Saturday, April 30, 2011

Amazing photography

I don't know about you, but i think this is a pretty amazing picture....

Back in February at the National Kaimanawa Show, i happened to see a woman wandering around with a camera. At the time i didn't know who she was, or that she was in fact a professional photographer. I just wanted some photos of the stallion, to record the moment of his first show, and being there by myself i couldnt take the pictures, so i sucked up the courage and asked her if she wouldn't mind taking a few snaps and possibly emailing them to me....

It must have been my lucky day, because the photographer turned out to Jan, of Jan Maree Photography , and a few weeks later the most gorgeous images arrived in my inbox.

Matai and me.....

Jan, is not just any old photographer, not only has she won numerous awards, but she was also the official photographer of the 2010 Kaimanawa Wild Horse muster, at the Waiouru army base on the central plateau in New Zealand. The same muster from which Matai and Fern came. The images she captures are absolutely breathtaking, her passion for the horses really shows through.

It was two images from the muster that won at the prestigious NZIPP Ibis Awards. Four of her photos are also printed in the recently released book 'The Horse in New Zealand'. Not only that a percentage of the profit from the sales of Kaimanwa wild horse photographs on her website, gets donated to the same organisation from which i adopted my wild horses, the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Welfare Trust.

It was amazing talking to Jan and listening to her stories of getting right up close and photographing these horses in the wild, when they are still running free from human interference. Not only does she take photos that show the love, friendship, power and awe these horses inspire, Jan has her own kaimanawa horse, so knows first hand just how special they are.

Please check out her website and all the photos of the wild horses, as the photos on this blog do not do her near enough justice, as they are ever so slightly distorted when i upload them. Also if you want your own, or your animals portraits, or a fantastic wedding photographer please click the link below and see her work for yourself

+64 236 8553


To look at her photos of the 2010 muster you can go either to the KWHWT or to Jan's page on her website that is specifically for the Kaimanawa horses http://http//

See if you can spot Fern and Matai in the muster! 100 points to whoever can, as i have tried and just cant decide for myself if its them or not.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

surely not more rain

I thought we'd had our fair share of flooding in the last 12months, apparently not. Heavy rain, and warnings of flash flood was today's forecast. Fantastic.

I'm not going to argue with the weatherman, as i stood in the gathering darkness, and pouring rain, with water trickling through ever seam of my now not waterproof raincoat, i did dearly wish the weatherman had been wrong.

Why is it the the way of the world that it seems to throw me challenges in fading light and wretched weather. Nothing ever goes wrong on beautiful sunny days, but throw in weather warnings and the chance of flash floods, life will always chuck in a couple more challenges just to make everything that much more exciting.

On the weekend we had some heavy rains, which managed to wash out and snap the fence along the back side of the farm, excellent. This happened to be the border of the stallions paddock, and although we moved him onto a new paddock, one fence connected to the fence that was down, and while still intact, didn't have full tension on the wires.

now Matai has been in that paddock all week no problems. There is still an electric wire around the top, which should of kept him in. But alas, the fencing unit broke, so the electric fencing was off. But Matai is an angel and usually very good with fencing. Of course though not today.

I went off to ride the horses, that i ride off-property for clients, and to pick up a new fencing unit. It was a bitter afternoon, riding in the cold rain on spooky horses, that weren't even mine.Needless to say i by the time i got home, i wasn't pleased to find a little brown stallion standing nonchalantly on the other side of the fence next to the rapidly rising stream.

Now this wouldn't be so bad but there is no gate to where the stallion was standing, he had i assumed climbed through the fence as no wire were broken, into an area where we never have stock, the fence is their for the sole purpose of keeping animals away from the stream.

So how to get him back?? there were two options, either walk him up the rapidly rising stream in the dark, or try and get him to go back through the fence... The stream is pretty high in places, and trying to negotiate my way with a horse through deep spots and submerged logs, didn't sound like fun, so i decided on the fence option.

Haltering matai, i then pointed him at the fence, and hoping for a miracle, gave him the single to go forward. He took one look at the fence directly in front of his face and turned gave me a look that obviously said 'no comprehendo'. I tried everything, holding the wires as high as i could against the tension and trying to guide him under with my other hand, he tried as hard as he could to figure out what i was asking, but we were at stalemate, he had no idea what on earth the crazy women in the rain was asking him to do...

Standing there soaked and gumboots slowly filling with water,I literally wanted to scream in frustration, not at the horse, but just at life and the weather gods in general. Why was i always, a 22yr old girl, stuck on the farm alone, in the rain, in the dark, with problems, broken fences and horses to take care of?? My next thought was to prop the fence up with boards high enough so Matai could easily walk under.

so i started off, ducking back under the fence, lumping along in my water filled gumboots. I hadn't gone 5metres, when i heard the wires stretch, and turned to see the wild stallion, push the wires up and walk right under the fence back to the safe side. Huh, well that was easy, why he couldn't figure that i before i will never know. Matai safely back where he needed to be i recaptured him and his paddock mate, taking them away from the stream and to the safely of the barn for the night. Problem solved, now as long as my house doesn't wash away in the night, i will just have to fix the fence in the morning..

I wish that was it, it was completely dark and pouring by the time i got inside, after putting covers on the other 10 horses, locking the sheep and the pony in the shed together, i had to rescue my mothers new former battery hens, who have about the same amount of common sense as Paris Hilton, and were to be found sitting in the middle of their coop on the ground in the rain. At least they are sweet girls and all i had to do was life them into the shed. Sometimes though days like today on the farm, feel like a very bad day at the office.

Monday, April 25, 2011

of orca whales and easter eggs

Its been a good Easter. Happy Easter!! to all my readers, I'm so excited to have 50 followers, it amazing to know that, this many people actually visit my blog and are interested in my wild horses.

Although Easter wasn't particularly beautiful weather in my neck of woods, being autum down here and all,it was spent in great company, with close family friends visiting the farm, for what turned into an all day brunch. The wild stallion, paddocked next to the drive, welcomed everyone onto the property by coming to the fence to say hi, and making himself available to any who might have wanted to pat and scratch him. these holidays are really about family, Friends, and catching up to those people who play important parts in your life. I even helped a good friend and neighbor set up his own blog, so he to can contribute to the world of blogging, check out his blog to

But on this holiday, it was the animals that got me thinking. Holidays like Christmas,Easter thanksgiving,Valentine's day, they are about family, friends,love, kindness and sharing. Those things that make us human, but these are not solely human characteristics. Compassion, sharing, love, kindness and companionship are all throughout the animal world. Not restricted to humans and a handful of domestic species. All social animals, seek out companionship, whether in a herd, flock, pack, or maybe just staying with a mate. Most mammals and many other species choose not to be alone. You only have to watch mother animals, or own a pet to know that animals feel love. we see remarkable stories on TV about wild animals, seeking out companionship with people, and think 'wow how extraordinary But are these the exceptions, or are they just the normal behavior of animals in extraordinary situations?

Long after everyone went home yesterday, i was blobbing, scrolling channels on the tv, when i happened to come across the story of Luna, the lonely lost Orca, of Nookta Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada. Luna ended up orphaned in Nookta Sound without his pod, at only two years of age, he survived for a further four years, before finally being hit by a tugboat propeller and dying. In those four years he sought companionship, coming to visit recreational boat users, seeking socialization and interaction, even playing fetch with pieces of bark, with one of the researchers. Long story short, no one could agree, lots of government bureacracy and indescision, on what to do with Luna, so he was left unprotected. Some researchers desperate to help the little whale,filmed their experiences with him, and tried to protect the aniamal that so desperately didn't want to be alone. Tragically it was while the filmmaker was having his boat fixed and was not there to keep Luna from danger, that the whale was killed. The movie 'Saving Luna' is defiantly recommended to watch, or visit for more imformation

Ok so while this is an extreme case, day to day things like this happen all the time. Orca are extremely social animals and form tight bonds, usually staying within their family group their whole lives. I think no social animal wants to be alone, without their own kind they seek companionship in any form they can. Is a lonely whale choosing to hang out with people, any different really, from humans choosing to take cats and dogs into their homes and families as companionship?

Certainly no herd animals, or humans for that matter are completely happy alone. You see this all the time on the farm. We got given two sheep a few months ago, unfortunately one got in the garden and ate all the rhubarb and died, leaving one sheep alone. Not really thinking of the sheep i put the Shetland pony in its paddock, really just to restrict the ponies diet than anything else. Well a week or two later, i moved the pony to keep another horse company, the next morning the sheep was missing, i searched and searched, no sheep, it didn't answer to its call for food, it was gone.

well it turns out i had overlooked it hiding at the back of a old dog kennel in it paddock, thinking it would come out eventually i left it, three days later the sheep had not left the dog house, not to eat or drink, it just sat in their. by this time i figured it was either sick or stuck. In i crawled, dragged the now very skinny sheep out and examined it. It wasn't sick, and it definitely wasn't stuck, as the second i let it go, it was straight back into the dog house. For the rest of the day it stayed there. in the evening i despaired and put the pony back in the pen. The sheep was out like a flash, straight over to the pony, and promptly started making up lost time on the eating front. The sheep and the pony have been inseparable ever since, the pony not as keen on the sheep, more tolerating than seeking friendship, the sheep though is completely dedicated to the pony. never out of site, it calls out , and will return to the dog house if the pony is taken away, anywhere i lead the pony the sheep follows....

The last of this years calves, now two large weaners are no different, if paddocked with horses, they will hang out with the horses. For weeks they hung with the stallion following him endlessly around the paddock, he at the time was alone, so the wild stallion adopted the cows, and guarded and watched them just as he would his own group of mares, although thankfully he did not try to breed with them.

Even our two wild ducks, that we raised this year, and are definatly not very domesticated at all, every night fly into sleep amongst the geese rather than be alone, no matter that the geese mostly pick on them, mean friends are apparently better than no friends in the big wide world.

The wild stallion and his paddock mate, always choose to come follow you around the paddock, or graze nearby if your working in their, its not as simple as saying they just want food or scratches. As they are never fed in the paddock, and they know this, sometimes they don't even seem to want attention, just would rather have company than be alone.

Our cat is constantly pestering any animal for attention, human, dog, or horse. Many mornings i find her in the barn walking along the stable, rubbing cheek to cheek with Matai, or arching back against the horses legs during the day as i work. In fact much to my dismay, she spends her days in the dirt between the horses legs snoozing in the sun, rather than walking to the house and her cat bed, which she only uses when her humans are in the house.

i could go on and on, there are so many examples. You could argue away all these behaviours as anomalies or survival instincts or any other number of reasons. Yes pack,herd behaviour may to begin with, started as a survial stratergy, but we have evolved a huge range of emotions and needs over millions of years to go with this staergy, that makes up the creatures of todays planet. But basically, i think, when it comes down to it, we may all speak a slightly different language, but humans and animals, we are not so different, we all want the same things really, food,water, shelter and companionship. Sometimes any Friend, is better than none at all...

Happy Easter Everyone, remember all your great friends and family out there...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Won We Won!!!

My little wild stallion is a winner. The wild brown pony from the mountains,got his picture in our national magazine, even a little write up about him too......

Okay, it might not be as exciting as I'm making it sound. There is a competition each month, to see who has done the best job, rehabilitating , a sick, injured, neglected or reconditioned a skinny horse. I thought Matai fit the build pretty well, as he has definately been rehabilitated and looks nothing like the horse that arrived all those long months ago.

Anyway, apparently the editor of the magazine thought so too. Matai won the May edition, of the competition called TuffRock Transitions. Meaning we get some fantastic TuffRock products, valued at $111. A 1.8kg tub of non-medicated poultice, and 1L of conditioner plus to feed to Matai. YAHHHH!!!. i have actually never used their products but friends of mine rave and rave about them, so I'm really excited to receive mine in the mail! TuffRock website here if you want to find out more about their products.

Here are the photos that won me the competition .....

The first one, from Matai's 1st week with us, straight from the wild. The second photos, was from the Kaimanawa show in February, 8 months after muster.

I thought id put this photo in today's post too, because i don't think the other one quite shows how skinny he was, as he had a bit of pot belly from worms, that slightly hid his true condition when you see him side on in a photo. He was pretty damn skinny!

Thankyou to NZ Horse & Pony Magazine, and Tuff rock for the choosing Matai as the winner, i cannot wait to get my prizes in the mail!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good horses are like good food

My life is pretty much horses, horses and more horses. I work my ass off from dawn until dusk, riding and teaching and taking care of horses just to break even. Then on the weekends i go off competing. Balance is hard sometimes. But there is one other thing i have time for and enjoy, cooking.

I'm not going to lie, i make a pretty darn good lemon meringue pie and yummy Mexican with my own home made tortillas, in all honesty i think these two dishes are the only reason my boyfriend puts up with all the time i spend horsing around. I love making my own pickles, chutneys, jams, and am currently addicted to my homemade Hot chili and capsicum jelly. For me there is something just so satisfying in making a meal, or baking a pie, or bottling my own garden produce. Something rewarding, in making something that everyone else can enjoy, its instantly gratifying with baking and cooking.

You start with a recipe, clear cut instructions. you add a certain amount of ingredients, in a certain order, and mix a set way. You put it in the oven, cook for a clear amount of time, then have the satisfaction of having something you made to eat, or give as a gift, or feed someone else. It is instantly rewarding, and to me relaxing and satisfying

With horses the results of your work can take, day,weeks, months usually years before you have something to show for your time. Think about it you break a horse in, ride it, train it, eventually if your like me, take them to competitions. Your looking at about a year to that point. To go through the levels of competition, will take years and years, if you get there at all. You have personal achievements. It is defiantly rewarding, but you work harder and the results are sometimes less obvious and take a lot longer to come around.

Their is no exact recipe for training a horse, i spend a lot of my time perfecting the technique, learning more, and wondering if I'm on the right track. There is no set preparation or "cooking" time, some horses will take a long time to learn certain lessons, while another will breeze through learning a new skill instantly. As far as ingredients, like cooking, the better the ingredients (training) you put in usally the better the end product will be.While there is an order to how you should train a horse, like mixing dry ingredients before adding wet, when it comes down to the tiny nuances of training, the recipes starts to get very vague and it comes down to an instinctive feel to make sure it all comes together in the end. Also like cookbooks there are many horse training manuals, with different recipes for the same thing, and it takes a bit of experimenting to see which method works well for you and gives you the best end product. It can be a bit of a mine field to begin with, a lot of guess work, patience, practice,experimenting and dubious results, before you get the perfect pie (or horse) to show for your efforts.

The point of all this, my wild horses are in that stage, where your just mixing everything together, if you were baking a cake,someone would come look in the mixing bowl and all they would see is mushy wet liquid at this stage. The physical differences are huge, they look completely unlike the horses that arrived almost a year ago. But they are not yet a baked cake.

Its that boring stage where you slog on teaching little things, the stallion getting more comfortable with ridden work, turning better, moving off the leg, refining the aids. Fern is just starting to learn all the groundwork in preparation to being ridden in the near future. There is not any exciting achievements to tell of, there are definitely day to day break throughs, that i am aware of, but to anyone else would be nothing awe inspiring. They are both going great, learning quickly and easily and are basically fantastic horse to work with. But defiantly still in the mixing stage, not yet a beautiful iced cake that you can proudly display to all you friends.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beauty is in the movement

There is beauty in movement. i went to watch the ballet, when it came to town. This is not usually my thing, but i went a long anyway to see what it was like. I was blown away, such power and grace, even though it was only the young and inexperienced performers of our national ballet, they were still simply amazing. Beautiful as they danced. There performances transformed them and captivated the audience. Because what struck me most, from my front row seat, is that when they were'nt moving, they were'nt beautiful. The lead ballerina who looked like a lithe fairy as she danced across stage, was plain featured and gawky when she wasn't moving. The lead male dancer, short and stocky, looked anything but, as he did the most amazing leaps and bounds high into the air. It was the way they moved that made them beautiful, graceful, athletic, and captivated the audience.

Having returned from a horse show on the weekend, the long drive home gave me time to think, and i came to the conclusion that the same is true of horses. Not every horse is beautiful, yet to see a horse jump around of show jumps, dance through a dressage test, they become majestic graceful and powerful. Just like human dancer the way they move and how the hold themselves is what can captivate the audience.

when i worked in a dressage stable, i was lucky enough to see horses come in as plain as plain could be, some had conformation flaws, were fat, some were not even particularly athletic. yet i watched them through their training become more and more beautiful. Correct work developed muscles that hid most flaws in build, as they changed they way they moved, they looked more athletic, there head carriage changed them from plain to proud looking. By the time they got to Grand prix, you would watch them go around the arena and they would look every inch the super star. The guy i worked for had a real knack for turning something ordinary into the extrodinary. As soon as they were back standing in the stable, the transformation ended, they would go back to normal looking horses.

i watched horses jumping this weekend, galloping around the cross country course, you would see a horse, and be blown away by it sheer power and agility. Yet seeing the same horse in the stable area, it wouldn't look any different to the horse next to it. There was even a Kaimanawa crossbred, competing in the same class as me. it was a small nimble little thing, yet looked, athletic and handsome as any other horse to see it out jumping.

I find the same with my own horses. The wild stallion looks like a small brown pony, quite unremarkable, to see him standing in the barn. Yet today when i finally got around to working him, (for the first time in weeks) he looked anything but plain. He grows about two inches as he trots around, his movement making him looked poised and powerful, and his head carriage and that long flowing mane give him the proud look of a stallion. I'm not the only one to notice this, family and friends who have all rolled their eyes at my 'wild project pony' have changed opinions once they have seen him move. Not that his movement is that amazing, just his over all presence changes while hes in action. He is beautiful in movement.

Not just humans and horses, but even my lovable and timid Lucy,the dog pound dog, becomes beautiful to see her in action, running and leaping across the paddock. Movement transforms the the ordinary into something more magical. Look at the gymnasts you see at the Olympics, the runners, the dressage horses, the eventers, dancers, and athletes of all kinds. There is beauty in what you do, and something beautiful in seeing anybody move with power poise and grace. Not all of us are lucky enough to be born looking like supermodels, but we can all strive to do something beautifully. Trust me those horses and riders that are jaw droppingly beautiful to watch dance round the arena, are just like you and me the rest of the time.