Pint-sized pocket rocket Olivia Dalton has shown herself as one to watch for the future. The EQUITANA Auckland ambassador made the switch from tennis to riding when she hit double digits and has never looked back.
She comes from rather credentialed sporting bloodlines – her father Grant Dalton is a legend in sailing circles. He is the boss of Emirates Team New Zealand, steered the team to victory in the 35th America’s Cup and has raced around the globe seven times, including victory aboard Club Med. So it is no surprise the steely determination of her cherub face belies her 18 years.
Tennis was her game from the age of four til 10, with lots of success in Grasshopper tournaments and more, as she followed her older brother Mack around the circuit. Livvie’s godmother Gaye Cruickshank and her daughter Sarah had always had horses and often took her to visit their horses. “Mum used to ride when she was younger and was against the idea of me riding in the beginning,” says Livvie. “We lived in town and it just wasn’t going to work.”
Fast forward a few years and Livvie and mum Nicki are on the road every weekend during the season heading to shows all over the North Island with a team of horses. “Somehow I managed to convince her! She helps me out so much and is so good to me . . . I would be lost without her and am so grateful.”
Livvie’s first pony was an 11.3hh Welsh called Kale – or Naughty Kale in full. “Mum spent a lot of time running along beside me trying to get me to canter. I loved Kale though and we had plenty of fun at Clevedon Pony Club together.”
Kale was sold and in came A Flick of Toi who Livvie competed in show hunter. “That was pretty successful but I definitely needed more of a challenge and wanted to do showjumping. We would go to Woodhill Sands all the time and I would watch the showjumping – that was what I wanted to do.”
So they bought Magpie – a hugely successful pony who they still own but at 23 is on loan to the RDA. “He is a very special boy,” says Livvie. “I just love him.” Magpie had previously enjoyed plenty of success in show hunter with Lily Tootill. It took Livvie a while to switch out of show hunter mode and in to showjumping. “I would go really slow in my rounds, to the outside of fences and do wide corners.”
Her first big win was aboard another stellar pony, Hopeful Illusion on whom she won the 1.1m championship at the Horse of the year Show. “That was so cool. The presentation was in ring one and I just couldn’t believe it.” The following season they leased Simply Samantha and she stepped up to Pony Grand Prix level.
Then came a run of Australian imports – the stallion Bling du Rouet who they subsequently gelded, Cil Dara Bonaparte and Yalambi’s Garibaldi. The latter two coming through her trainer Tom Tarver. “He is super relaxed,” says Livvie of Tom. “He always has a plan and just keeps my head level before a round. I feel braveness is quite a big thing that I struggle with so have to just try and ignore that.”
Livvie has just finished school and says it is all still a little surreal. “I don’t feel I am old enough to be out of school but it is great to finally be free to do what I want.”
She’s hoping to line up in her first FEI World Cup (NZ League) qualifier this season and continues to dream of a HOY title.
For Livvie, the sport of showjumping is something she truly adores. “I love the challenge and that it is never the same. When you do a good round, it is so cool and all that hard work pays off.”
// 21-24 November 2019