By Gary Caffell
Eketahuna horseman Shane Dougan has mixed feelings over the possibility of his promising endurance horse Taralea Sheer Illusion being sold.
The grey 9-year-old combined with Dougan to top the national Horse and Rider of the Year endurance riding rankings for 2008-09 with 118 points, 25 points clear of their nearest rivals.
But whether they will continue their association will depend on current negotiations to sell Taralea Sheer Illusion to Arabian interests coming to fruition or, conversely, coming to nothing.
Either way Dougan believes he is on a winner such is the potential he sees in his star charge who he has owned for about three years.
"He's very promising, he could go right to the top," Dougan said of Taralea Sheer Illusion who is himself of Arab descent.
"He's strong and he's athletic, he's got all the qualities you want."
The national endurance championships at Whareama at Easter saw Taralea Sheer Illusion compete over 100km for the first time and his effort to place 10th, and win the heavyweight (rider weighing over 90kg) title at the same time, delighted Dougan.
"For us it was just a matter of completing the course without putting too much stress on the horse and he took everything in his stride," Dougan said.
"He'll get the longer distances no problem, and that's probably where his future lies now."
Dougan's partner Jenny Champion and Freckles were seventh on the national Horse and Rider rankings while in the junior section Wairarapa's Natalie Bickerton and Moroccan Fyre were sixth and Tessa Deuss and AH Starlight Express eighth.
Early next month will see Champion heading to South Africa as part of a six-strong Kiwi contingent who will take part in that country's endurance riding championships. They will ride South African horses over 200km in a race scheduled to start on July 7 and finish on July 9.
Representing her country is nothing new for Champion who has competed internationally in Italy and Australia and she has won the national 160km title with Freckles on two occasions, plus finishing runner-up at Whareama.