The New Zealand eventing team and entire top-level training programme will relocate to the UK this spring in preparation for the London 2012 Olympics.

The Kiwis aim to better the team bronze medal they secured at last autumn’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) and have already named their five-strong 2012 squad.

“Our riders need to compete against the best in the world — in the UK and Europe,” said team coach Erik Duvander.

“We want to utilise the available team events, such as Aachen, the Olympic test event in London [in July] and our group Olympic qualifier against Japan and Australia, in our team preparations.”

Three of the squad — Andrew Nicholson (selected with four horses), Mark Todd and Caroline Powell — have been based in the UK on and off since before the 1990s.

Jonathan Paget competed from Dunsfold, Surrey, during the 2010 eventing season and will return for Badminton, while Clarke Johnstone will be based in the UK for the first time.

“I am very excited to be moving to Britain for the lead-up to London,” said Mr Johnstone, who will make a short trip over next month to scout out potential bases and move in April, with four horses.

“It will mean I shouldn’t have any worries with acclimatisation, which was a bit of an issue in Kentucky, having travelled from the southern hemisphere just before WEG.”

Several of the NZ support team, such as the farrier and vet, are also already living and working in the UK, and Mr Duvander will follow suit in the spring with his family.

The Kiwis have long been renowned for strong jumping performances and they are building their strategy around improving their dressage.

Their coaches in this phase will include Kyra Kyrklund and Judy Bradwell, who are both based in the UK.

But Mr Duvander has not ruled out visits to the Continent as well.

“The riders are currently using very good European trainers in the UK,” he said. “But some might travel for shorter stints to other European countries for further dressage improvement.”

New Zealand has already won three Olympic gold medals in eventing, won by Blyth Tait at Atlanta 1996 and Mark Todd at Seoul 1998 and Los Angeles 1984.

They also have two silver and four bronze medals in the cabinet.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (20 January, 2011)