Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why I do what I do...

God, Im beyond tired. I feel like I need toothpicks to prop my eyes open. Between having to stay up until 4am every night to watch the eventing live on tv form the Olympics. Training wild horses by day, and organizing fundraising for my upcoming trip to Fiji, I feel I'm burning the candle to the core,at both ends.

Luckily I have such amazing wild horses, who want to work, and that put up with a trainer who was defintly not as alert as usal today.

For me this Fiji trip is really important,I loved my time spent in Egypt. Working with the animals and also the people. I know Fiji will probably be the same, at times heartbreaking at other inspiring. But I think it's important that when you can you do your bit to help other, whether it be animals or people. This is what got me into training wild horses, to be able to show the potential of these animals that otherwise had no future, to save a few lives. The work I do with Kiwi Care Team, I do for the same reasons, hopefully to help improve a few lives, and offer relief to those suffering. I know I won't change the world. But animal welfare is defintly an issue that's close to my heart, and at the end of the day makes me feel good about myself, keeps me driven to do more,see more and help more. It's and adventure as well, and a adrenalin rush, working in exotic places like Egypt as well as training wild horses. So really maybe all I actually am,is an adrenalin junkie...although right now I feel like I need a shot of adrenaline just to keep me awake.

For those who maybe wernt readers and didn't know about the Egypt work, here are some photos from the trip, maybe you can see what inspires me to keep doing this kind of work.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Finally photos

Okay so it was weeks ago that I actually sat on miro for the first time, but almost a month later here are some photo of me actually riding him. This is the problem when you work alone, there is no one to document your progress.
Love this horse, so special. Had a great ride around the farm today, he was an angel, but most young horses I find are, when you give them the chance, wild horses however are calmer than most.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Miro gets a saddle for the first time and goes exploring around the farm

Friday, July 20, 2012

My good old saddle

I wanted to share a story about a saddle with you, or just a story about why I love riding, and how a lot of my ideas and training methods came about. Because that, at the end of the day is why I have horses, because I enjoy it.

When I was a bit younger I think I was something like fourteen, maybe fifteen years old. My mum brought me a brand new saddle, the lady I was taking lessons from had said it was time, which in itself made me proud,I needed a proper jumping saddle, so mum, bless her, went out and got me one. Not just any saddle, a brand new jumping saddle, it was my pride and joy. A flat seat, close contact, and pristine tan leather.I was going to treasure it.

Now our winters, while not to cold, are wet, and where I live on clay soils, this means mud, and not just a little bit of it. Thick, deep,sticky, mud and if its not deep, it's slick and slippery. Just riding one horse usually mean the horse and you come back coated in the terrible stuff. It wreaks havoc on good quality horse gear.Any leather has to constantly be washed and dressed or otherwise end up, brittle, moldy, and scarred from the ingrained dirt and wet.

My brand new tan leather saddle, didnt need to be subjected to this kind of treatment.. Somewhere in that teenage brain, I'm sure was the thought, that cleaning gear was a chore, I just didn't have 'time' for. So in my mind at the time, my treasured saddle, if it was to stay new and beautiful, was only to be used for lesson, or competitions. Not for farm riding. Plus in those days, I just like to jump on my horse and ride, bareback, back to front it didn't matter.

To my mothers dismay, I stored my jumping saddle away, and most of the time, continued to hoon my ponies around bareback. (things havnt changed much, mum brought me lovely leather boots recently,she thought were for on the farm, but they are safely stowed away in my cupboard, while I clomp around in cheap rubber gumboots) I was lucky in the fact that my two best freinds were also horse riders, and my most of my teenage memories revolve around adventures with these two on horse back. Usally making homemade jumps, galloping around paddock and roadside, breaking in horses and doubling on our ponies,generally just seeing how far we could push the envelope wihtou coming to serious harm. Amoung the three us, there was definetly a good dose of competivness. When I wasn't with them, I continued to see what I could do, so that when we met up again I had some new tricks or show off.

Bareback was defintly my specialty, the months of doing everything saddleless,for fear that I would damage my new saddle meant I developed the ability to stick on my horse like glue. Every day after school I would ride my pony along a dirt track by our house, on which I had constructed various obstacles, like tree branches, barrels, and brushes to jump. Or other wise I just galloped up and down the hill, the steeper the better.

Even when we moved houses, and had more horses, I still only had one saddle, and I loved riding bareback anyway so I continued the tradition, winter = bareback riding. From my adventures with my freind where we had to sneakily get on unbroken horses without our parents finding out, I discovered that horses actually cope really well, with people just hoping on them without a saddle,and generally were much calmer about the whole process, so ever since I have always broken my horses in ,by first riding them bare back then introducing the saddle.

I've always liked riding without a saddle. But after finishing high school, and workings in barns riding properly for a few years, I was so focused on competing and training, the galloping around bareback slipped to the back of my mind. I thought I'd out grown it. Even though I still did break my own horses in bareback, I never really did more than than. I'd forgotten the daring feats of being a teenager and doing xcountry courses with no saddle, I'm grown up now right?

Well its a wet and muddy winter again, and my old saddle, is well worn, and obviously has earned some respect. In the last ten years, it carried me to wining a national series, countless wins and placing in eventing and showjumping, and has been squeezed on every size, shape and variety of horse. Most of the ribbons, rosettes, and rugs I have won have been collected in this saddle. It's had countless hours riding, and been used in the wet, mud, rain at competitions. It's got scratches, watermarks, stains, and in places the leather is worn almost paper thin. When it was new, it was cool, the latest style out, now ot looks almost old fasioned, with all the new saddle on the market.Yet it still does the job, the horrible joke, is that it still is my only jumping saddle, even though i ride a huge a variety of horses, compete at a high level, and this is my profession, I still havnt quite got around to buying a new saddle, it's on the list, one day..but other expenses keep cropping up. So it gets chucked on every horse I need to jump (I have a much bigger range of dressage saddles), and somehow with the help of various pad and blankets, i get it to fit well enough, to pop my horses over some fences. But the poor old saddle definetly has had a hard life despite all my efforts to keep it in pristine condition.

When my old freind came up for some horse riding, it was time to be teenagers again, and give the old saddle a day off. I remembered how much fun I used to have just jumping bareback and playing around on horse back. So here's the pics, riding the wild mare just like I used to ride my ponies back in the good old days. Having a blast out cross country schooling..it's funny though how it was a saddle that taught me to ride bareback.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fifty shades of nay!

It's been fifty days since the wild horses were mustered. I wouldn't even realize it was day fifty except I saw someone else mention it on Facebook.

How the hell has fifty days gone by so fast? Yet it seems a century ago that the horses were stepping off the truck. I can't believe how much they have changed in such a short time. They are barely recognizable as the same horses. From timid,shy and bedraggled, to absolutely confident in there new life.

First of all the fact that some of them are already off succeeding in their new lives. I get updates from the owners all the time, and the wild boys are doing great. Both owners already want wild horses from the next muster!

My boy Miro, is waiting for me every morning at his gate, loves coming into his stable, and watches and greets from his stable every time in near. I can't complain to much about the mud, when I'm lucky enough to be greeted by this face every day!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wild vs "wild"

I'm pretty even tempered, I know how to bite my tongue, nod, smile sweetly, and pretend to agree when I need to. I'm pretty good at seeing a lost cause on a conversation and moving on. Years of trying to explain how to train horses to people, who just don't want to listen has given me this ability. But some things, still manage to make my blood boil. I'm firmly of the belief that most problems with horses are people problems. I know that most people, don't have the time, inclination or resources to be great horse trainers, and that's fine because most people know that they're not amazing and still treat there horses nicely. I don't think everyone has to break in there own horses, or work with wild ones, know how to handle a stallion, or be a competitive rider to be good and enjoy there equine partners. I do think you have to have some empathy and humility though. So the one thing ( or rather one of the things) that drives me crazy, is when I hear from people, who go on, and on, and on, about how it's all the horse fault...

Things like, the horse is crazy, mean, planned how it was going to get its rider off. Horses definetly don't plan things, they only ever react to what's going on around them at that exact moment. better yet it's always the previous owner, trainer, or some event in the animals past that made it the way it is. Never the current owner/ riders fault, to be fair this can happen, but often it's people who have the horse now that are at fault. But the excuse I keep hearing again and again, over the last few years is "oh it came from the wild"

This has nothing to do with anything! My horses that have come from muster, are well behaved, lovely horses, and most of them are stallions, as a breed they are some of the most sensible, calm, and easy to train horses I've ever worked with. But the fact that it could have been "wild" at one point is a fantastic excuse for some people. The thing is, that not a single horse "that probably came from the wild" that I have had to work with, actually has been from the wild, they are always just ordinary horses, sometimes with unknown breeding or history and people just use the "wild" thing as an excuse.

This is sad in two ways. Firstly it gives the real wild horses, that are generally really sweet and easy to work with, an undeserved bad reputation. Secondly it just another excuse, to not improve ones own skills, by blaming it on the horse.

Horses are prey animals, it alway pays to remember this, they think and react differently from your domestic dog. Yet people wonder why when they chase their supposedly wild horse, around a paddock on a motor bike trying to catch it, it start bolting through fences. Or when they decide to throw a saddle on one day to break it in, it bucks like crazy until saddle comes off, because it's never been worked before, it therefore must be a wild one. Urghh! I swear I've heard every dumb idea form a person, blamed on wild horses. All this behavior is because the horse is terrified not because it was once wild.

To cut along story short, I brought a couple of ponies last year for really cheap, because they were in a sorry state, they we're all unbroken supposedly, and one they thought must be " one of those wild ones that they muster up every year" because she was really nasty. He also went on to say he thought all the kaimanawa horses were a waste, and should be entirely eradicated, because they were probably all like this one.I knew this little mare wasn't from the wild, because she looked exactly like a typical little welsh pony that had learned a few tricks, and nothing like a Kaimanawa that I'd ever seen. I also knew I shouldn't buy her, because any horse that has been half broken in, and had problems, is always the hardest to fix and usally always is a little bit unreliable, for a long time afterwords. But I felt bad for the pony, she was intelligent and pretty so she came home with me.

Little Bramble, as she was named for her prickly personality, was a nightmare, and just as much trouble as I thought she was going to be. Hard to catch, rude, very quick to react and very smart.I actually ended up having a hospital visit, due to a kick from her. You could tell immdeintly that this horse had learned from some bad experiences. She would see you coming with a saddle, and just explode into bucks, before the saddle even touched her back, proof she knew what it was, she wasn't happy about it and knew how to solve the problem. Once the saddle was on, she would either come at you bucking, or try to pull free. The only thing in her favor is that no one had ever tried to ride her, so she had no problems with someone actually sitting on her, having no learned bad experiences past the point of having a saddle on her back. Today I can happily say, she's a lovely 4yr old pony, that loves to be worked and waits at the gate for you, she is still a little spitfire in personality, but now channels her energy into trying to please rather than escape.

Poor little Bramble, it took a year to undo what probably took a idiot with a rope,no time at all to create. This is why real wild horses are so much easier to train, than so called "wild" horses, there is no retraining involved.

So when her idiot, old owner rang to enquire how the ponies he sold were doing, and explain in a voice as if he'd was talking to a child, that he had come across another horse that was "obviously another Kaimanawa " because he'd tried to break it in and it acted the same way. To him more proof, in his mind, all horses tht couldn't cope with his training were wild. He repeated, that only bad horses got let loose in the ranges, and should all be shot. Oh and would I be interested in buying this one too? since I obviously knew a thing or to about wild horses.... That was final straw,I slammed the phone down, hanging up on him mid sentence,
he was just one excuse, and one idiot to many for me to cope with today. I stomped outside blood boiling, and went and played with my stallion, totally docile and charming, who unlike this moron's horse actually was running wild in the mountains six weeks ago....

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fiji baby

I hate this time of year. It's awful, there's no point pretending otherwise. Mud and rain, constantly makes my life miserable, I know I've said this before, but it's my life at the moment. Working with horsess this time of year is, less horse training time, and more mucking out stables, feeding out hay in the pastures, and just wading through deep mud constantly. It's hard to get any horse training in, to wet to ride on the paddocks, and with twice the hrose care work load, I find this time of year depressing, you feel exhausted every day and no great achievements to show for it, the is the weather for just surviving through it. But there is hope on the horizon.

Most readers will know I went to Egypt a few months ago, to do volunteer work over there, mostly with horses, but camels, donkeys and a few small animals featured as well. It's happening again, in six weeks I'm off, this time to Fiji, and the tropics are sounding really good right now, let me tell you! It will be focusing on caring for animals, as well as trying to educate locals in better animal care practices.

I can't wait, I love this kind of work. Just getting to work with a team of people rather than by myself is nice, but combine that with exotic places, animals and a feeling of making a differance and your on to a wining formula. While it was long exhausting days, and at times heartbreaking in Egypt, and I'm sure it will be the same in Fiji, it absolutely what I love.I don't mind the work, you feel like your achieving something, and
making a difference . I'll be traveling with the same people and organisation again Kiwi Care Team, http://www.facebook.com/KiwiCareTeam I can't wait, I loved working with other knowledgable horse people who specialize in differant fields from me. I learned so much last time and am looking forward to doing the same again.

So while tomorrow might be another day of hard slog,and a sense of un-accomplishment at least it will be one day closer to tropical holidays.. I can't wait.Here's a few pics of the Egypt trip, hopefully for the animals sake things aren't quite as bad in Fiji....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Miro gets first ride today.

So today Miro had his first official ride. I sat on him once before but, today he was ridden properly.

In typical Kaimanawa fashion he was wonderful. Horses are not complicated or difficult, its only us that make it that way. Breaking in, doesn't have to involve bucking, stress for the horse or anything magical. Timing and taking time are as always the key.

This little wild stallion was happy and relaxed through the whole process. I had my working pupil around today and he was the one who actually got to ride, i was the one on the end of the rope controlling the horse. This little horse couldn't have been better behaved, everything went smoothly and here's the photo to show or it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bear jumps boat

So before everybody starts to think I'm a hooligan, just galloping my wild horses all over the show, I better update on their progress.

They really are coming along in leaps and bounds, literally. I do a lot of ground work with my horses. Mainly because I don't have an arena, or a round pen and i work alone, it kind of limits what you can do to start with on a young horse. But it means I do a lot more, including jumping, so by the time I sit on them they've done everything and progress quickly.

At the moment, the ones I have left, Bear and Miro, both will jump anything, they just aren't fussed. Barrels, logs, ditches, proper jumps, they just trot up up and pop over, no stress. This is how I like it, they learn they have to jump whatever I ask, and that its not a big deal and stay relaxed and happy about it, when it comes time to compete, they don't see anything strange and stay relaxed and happy.

Little oscar, is s healthy as a horse, pun intended. Being the baby of the group, he doesn't do the jumping, more just getting brushed and handled daily. He loves his stable, and sneaks in there, when ever the opportunity arises. Like any young boy, he has been through a naughty stage, an angel for the first few weeks, he then tried nipping, and not wanting to be caught. But a few corrections, and he's back to his angelic ways. This is like anything, despite what some people want to believe, happy horses are those that know there rules, and boundaries.

Although I've already sat on one of the stallions, I wouldn't say they been ridden. That's the plan for the next few weeks, starting with Miro. In the meantime here's a video of bear jumping out in the paddock at home


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ok another Kaimanawa cam update!


My younger brother who hasn't been interested in siting on a horse for years, has suddenly had a resurgence in riding. So to humor him today, we went for a ride through the forest, me on my wild mare, and him on an ex racehorse. Sibling rivalry was alive and strong, and of course it turned into a race. Fern has to be the best trail riding horse I've ever had, she just picks her speed and never falters, spooks or rushes. However speedy, would not be a word used to describe her, we lost, again. But to was fun nonetheless and it was a beautiful way to spend a winter morning.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Gelding, never pretty..

Last week Bear got gelded. Im a bit slow getting this post up.Just to make all men cringe, do you know what the use to geld horses these days? A drill, just a good old building drill, with a special clamp attached.

It's not the most glamourous job, drugging a horse, rolling its on it's back and drilling its testicles off but that's just the way it is. We also checked his teeth, while he was down,he's about five years old. Happy to say it all went well, Bear's fully recovered from the operation, back to normal, minus a few bits. Thanks to our local vets who again did a great job, and got to see how well Oscar had healed up since last time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


We all have those people, that just keep crossing our path, and influencing our lives. My friend Rachel is one of those. I have known her almost twenty years, and she would be my oldest freind,we went to school together, were family friends, rode ponies together as kids, had sleepovers, and definitely had our fair share of ups, downs and dramas. We sometimes fought and
drove each other crazy, but have always stayed friends, maybe this is the true test of friendship . As even though we lost touch for a few years after high school, I always remembered her, and saw what she was doing around the world via Facebook, or bumping into her mother or sisters around town.

So it was fantastic to catch up with her a few weeks ago. Gossiping, sharing adventures and making plans to save the world. It was like the years melted away. We even found we had a lot more in common, as while Rachel is involved in lots humanitarian work, im starting to do the equivalent with animals, so picked her brains about her experiences. It got me re-inspired, and was just the mid-winter kickstart I needed.

As kids I was always a little bit crazier on horseback, but Rachel was by far and away the artistic one. No matter how much I tried to force my artistic talents out during school art class,it was never something that came naturally to me, no so with my friend, Rachel always had the better paintings and projects, making mine look like colorful scribbles in comparison. it was really exciting to see her recent venture into photography, because well, she's really good at it. I was only too happy happy to help with her photography assignments, offering my horses and self as models. it was a great day on the farm, when she turned up with the camera, and we had endless fun , trying to get horses to pose and stay still, while we stomped around In the mud like old times.

So as a thanks to her great work, and a recommendation to anyone needing photography work done here's a link to her brand new website http://rachelbanfieldphotography.com

Also a selection of photos she took during our photo-shoot on the farm

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kaimanawa camera

I have always loved working with horses, as do most people who start in the industry. However the world of equines, especially when you get into the professional and competitive side of things, is pretty fraught with drama, intrigue, and politics. What to outsiders seem like pretty trivial issues( how you shoe your horse, training methods, using bits, breeds, disciplines,competitions, results etc etc) can between opposing membears of the equine community become more heated than a debate between differant religious parties. Consequently you can run into a lot of opininated, sour, scary, and shameless self promoters, within the industry.I'm pretty open minded and sit on the fence about a lot of issues, try to listen to all sides and make my own mind up on what I think is best for me.

However navigating through the murky waters of trying to run a buisness, make money, do what's best for the horse, riding competitively,and trying to not make to many enemies, I sometimes run out of time to enjoy the things that led me down this career path. It's a competitive industry, and in a recession where everyone is struggling, it can be a bit cut throat.So any moment I have to go back to just enjoying my horses I treasure, and it alway reminds me why I continue working with them and gives me the strength, to smile and ignore any of the bullsh!t that I come across, when I I'm sloggin away, to earn a few dollars the rest of the time.Today was one of the "let's go out and enjoy it" days. I had my two original wild ponies back and went for a ride on the beach all day, I felt like a kid again, some local boys on their horses challenged us to a race, and we couldnt resist. Galloping headlong down the beach with sand splattering in your face as you try to overtake, is just as fun and adrenaline packed as it ever was. I know I'm adult, and another year older as of yesterday, but I was in no mood to be responsible,or set an example, I'm never one to turn down a challenge either, the teenage boys may have had the faster horse, but I think we all came away pretty happy! Jumping you horse over driftwood logs washed up in the sand, has equally not lost is appeal. I'm going to introduce what I'm now calling "Kaimanawa cam" thought I'd try and share the fun of the day...

Monday, July 2, 2012


So as per usual for this time of year, when I have lots of horses that need breaking in and training, I'm trapped unable to ride or do much outside, due to the constant rain. Not that I'm a delicate flower, and just don't want to get wet, its that the mud is so deep it literally sucks the boots off your feet to walk in it, and even feeding t hay you come inset splattered head to toe in the wet, sticky, freezing stuff. Not having an arena, there is no point riding on the paddock as it rips whatever grass may be left to shreds, and it's more like slipping and sliding across the surface than it actually constructive riding. So I'm left moping around the farm catching up on other chores, or sitting inside trying to do bookwork. Which means blogging time.

It's hard to get my head around the differance between the five stallions from this muster, and the mare and stallion from the 2010 muster. The
condition of the horses, the state of their hooves, the amount of internal parasites, the list goes on. Why are there such differences? Is it just good management of the wild herds, and having there numbers down, or was it just a particularly good season on the ranges. The thing is I don't go to the muster, so I don't see all the horses that come in, or where they come from,maybe If I did I would have a better idea, I'm not sure.

Two years ago, I could not beleive how skinny the horses were when they arrived at my yards. The little stallion was literally skin and bone, while the mare had a big belly from pregnancy, she certainly wasn't carrying any extra weight anywhere else on her body. Yet this year, all the boys arrived in really good shape. Bear you could see his ribs, but he definetly didn't look to be starving. Its nice to see the horses come off the range in such good shape, there's no point in allowing them to be wild if they are only barely surviving from year to year, but these five boys clearly had thrived.

People go on and on, and get really heated,about how bad domestic horses feet are, and how wild horses have the ideal hoof. I scoffed to myself two years ago, when both horses had such terrible feet, not at all the ideal foot, or a good model for how a horses hoof should look. In fact the mare was lame within a week of arriving, and each of her hooves was misshapen and split into three sharp claws, looking more like a set of talons than anything equine. But, this year the five boys have really good tough feet, not perfect, one or two of them have hooves that flare outwards, but nothing dramatic, they look like how you envision a wild horses feet would be from runing on the moutains. Why the differance? Is it because they were mustered from differant areas? Maybe this years lot were form a rockier area, meaning the hooves got worn down more and stayed healthier? Or does it just have to do with better genetics? Overall health in general?

These horses didn't have near as many worms, as two years ago, or any lice at all. Again I'm not sure the reason, or which came first, they have less parasites so they are healthier, or they are healthier anyway so not so susceptible to parasites?

It's really interesting to me all these differences, and why it's like that? Its something that intrigues me, is it just that I maybe got really skinny horses last time, maybe they weren't all like that, or maybe they were, but now that there is less population pressure two years later the horses are healthier. Maybe they were just captured form a different area? Or was it really just a good year and in two years we are going to see skinny horses again? I would love to know more, about this, i may have to do research into it over winter, someone somewhere surely has some stats and information about his kind of thing??

It does remind you though to not make judgements to quickly or without the right information, two years ago, I had a very different opinions as to how the horses were coping in the wild, now I would save they are thriving, two years ago that would not have been my answer.

So see if you can tell the difference between the condition of this years horses and 2010s horses...