Year 13 athlete, Rebecca Benge is in the five-strong Kiwi team to contest the IMGA 33rd World Team Championship Open and U17 at the Hippodrome de Wallonie, Ghlin in Belgium between August 20 and 26 this year.

At the New Zealand Mounted Games run alongside the Horse of the Year in Hawkes Bay last week, Benge displayed excellent form winning three national titles in the under-17 pairs, under-17 teams and open teams with 24-year-old sister Kelli Benge.

Benge currently falls within the under-17 age group criteria for New Zealand competition, but will compete in the open divisions in Belgium. She will actually celebrate her 18th birthday while in Belgium.

She has already tasted international success and is hungry for more.

Benge was in the New Zealand team that finished second to the hosts in the 2012 Australian Teams Championship and a member of the Kiwi side that won the 2014 Five Nations Team Championships on home turf in Northland when, at just 14, she was the youngest competitor.

The teenager now has three individual national titles to her name, five national teams titles and two pairs. Like her fellow Whanganui riders, Benge regularly competes under the Manawatu Mounted Games Association banner.

Her mother Jean Benge is vice-president of the national body and organiser of the New Zealand Individual Mounted Games at the Whanganui racecourse beginning on Good Friday.

Whanganui also hosted last year's individual games as a last minute back up to a storm-ravged Auckland venue.

"It was a great success despite the last minute notice and thanks to the Wanganui Jockey Club for their help at the time," Jean Benge said.

"We had always planned to host the 2018 version after putting in a bid last season and it's a great venue. We are expecting more than 90 ponies and around 77 riders, some competing in several classes in age groups ranging from the under-12s to the over 35s.

"This will be the final big event before the worlds in August and as always will provide a great spectacle. The public is welcome to come along and watch. Entry is free from the Anson St entrance off Carlton Ave beginning at 9.30am on Friday and 9am both Saturday and Sunday. The finals are on Sunday," Benge said.

Mr Iain Hyndman
Wanganui Chronicle 29/3/18