NZ riders keen for pre-Olympic hit-out

NZ Newswire July 5, 2012, 9:33 am

New Zealand's London Olympics equestrian team will be riding a narrow line as they contest the high-ranking three-star Aachen event in Germany this weekend.

Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and Jonathan Paget are joined by Olympic reserve Lucy Jackson at the world equestrian festival, which has drawn 43 combinations from 10 countries.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance coach and Aachen chef d'equipe Erik Duvander says the event will be used as a "training ground" to continue to work on team dynamics.

But while he is keen to keep each combination in perfect nick for the Olympics, Duvander says the threat of injury is always in the back of his mind.

"I worry about all of the horses in the last weeks as we build to London, but we can't back down at this stage - we need to keep that competitive edge."

Winning gold at Aachen isn't a priority, but Duvander says his team have the form to threaten.

"None of them will be holding back - our riders are always very competitive."

Nicholson will work on his Olympic mount Nereo, with Todd aboard NZB Grass Valley, Paget on Bullet Proof and Jackson on Kilcoltrim Ambassador.

Todd will also compete as an individual on Olympic team-mate Jonelle Richards' horse Flintstar as Richards sits out the event with an injured wrist.

New Zealand has an impressive track record at Aachen. Last year the team won silver, and in 2010 Nicholson created history as the first non-German rider to win the event.

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