Megan Liefting’s comeback to competitive riding can be chalked up as a success after the accomplished horsewoman and her homebred gelding Just Got Home (Storming Home – Justa Tad) were awarded the NZTBA Judge’s Choice Award at the Beyond the Barriers Ex Factor competition held at Equifest on the weekend.
Run by Gina Schick and Nicky Wallace, the competition showcases the versatility of thoroughbreds over a variety of events and is open to horses new to their sport horse career, having embarked on this stage of their life no earlier than October 2019.
The inaugural NZTBA Judge’s Choice Award was presented to a combination who epitomised the Beyond the Barriers purpose - a pair whose transition from racehorse to riding horse stood out to the judge.
Liefting hasn’t ridden much in the last 11 years, let alone competed, so was understandably thrilled with her results at Taupo, made all the more special as her partner was a horse she has known since he was born.
“It was fantastic,” Liefting said. “I had followed Beyond The Barriers a little bit but I hadn’t competed in it.
“I haven’t ridden for quite a few years. I had a bad injury 11 years ago where I fractured my back, I crushed L1, and pretty much haven’t been on a horse since then.”
Bred by the Lieftings, Just Got Home, or 'Taddy' as he is affectionately known, was a talented galloper who was at his best when racing over jumps. His 12 career wins included two editions of the Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle (3350m) and the Wellington Hurdle (3400m).
Liefting had been trying to find Just Got Home a suitable home since his retirement in September last year but hadn’t found the right fit so decided to enter the Ex Factor Competition.
“I had tried him at a couple of lease homes but they didn’t work out,” she said. “I got him back just before the entries closed and I decided that since I couldn’t find anyone else to ride him, I would give it a go myself.
“He has always been a fantastic jumper. Emily Farr and most of the jumps jockeys that have ridden him have been huge fans of him because you always felt really safe jumping him.
“I competed in the High Jump, Cowboy Challenge and the show jumping. I was expecting him to be full on and he didn’t prove me wrong.”
Liefting describes Just Got Home as a quirky horse who likes to get on with things, a trait that was prevalent throughout his racing career.
“He is full of quirks,” she said. “He can be as quiet on anything on some occasions, my daughter can lead him around and he is as good as gold but personality wise he is a bit all over the place. He is full on.
“He has flown to Australia and the South Island and you will never change him. He paws the hell out of the float and is just constant.”
Quirks aside, 13-year-old Just Got Home is obviously a well-loved member of the family and a horse the Lieftings have had a long association with.
Just Got Home is out of Justa Tad (Istidaad – Infinity), a mare Rudy Liefting bought for $1000 at the 2002 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale and who went on to win four times at Group level, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m). She was also runner up in the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) and placed at stakes level on a further five occasions.
By Storming Home, Just Got Home was the first foal out of Justa Tad who went on to produce a further eight foals before she was euthanised last year following a paddock accident.
Justa Tad’s legacy continues with the Lieftings retaining several of her progeny, including 11-year-old entire Move Faster (Keeper) who covers a small number of mares each season.
“We have an Ocean Park filly, a Jimmy Choux filly and an Ekraar colt still,” Liefting said.
“When the Ekraar was a month old we think a mare in the paddock next to them kicked Justa Tad and broke her leg so we ended up hand rearing him.
“Justa Tad created quite a network of friends for us. Erina Shattock bought one out of the family and pinhooked it very successfully to Australia.
“We got to know Don Arnold who bought Justa Tad’s dam Infinity in foal to Shinko King so we ended up training for him as well. We have quite a history with the family.”
Liefting is already eyeing potential Ex Factor competitors and has plans to return to the competition in the future.
“I definitely have a couple in the paddock for 2022,” she said. “I have my eye on a couple of ours which I adore.
“One is by Move Faster, Just Got Home’s half-brother.
“I think the event is fantastic and we need competitions like Ex Factor. It keeps the thoroughbreds in the public eye.
“People often think you want warmbloods for show jumping and as sport horses but I don’t think you can beat a nice thoroughbred.
“Their agility and athleticism can’t be surpassed.” -Amie Best, NZTBA