By Ashlee Butler
Kiwi equestrian rider Jonathan Paget is full of confidence going into the London Olympics – despite it being his first ever Games.
The 28-year-old will compete alongside Olympic veteran and two-time gold medallist Mark Todd on the New Zealand Equestrian Eventing team.
“I think we are in a fortunate position this year as we have a strong team with lots of great experience and good combinations,” he says. “Hopefully the cross-country course will suit the New Zealand style of riding.”
Other riders on the team include Andrew Nicholson, Caroline Powell and Jonelle Richards.
The team must score well in all three phases of their competition – dressage, cross-country and show jumping – to have a chance at medals.
Paget only began horse riding when he was 18 years old, but quickly excelled at the sport.
He says his father was his biggest influence in riding and brought him his first horse.
“That's where it all started,” he says.
Within two years Paget went from never having jumped to competing in the second highest Eventing level in New Zealand.
Since then Paget has seen great success, winning Eventer of the Year at the NZ Horse of the Year Show in 2009 and 2010, and placing first at the Bramham International Horse Trials in 2011.
Although Paget took to the sport quickly, he says it takes a lot of hard work to be successful.
He trains everyday and rides at least eight horses per day.
Paget has twelve competition horses, one working pupil and a groom at his UK base in Dunsfold, Surrey.
But come the Olympics, Paget will be riding just one horse: Clifton Promise.
The horse is a 13-year-old NZTB Gelding and helped Paget win New Zealand’s Top Eventing Combination Award in 2008/2009 and was the horse he rode when New Zealand won a silver medal at the Aachen CHIO World Equestrian Festival in 2011.
Paget – carrying his lucky whip – will compete on July 28 and July 31, aiming for both an individual and team placing.
Ashlee Butler is a young writer-in-training for the 3 News ‘3Youth’ programme.