There’s a back story to Paxton Conder’s win in the Hinterland Amateur Rider Series that makes it even more extraordinary. This is her first season back showjumping since she broke her back while riding a steeplechaser in 2014. She broke the C1 – one that is considered one of the most severe spinal cord injuries.
The 24-year-old marketer for Pukekohe Park knew exactly what she and La Fonteyn had to do in the grand final to take out the series. They’ve only been together this season but came into the final in pole position which in itself was rather nerve-wracking.
“It was all about watching the leaderboard and I knew I had to be in the top five today. The season has just been phenomenal,” she said. “It is more than I could have asked for. We have done a lot this season and La Fonteyn has been just a trooper.”
Paxton never considered not getting back on a horse after her accident. “It was just never an option,” she said. “I knew I had to do what I needed to, to get back into it.” She was in a brace for eight months and back on a horse three weeks before she actually got clearance. She started with a little show hunter but quickly decided back showjumping was where she needed to be. “I couldn’t wait to get back riding. I have always loved it and horses are such a huge part of my life.”
Her parents Annette and Darrell have been huge supporters and were at the grand final to see her win the series. “They are just amazing in their support,” said Paxton. “I have always been very strong willed and determined so they knew I would be back riding but they are a lot more wary now.” Her partner Tom Kirkbride has also been right there by her side.
Her plan for the 2018-2019 season was to take things slowly and build from there but a win at their first amateur outing at Rotorua changed things. “I have never chased a series before . . . it’s bloody hard work and so exciting. It is incredible to win.”
And especially considering the journey. “To have a season like this is just crazy and it is even more special because I really think she is a horse for the future.” Her ultimate goal is the Lady Rider of the Year at HOY.
In the grand final, 11 of the 21 starters went clear in the opening round where the top four all kept their slates clean, but in the end Emily Kozlowski (Carterton) and Double J Wilma came out on top, with Jenny Randall (Gisborne) and Nero Bello second and Holly Baines (Gisborne) on Halo third.
By Diana Dobson
Hinterland Amateur Rider Series:
1st Paxton Conder (Whatawhata) 110 points
2nd Kate Perry (Rakaia) 101 points
3rd Jess Land (Canterbury) 98 points
4th Margaret Ridley (Canterbury) 93 points
5th Marcus Rose (Dannevirke) 84 points
6th Amy Schischka (Auckland) 83 points
Hinterland Amateur Rider Grand Final:
1st Emily Kozlowski (Carterton) Double J Wilma
2nd Jenny Randall (Gisborne) Nero Bello
3rd Holly Baines (Gisborne) Halo
4th Kate Perry (Rakaia) Casiraghi
5th Jess Land (Canterbury) Emilio MSH
6th Paxton Conder (Whatawhata) La Fonteyn