Vaughn Jefferis represented New Zealand at two Olympics and three world championships and, but for the extraordinary deeds of his contemporaries Blyth Tait and Mark Todd, would have been hailed as a superstar.
The Matangi-based rider grew up on a farm in the Waikato and was around horses from when he learned to walk. He received early formal coaching from two Englishwomen, Suzanne Dickens and Elaine Knox-Thompson, but later the person who most influenced his riding was Carl Hester, especially in dressage.
For a time Jefferis focused on show-jumping, and he qualified for the 1985 World Cup final in Gothenburg. Jefferis spent much of 1985 show-jumping in the United States, working with John Madden, who went on to become a noted American trainer.
In 1990 Jefferis, who had transferred his interest to three-day eventing, competed in the world championships in Stockholm, where he rode Enterprise. New Zealand won the team title in Stockholm.
Then Jefferis bought seven-year-old Bounce for $60,000 and they formed a combination that was to take the three-day evening world by storm over the next few years. Jefferis rode Bounce to the world individual title in The Hague in 1994. Two years later he was part of the New Zealand team – along with Vicky Latta, Andrew Nicholson and Blyth Tait - that won a bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics.
In 1998 Jefferis, again on Bounce, helped New Zealand to win the world team title at Rome.
Jefferis, four times the national champion, closed his international riding career at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when he was part of the New Zealand team. Jefferis had an outstanding opening day in the dressage, but a series of disasters befell the New Zealanders in the cross-country, and the team was withdrawn. Bounce was retired after those Olympics.
The colourful and at times outspoken Jefferis rode Bounce five times at the prestigious Badminton event, his best placings being second (in 1996) and third (in 1994). Unlike some of his contemporaries, Jefferis never based himself in England, preferring to return to New Zealand after each northern hemisphere season.
After retiring as an international rider, Jefferis concentrated on producing and selling quality horses, and coaching.
Jefferis was a finalist in the Halberg Awards Sportsman of the Year category in 1994 and a team finalist in 1996. In 1998 the New Zealand team, including Jefferis, won the Halberg Award for Team of the Year.