Groom off to Europe, US with top rider

Dunedin equestrian Clarke Johnstone, on horse Balmoral Sensation, and Wanaka groom Lydia Beales...
Dunedin equestrian Clarke Johnstone, on horse Balmoral Sensation, and Wanaka groom Lydia Beales are ready to take on the world this year. PHOTO: JANE THOMPSON
Landing a "huge role'' will mean some globe-trotting for a Wanaka groom.

Early next month, Lydia Beales will travel to Europe alongside Dunedin born-and-bred Olympic equestrian Clarke Johnstone as groom for his horse Balmoral Sensation, and will join the duo later in the year at the World Equestrian Championships in the United States.

It will not be the first such experience for Ms Beales.

She has been a groom for about eight years, and has worked with Mr Johnstone throughout that time, including the campaign trails for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

She said being a groom for a top-level athlete was a "huge role''.

"The responsibilities are not just brushing the horses - it's helping to train them, conditioning them, working out feeding regimes, making sure the horses are cared for properly. It's not just cleaning them.''

From her experience with Balmoral Sensation, also known as Ritchie, a top-level equestrian horse was like any human athlete.

"Horses at the top of their game act like true athletes. Ritchie's like the Usain Bolt of New Zealand for me. He knows what to do, he enjoys it, he expects it.''

Together, the trio won an eventing gold medal in Adelaide last year in a competition that was "a higher level than the Olympics''.

Ms Beales said the goal at the world championships was to walk away with a medal in both the team and individual events.

Away from the stables, Ms Beales is in her final year studying vet nursing at Otago Polytechnic, although she said globe-trotting as a groom was a "dream job''.

While "not on the immediate goal plan'', she would not complain if Mr Johnstone asked her to go to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, she said.

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