ANENDRA SINGH Sue Thompson is at the crossroads of her riding career.
She and her 11-year-old gelding, Air Hill The Rajah, find out next month in Australia if the Hastings equestrian still has a future overseas.
"It's been a nightmare of a year for me but if my horse puts his best foot forward then who knows. Put it this way - I'll know after that whether I will go overseas or remain in New Zealand and just be a big fish in a small pond," Thompson tells SportToday.
Last week she found out from Equestrian New Zealand that she is part of a New Zealand team to Brisbane from June 14 to August 5 to compete in four events.
Significantly, the Thompson pairing, 2007 Kelt Capital Horse of the Year Show supreme winner Oliver Edgecombe, of Waipukurau, and Cambridge riders Catherine Cameron (two horses), Mark Brookes and Katie McVean face the daunting but exciting prospect of helping a New Zealand team qualify for the Beijing Olympics in Hong Kong next year.
From June 16, another Europe-based team of Kiwi showjumpers Bruce Goodin, Daniel Meech, of Hastings, Kirk Webbey, Grant Wilson and Sharn Wordley will be competing in Balve, Germany, as well.
Up for grabs for both teams of riders are places for the Kentucky World Championship in the US in 2010.
High performance director and McVean's father, Jeff McVean, told SportToday the snap decision to send a team to Brisbane was to expose the riders and mounts to overseas conditions.
Juxtaposing his daughter Katie, who turns 21 next week, with Thompson, 46, reveals a gulf in overseas experience. Katie has been competing offshore for the past six years while Thompson says she has "zilch experience".
Riders of her era had other commitments - Thompson had to curtail her career to look after her (late) sick mum, Jane; Edgecombe has a farm and Cameron and her partner have a horse stable business - and nine out of 10 times a lack of money was a major factor.
"It's been very frustrating. We have all been to the UK and the US and seen and had a taste of it but couldn't carry it on."
Like many riders, she sold some quality horses to make ends meet but Hastings merchant banker Sam Kelt's consistent injection into the HOY Show over the years had made it lucrative for them to keep their mounts.
Air Hill The Rajah's Bay owners, Paul and Carol Nelson, of Air Hill Stud, on State Highway 50, thought about going to the US last year after the World Cup but uncertainty surrounding further travel from Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, put paid to that.
"A former New Zealand trainer, Graham (Butch) Thomas, lives in San Francisco, California, where he has worked with riders such as Duncan Macfarlane and Peter Breakwell. We wanted to go to him but it didn't happen."
Thompson, who went to England in 1977 for seven months as a 17-year-old with the then recently married McVeans, Jeff and Vicky, says the couple had done a marvellous job with the demeanour of their daughter Katie, who in 2003 became the youngest rider at 16 to represent her country in showjumping.
Next month, the national team to Brisbane will compete in the Queensland State Championship in Maryborough on June 14, the Elysian Fields teams' event, the $A50,000 class in Elysian Fields the following week and the trip culminates with the Toowoomba World Cup trial on August 4-5.