Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why I like Zoos



Over the last couple of years, because of the work Ive been involved in with wild horses, and animal aid overseas, I've been asked why I don't join organisation like PETA, or people assume i wouldn't like Zoo's pet shops or other things that use animals for money. It's actually just the opposite I dislike PETA and their approach to animal rights, and I'm definitely pro zoos and anything that helps get the general public involved with animals.

Yesterday at our local country show,I had my pony there, Matariki with one of my pupils riding, but I also got to look around the show a bit. The place I first went to was the animal tent, the same place I've gone straight to for the last fifteen years since  i was a little girl. There's will be a couple of animals for sale, like rabbits, chickens,pigs and an area for where kids can go and hold all the baby animals. As usual the place was packed, kids sat on hay bales and held ducklings, chicks, big soft angora bunnies, fed bottles of milk to lambs and scratched pigs bellies. Grandparents and parents alike stood around taking cute photos. Town kids got to interact with animals, have a fun day out, and all of it was supervised by the people who ran the tent.

I still remember even though not being a town kid loving this place, interacting with all the animals was a highlight if the year for me.

So when someone spoke out and complained of animal cruelty, and how horrific this was, that it should be stopped, I was not impressed. First of all the animals do this one day a year, they have constant supervision and are kept cool fed and watered all day, yes it's loud, different and a bit stressful at first for them. But animals are pretty amazing they adapt quick, I did not see a single animal in distress there. I did see a while bunch of happy kids learning about animals.

Here's the thing, people need to learn to love animals at a young age, if they don't love them, they will never be involved in their welfare or salvation, and they only love them by interacting and learning about them.

The sad fact of the world is that if animals are not important to us, and don't have a role to play in our society they will go extinct. The reason that cows, sheep, pigs, chickens are not facing extinction is that they are useful to us, we have a vested interest in saving them. Cats and dogs to play an important role in our society, and are therefore not on the endangered animals list either. Mountain gorillas, elephants, sharks are not animals we interact with, they are definetly on the edge of survival and extinction. They live in far off lands and therefore we are less likely to be involved in saving them...what if we got to play with these animals as kids, would it be a different story?

Furthermore learning  about animals is important, it teaches you empathy, understanding and how to be compassionate for something not the same as you. You can watch kids learn it, is the animal wiggling and squirming? Don't hold it that way. It's simple little things like this that kids learn that these creatures have emotions and feeling like us. 

My love of animals was instilled at a young age. I went on to work with them for a living, saving the wild horses because I was passionate about them, and traveled the world because i want to improve the lives of animals and people and encourage them to understand our furred and feathered friends.

I still remember my day as a kid at the country show, trips to the Zoo and endless hours gazing at fish in pet shops.

All this inspired me to love the living world and those that occupy it. More than anything I want further generations to love it. I want the kids that ride horses I've trained from the wild, to be the ones that adopt and train them in future years. The kids that held angora bunnies yesterday, need to help preserve rare species. All those people who remember going to the Zoo will hopefully help save some of those species that are vanishing in the wild.

So when PETA is against owning pets, when old ladies  get there knickers in a knot about some bunnies at a country show, and when people don't want to take kids to Zoos, don't ask for my support. If I had my way I'd expose people to as many animals as possible and encourage all children to learn and understand everything from the smallest chick to the biggest elephants.

It is today's  children that will be saving tomorrows animals.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Matariki goes to his first show

From the horse that had such a terrible to captivity before being rescued by KHH and sent to me, Matariki has turned out to be a star. 

A horse that truly enjoys people's company, he went to a show today with one of my pupils riding him. His second show ever and the first time the girl had even ridden him. He was a star and genuinely loved people coming up to pat him, and being part of the action.

Here are some pictures






Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Savages

I got a phone call today that made me sad. A Kaimanawa horse that attacked people. How does it come to the point where a wild horse just attacks at the mere prescience of people. 

To cut a long story short the women had picked up this horse, a young filly, along with another and brought it home. Only to find that when you went in the paddock with the young horse it ran and attacked. Teeth bared, threatening to bite kick, and drive you off. This wasn't actually a truly wild horse, its mother had been mustered pregnant and given birth once in captivity. So really even less understandable its reactions.

The women, a friend didn't want it, for obvious reasons, who wants a savage horse? Knowing that I've worked with these horses and have a soft spot for our wild horses she rang to see if I wanted it. 

Sometimes I don't know what comes over me. The obvious answer was no, I didn't want it. I don't need another mouth to feed, more expenses, more work and a horse that I will make no money on and is to young to break in to ride and have any use what so ever. The words than popped out of my mouth was "yes, I'll take it"

Instant regret. But as soon as the words came out there was no going back. Sounds like I have myself a new challenge, albeit one I didn't need. But to be honest I'm intrigued how did an animal end up trying to savage people, can it be fixed, can I be the one to do it? I'm sure ill find out soon enough and have plenty of time to rue the decision at great length, I pick the horse up next week.

This wasn't the first, nor will it be the last phone call of this sort I receive. I've heard and dealt with many stories of savage horses. In India I was almost killed by the only truly savage horse I've ever come across.

A stallion that had known such brutality at the hands of man he had gone rogue as a means to survive. I didn't believe the guys at the rescue when they told me how bad he was, and almost payed the price when he went out of his way to run me down teeth bared and tore my hat off me head when I waved my arms to scare off his charge. I was lucky it wasn't my scalp. I listen and handle these cases with a healthy dose of caution these days.

Hopefully this little filly won't be as bad. It makes me sad though to hear of horses like this though, because somewhere along the line something has gone wrong. Horses are naturally this way, they are not happy like this, these behaviours are man made, and usually the horse is the one who pays the ultimate price for our mistakes.




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fern and Miro

Sometimes i get a bit jaded by the horse industry. I used to think everyone wanted to be a great horsemen, i could train my horses beautiful to be happy, obedient and competitive mounts and people would appreciate there brilliance. 

Ive since learned thats not exactly the case. Lots of people want to win a ribbon and forget the fact that the what they are riding is an animal. I always wanted to understand these creatures better, train them better and be a better horsewoman. This isn't everyones goal. 

It can be disheartening to watch horses you've sold regress with a new rider through no fault of your own or the horses.

So when you see horse horses go on to be loved and progress once they leave your hands its a refreshing change. 

One of the kids i teach brought Miro off me about six months ago, it has been a pleasure to watch them succeed   together. With Miro going to his first shows and turning into a much loved pony. 

When i decided i would not have time or finances  to compete my much loved Fern this season, i knew a young rider who would benefit from getting to ride a slightly more experienced horse. So Fern joined Miro. 

Brilliant results both horses get attention and love rained down on them, far more than they would get with me, being one of many horses i ride and work with each day. The girl get to compete at a high level and gain valuable experience, more than she would have with just young Miro. I have less horses to feed and expenses and i truly enjoy seeing my horses doing well and watching young riders that have the same passion as i do for learning and understanding horses.

So heres some picture from Miro and Fern out competing with Darby


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bad blogging

I think I'm turning into a bad blogger.

Over the last year I've barely managed a post a month. It's not that I've lost interest or I'm not working with wild horses just that so many crazy adventures have taken up my time. That and I've been so busy writing different articles for a magazines that the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down and typing some more.

I've gotten a bit off track as well. With 1000km races across Mongolia, aid work in the slums of India, some half marathons to run, in the last 18 months my life has started to veer in a slightly different direction than just working with horses. A direction I have to say I'm really enjoying.


However my passion for horses remains, and its this combined with my desire to keep learning and improving that has taken me to all these amazing places.

Also my drive for adventure and to push myself that little bit further has set me down a course I hope doesn't change any time soon. 

My plans for the future do include wild horses, but not just solely my home country anymore. There are so many wild places left on earth, cultures that rely still on our equine friends, places for me to explore and the possibilities are endless. There are also a few other things like marathons, training camels and potentially some crazy motorbike adventures I need to cross off my list in the near future too.

But I haven't forgotten my ponies. In fact I've just returned from Equidays where Sonny was used for a breaking in demonstrations, he was fantastic. I spoke about my adventures in Mongolia and have started planing what horses ill be taking more rom 2014 muster. Next weekend it will be debut time for some of the other wild ones, with Matariki off to his first show. Basically everything is flat out as usual around here.

I hate being a bad blogger....I'm going to try and get better again. If you've got an idea for a blog post or something you want to know about please let me know, I'd love some inspiration for future posts
 and to reward some of you loyal readers who are still here through my virtual bloggers coma!

Get int touch chloesponys@hotmail.com

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Getting fit sucks

Getting back in shape sucks. I have new respect for people who slog it out and gym, or like my mother who has started exercising for the first time in years after being a busy mother. 

I have always led an incredibly active lifestyle, and been pretty fit. Every day all day I'm riding horses, grooming horses, catching horses, picking up horse shit, lifting hay bales, fixing water pipes, fences and doing all manner of jobs around the farm. If I ever wanted to get extra fit I went for a run and this was always enough.

Now it's different and I don't like it. My body is weak and I lost a lot of my natural fitness reconvering from the Mongol Derby. It's not like I got fat, but I lost a lot of weight, got sick, weak and then spent three weeks traveling around China recovering eating dumplings and noodles. I got home and was exhausted after half day on the farm. I even found lifting hay I didn't have the same strength as before. Usually this time of year I'm upping my workload and getting extra fit for the eventing season, now I'm struggling to get fit for a normal days work.

What's even more frustrating is that a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in Ger tent having just ridden 1000km revelling in how much more my body was capable of than I had thought. But that adrenalin soon wore off and my body has been in recovery ever since. My mind to, as after the excitement of navigating, being chased by dogs, galloping across the Mongolian steppes, mountains and desert going back to everyday routine  is taking some mental discipline.

If it was only fitness that I had to worry about I think I would be ok. I like the burn of tired muscles, I like pushing myself just that little bit more. But days of riding through hail, heat, wind and rain, on a series of galloping ponies has taken it toll. For the first time my body is not recovering and I can't just ignore and push through, like is my usual routine.

My ankles, which swelled so badly through the derby that even rolling over in my sleep made it feel like shards of glass were being driven through them, and stayed swollen for weeks afterword, now are still not healed. Constantly they give way on me as I walk across muddy rutted paddocks. Riding I have to jam my foot in the stirrup and instead of dropping my heel  I keep it raised to avoid any strain on the tendons and ligaments that feel so fragile and weak.

It's not a secret I was sick on the race. Delirious and vomiting I was definelty in the worst shape of my life when medics got to me, I never been so grateful to have a needle in my arm or to be pumped full of IV fluids. While I got over the bug, my stomach has never been the same since, for a week after the race I out ate my boyfriend at every meal. But nothing ever felt good, and stomach pains and vomiting usally followed. Even now my favourite foods make me feel like my stomachs on fire. Coffe and alcohol, spicy food, garlic and citrus all make me run for the bathroom. It's like my body is playing some cruel joke on me.

It's misery instead of a happy reunion with my favourites horse I'm sick all the time. What's happened to me. Exhaustion is definitely is taking its toll, but being weak is something I hate. I work my horses methodically, feed them, muck out stables but I'm not enjoying it I'm just tired. I feel guilty for not having the extra energy to give them all a scratch or play fetch with dog at night. The guilt makes me feel worse. I've always just pushed through and carried on working, I've never minded going to bed exhausted, I like hard work its satisfying in it own right. 

I just want to wake up and be able to do my usual days work, with no weak joints, no sore tummy and the enjoyment of working horses. I know in no time ill be back to healthy and ill forget it all but for now that can't come quickly enough.

I suspect some part of me just can't get over the yearning to be back in Mongolia. A place I loved more than anything.  That amazing place stirred something deep inside, and something just keeps pulling me back there. Something I can't get over no matter how sick, how hard that race was, how bad I was hurting, no matter how bad I still feel, all of it I would go through again to be in the land if horses once more 

So in the mean time I keep myself busy, and plan for the next adventures, and struggle to get fit again.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Horses, hierarchy and rhinos



There are times when I think I know quite a lot about horses, and then other mornings I wake up and realise there is still so much more to learn. 

Animals behaviour is so complex, it's never a simple situation of leaders and followers, dominant & submissive, predator and prey. The more you watch, especially animals that have strong ties to a natural life the more you learn their societies are far more complex than we ever give them credit for.

The basic explanation of horse society is that in there is a herd stallion, a lead mare and then the rest submissive under these two. The stallion chases off other male competitors, protects his herd, while the mare leads the herd to grazing and water and always eats and drinks first. 

But there is much more to horses than this, a lot of behaviours have been lost or changed in our domestic horses because of their artificial environment. To me it always fascinating to get a glimpse into wild behaviour when watching my own domesticated but once wild horses.

One thing that has always stood out to me,  is the procedure for accepting new horses into the group or herd.

If your a horse person and have watched a new horse be introduced to a paddock of other horses. You'll know the scene of galloping around tails in the air, the rushing to meet the new stranger, and the high spirited sometime idiotic behaviour they exhibit. Kicking, squealing, galloping and bucking as they all sniff noses and meet each other, while you kinda watch cringing hoping no one gets hurt. This doesn't happen at my place anymore.

I have always noticed that with the wild horses especially the older ones the introduction process whether stallion or mare is very different. 

Fern,  my wild mare, in almost all situation is the calmest most docile of equines, and not what you think of when you picture an alpha mare. Having been with me for three years it has been fascinating to watch her behaviour and interactions with domestic horses. From being the new horse introduced to a  herd. To now being the leader of our little mare herd of six. 

I have never seen her gallop up to greet a new horse. In fact she keeps her herd well away and any new rude individual that just assumes it can join she chases relentlessly until they maintain a healthy distance. She will chase them away off for days if they attempt to sneak into the group of horses, which they do frequently, and will make them  move them off until they learn that when she's moves they must obey immediately. Over the next days the new horse is slowly allowed to come closer and then join in the mob. 

When there are young horses in the mob of mares, as we have now with weanling fillies in the herd,  Fern is more extreme in her behaviour towards new horses and will chase newcomer far more aggressively than when there are no youngsters to watch over. Obviously having young  about fire up those protective instincts, no matter if its her own offspring or that of others. With only older horses the new horse is usually accepted much quicker

Even when introduced herself she stayed well away and only joined the domestic horses in grazing together after many weeks.

With a foal at foot and introducing her back into her paddock full of friends the same process was repeated. She kept Sonny her foal, away from the others always positioning herself between him and the herd for weeks before slowly allowing him and herself to ease back into herd life.

This method makes sense, it ensures Fern and her offspring stay safe and elimates any violence during meeting new horses. It also ensures that any horse that joins the group already knows it position and does not show aggressive or dominant behaviour. All in all it keeps the herd as a hole running smoothly and calmly as even the horses within the herd are not allowed to go galloping off to meet any newcomers. 

The reason behind writing all this down is recently reading about wildlife conservation in Africa, and how important it is to introduce animals slowly. The book highlighted the inceribly complex social structure of Rhinos, a species that is commonly thought of to be fairly stupid and loners,  and the huge failures of early rhino rehabilitation. When poeple not understanding this just dumped new rhinos into areas with other rhino established, continuously leading to the deaths of those introduced. 

Animals are complex. What may seem stupid beahviour to us may be innfact an integral part of their survial. I used to think Fern was just like the lone rhino when she first arrived,and could never understand why as a 'herd' animals she never wanted to be with other horses, but she is the ultimate social creature, she just knows how to run things the way they are meant to be. 

I could go on and on about examples of the complex equine behaviour I watched under Ferns herd management. How even extremely herd bound panicky ex-race horses have to go through her rules of isolation, but come out the otherside mentally stable independent 'normal' equines. 

I'm lucky that I can still run my horses in small groups and large paddocks and they have a great existence as close to natural as domestication can be. It gives me valuable oppurtunity to continue to watch and learn and realise how smart these animals are, and how much more their is to learn. I'm incredibly lucky to have been to Mongolia and got to ride through vast herds of horses on open steppes that live as close to wild as you can get. The lesson I learned there have opened my eyes to so much more, and truly showed me how different our domestic animals have become.  But you do have to look for that knowledge and sometimes it's in what you do not see.....but that will have to be for another day and another blog post.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Thanks Dublin

Im going to write my account of the Derby, i really am. just at the moment im a shade to busy. traveling for six weeks and then coming back to the farm and trying to get everything organised for film crews, the competition season and a riding camp all at once does this to you i wouldn't have it any other way however.

In the meantime I would like to publicly thanks equestrian brand Dublin for their amazing support. Without them I couldn't have done the Derby. They gave me the boots and the helmet I rode the whole 1000km in.

Dublin is a brand I'm really familiar with and have used throughout  my equestrian career. I can now definitely say they have some of the best gear around and I'm really proud to support a company that produces such good quality equestrian supplies that are actually affordable.

Please check out their website and the blog I did following the race here Dublin blog

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The derby thanks

  First of all thank you to everyone for your wonderful messages of support and donations. It has been incredibly humbling and such a lovely feeling to get so much encouragement from people I know and also people I've never met wo have chosen to support me and the charities I'm raising money for.

I finished the Mongol Derby in 7 and a half days, faster than last years professional jockeys won it in. I finished fifth. It was the hardest most exhilarating and challenging thing I've done in my entire life, and I can safely say I gave it everything I had and more.

I rode over 500km on my own without another rider in sight. I got sick and had to have IV fluids, got chased by wild dogs, crossed mountains, deserts and grassland and spent a bit of time stuck in swamps. I rode 26 different horses, camped alone with nomads and had the adventure of a lifetime.

In the moments I was down, it made a huge difference to know there was people at home watching and supporting and it truly did keep me going.

Thankyou all again for your support. I still have a few weeks left to fundraise and look forward to doing a series of talks when I'm back in New Zealand. 

More updates to follow

Cheers

Chloe
                  
                  
                  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I survived the worlds toughest horse race

I just finished the Mongol derby. It was the hardest, most exhilarating and challenging thing I've ever done.

I loved  the horses,the people and the race itself.

Here's a link to the race blog and a few of my experiences 

http://mongolderbyblog.theadventurists.com/2013/08/11/race-report-day-8-sunday-11th-august/

Friday, August 2, 2013

D-day

Okay here we go off to the steppes and hundreds of horses today. 1000km journey is about to begin.

Thanks for all the great messages and keep up with the race here!

http://www.theadventurists.com/the-adventures/mongol-derby/teams/wild-pony

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Made it to Mongolia

Made it to Mongolia, there are horses everywhere . Wide pen spaces huge herd of horses, I think I found the right place to be.

This is just one of countless dwellings we passed on the train a few gers, houses and lots of horses!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Off to Mongolia

This morning I hoped on the trans-Mongolian express, the train  that will take me from Beijing China into Mongolia.

Leaving the city and watching the country side change has been amazing. From mountainous rocky hills with fertile valleys and lakes crammed with gardens and vegetable crops in every available space to rolling prairie & lush farmland 

The sun is setting over flat arid grasslands, the edges of which form the Gobi Desert. The light throws the whole landscape awash in golden and reds of grasses against blue grey sky.  Little red brick farm houses periodically dot the landscape.

The farmer in me is fascinated to watch shepherds herd flocks of sheep and goat towards home for the nights. A very different and a more ancient type of farming than we have in New Zealand. It's a harsh beautiful landscape and I wonder how hard the struggle for survival is here, watering and pasture for  animals alone would surely be challenging.

A few hours ago it was green and broken up into small sections of corn, sunflowers, grapes and potato fields all bordered by tall tress, with wild flows along the edges of fields. Big handsome donkeys resting in the shade looked healthy and content. I love seeing this, all the donkeys I've seen with my charity work and been malnourished tiny, over worked depressed beasts with sores & injuries. It's a heartwarming change to know that not all the worlds working donkeys live such a life of misery.

Now though I've seen herds of thirty to forty horses grazing alongside the train tracks. Small healthy hardy looking things of all ages in brown bays, and chestnuts. Chunky tough looking animals even hardier than my own Kaimanawas,  these look more like what I'm sure to find in Mongolia. These animals seem to be doing just fine in the harsh landscape.

I'm excited I've seen horses for the first time since leaving New Zealand and hours ago are train passed a hill with galloping wild horses engraved in huge white stone motifs all across it. This is a sign i think that I'm headed in the right direction.

Tomorrow morning ill be in Mongolia, the last place to have wild horses and home to some of the most ancient breeds that have not changed in the last thousand years. The same horses used by Genghis Khans hordes that once conquered the world. I can't wait.

For now as the sun sets and the grasslands is slowly losing its hold and becoming desert I'm going to curl up on my hard sleeper bed for the night,  I'm sure il be woken at the border for security and passport checks and then tomorrow the real adventure begins.... Mongolia 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tarantula and videos

I'm sitting in Beijing,China having survived my first go at eating a tarantula, silk grub  and a scorpion, I did however turn down the dog meat and cat kebab on principal. Only the tarantula tasted terrible, mainly because of its hairy tough legs that you had to tear off the body with your teeth while trying to avoid the other ones sticking you up the nose as you chew, the scorpion however was really tasty. not lying, crispy with great seasoning it was kind of like a spicy potato chip.

I love home and the farm and my horses, but  traveling and trying new cultures and the lifestyle is a whole different kind of excitement. But not matter that I'm thousands of miles from home and eating bugs, it is still mind boggling to realise who connected the world is these days, and how you never truly lose touch no matter how many thousands of miles away you might be.

So as  I'm  making my way to Mongolia it's lovely to be able to get message from home and see what's going on

While I'm away my Fern continues to make a splash in the media. Literally. 

I did a  photo shoot at the beach just before i left, with my best friend, her horse and Fern. It was great fun although to be honest I cringe watching the video. Note to self do hair and make up before doing any video interviews next time.

Here's the link for those interested.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/national/news/video.cfm?c_id=1503075&gal_cid=1503075&gallery_id=134457

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chaos

It's always chaos trying to leave the farm, and this trip is no different. Well a little bit different as Ill be gone for an exceptionally long time and I'm leaving the farm and animals in charge of a house sitter as no one else will be here. It's a bit stressful, and I'm not really sure how so many jobs manage to appear when you have absolutely no time to deal with them. 

I go in two days, and there's already way to much to do and no time to do it in. Animals to move, feeding to sort out, gas bottles for farm bikes, water pumps and all other of manner of things to be filled, gates to paddocks that need fixing, water tanks and troughs to fill, check pipes, check horses and of course pack my bags.....and track down my passport that is in transit somewhere.

In amongst all this there's been awards dinners, and to my surprise and delight I managed to pick up an award, Amateur Eventer of the Year. A wee bit unexpected as over the last 12 months I've barely competed, having traveled so much with Kiwi Care Team, but my big horse is amazing (in my eyes) and even with very few runs managed to stay super consistent and we picked up some good placings.  Wining is always nice no matter what people say,  and its always nice to be recognised for achievements and hard work, I think also most people adore their horses, and I at least always feel my horse deserves recognition even if its just for putting up with me. So now I have a nice trophy sitting in my kitchen table, can't complain really.

Another horse continues to be a star, Fern in the last few weeks has done a couple of of newspaper photos shoots and I'm looking forward to the weekend paper and hopefully some professional photos of her. 

Little Fern continues to be the most reliable, consistent and photogenic horse on the property. It doesn't seems to matter that I never have time to ride her. Just load her in the trailer take her to the beach attach a wakeboard and off we go. Looking like we have practised the routine daily for hours. But it's just her,vocals stoic and never getting upset Fern impresses even the most hardy doubters.

She even took the photographers assistant for a ride down the beach, casually galloping along looking picturesque with her mane and tail blowing in the wind. Fern is just a great ambassador for everything good about Kaimanawas.

Hopefully by the time I get on the plane everything will be sorted and I will have many boring flying  hours to  fill me time writing up some more posts to update everyone of what's been happening.

For now thank you all for you support, I've got to go start packing



Monday, July 15, 2013

Don't give up....


Never give up.

Never give up on your goals, dreams, on your own morals and beliefs, and never give up on how kind people really can be.

I have a growing list of people that I need to thank, people that have helped me, inspired me, and kept me on track. Sometimes it easy to forget that their are far more good people out there than bad ones, and far more people that will help rather than hinder you. 

You watch the news and see hate crimes, injustice, corruption and all the bad things, that humans are capable of, and sometimes in life you focus on this to.

I know I may be a little hard headed and at times I feel I have to do everything myself or otherwise im failing. My lifestyle can sometimes be incredibly isolating and lonely, and in all honesty at times it not easy and not all rainbows and sunshine and playing with ponies.

But what is incredible and has totally overwhelmed me recently is the huge amount of support I've received from people far and wide.

I go to Mongolia in ten days to compete in the 'Mongol Derby' the toughest horse race on the planet. Now obviously this is a huge undertaking for me. There is no way i could be going ahead with this if it wasn't for a whole bunch of amazing people.

I have never been one to let reality get in the way of my goals, so  when I signed up for the derby almost a year ago,  I only had half the entry fee, no way of paying for flights, insurance or any other costs. But I'd been saving for a long time and I just felt this incredible urge that this was the year for me to do the race. So I committed to it and figured some way or another I'd make it work.

Well I planned on selling horses, sponsorship and working some extra long hours to make it happen.

But horses didn't sell, sponsorship never came through, in fact I lost count of the people who just hung up the phone, said no, didn't reply or sent me rejection letters. No insurance company would even consider me for a horse race in the middle of one of the most uninhabitated places on earth.

Everywhere I looked the response was overwhelming, NO! I can not even begin to explain the sinking feeling, the knot of tension and dread in my stomach, as everything just fell apart before my eyes.
I had committed all my money, with no way of getting it back should I not be able to make the race, and I couldn't make the final payments, couldn't afford the gear, and had to many horses to leave anyway. I just felt this horrible failure and a grey sense of depression sliding over me.

But people do help you, I enlisted the aid of a friend and with two days to go before the final payment was due, I sold two horses. No I didn't get the money I wanted for them, but I got enough to pay off all my debts, buy winter hay, and make the trip happen, and also guarantee the horses were going to loving suitable homes.

I still didn't have gear though and  hadn't raised any of £1000 I need to for Cool Earth and Kiwi Care Team. I was going to Mongolia but I'd be riding in worn out boots, and jodhpurs that were fraying at all seams, but if this is what it would take i was still doing it.

Again though people are amazing and when you ask for help its incredibly humbling to realise people do want to support you. 

Everything has slowly started falling into place. Amazing friends within the horse community, helped me make professional fundraising posters and sponsorship proposals. Others started donating on my givealittle website,  and writing messages of support.

Never underestimate how much a few words mean. I read all the messages and well wishes, and realised I want alone in this, and it made all the difference. I started approaching companies for sponsorship again, and yes people still shut the door in my face and said 'not a chance'. But other people said yes, and really helped me out.

In the space of an hour I walked into a tack shop and walked out with the amazing support of Equestrain riding wear company Dublin. This meant riding boots, chaps and a helmet, gear, nice gear I could race in. Pat Kennedy's Equestrian supplies and Dublin were the first people to even bothr talking to me, let alone support and provide sponsorship, and it was an amazing feeling. I will always be incredibly greatful to them for giving me that helping hand and confidence to keep trying.

Then the day before my birthday I got a package in the mail form Icebreaker, totally unexpected but with a message that said, while they didn't have room in the budget for full sponsorship they were providing me with a few bits and peices of thermal clothing and good luck for the race. Awesome, I had got just what I needed, warm clothes I could wear, and I was incredibly touched that someone went to the effort of thinking about what I might need and sending it to me.

Now I've had many more amazing people contact me, with offers of products and support. I'm very excited about receiving some packages in the post this week. More people have donated, and more people have taken the time to just write and tell me how great they think the race will be.

There are so many people I want to thank, and now with the actual event looming very cloose I hope that I can support the people that have helped me, and hopefully they will gain something out of this partnership as well. For all the people who have donated money I genuinely hope I get to thnk them all in person after the race. It's a recession and no one has spare money so even donating a little bit means a lot to me.

More importantly I hope one day I'm in the position to help someone else follow their dreams when they need it.

Never give up, people really are amazing. 

Thank you to all of you who read this, and all of you who I haven't named but have helped me in so many way. Believe me when I say it makes all the difference.





Friday, July 12, 2013

Going global...

Turns out people liked our little horse Wakeboarding stunt. The local paper made it their front page story, the national Newspaper picked it up and then low and behold if someone didn't send us a clip of it in an Australian paper. My little Fern mustered off the side of a mountain is now being seen all over the world.

Local News

National news


This from the Bundaberg times in Australia 


Of course not everybody likes it, but that is the same no matter what you do. There was a substantial amount of people who went to the effort of finding my email address and writing to tell me how horrible a person I am and that this was animal abuse. Of course I read the comments on the Internet to, but luckily the positive far outweighed the negative! The negative ones don't bother me at all actually, there is no way I could get Fern doing this if she wasn't happy and the fact that my best friend on the wakeboard is a vet and I work with animal welfare groups and horses full time pretty much guarantees nothing even near abuse goes on. Still funny to read comments though.

Hopefully we've reminded everyone just how fun horses are and why we own and love them, also what a good bit if Kiwi ingenuity can achieve!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Horse wakebaording


As much as I love the work I do, I love training horses, I love the farm and I love being outdoors. There is no denying its a job, I have to make money, balance the cheque book, make sure I earn enough to feed my horses over winter, get there feet done, and cover any vet bills that pop up. It's stressful, and I work incredibly hard, and mostly completely alone on the farm day after day, year after year. 

Even training horses becomes a job, especially clients, or ones that are destined for sale. You have a limited amount of time to get a set amount of results and this becomes priority. Sometimes there is so much work, so little time, and a lot of stress in making sure money keeps comings in and bills keep getting payed, your own horses sometimes get extended vacations, as you just run out of time to twirl with them. This often happens, the horses that earn the cash get worked first everything else second, is the reality of the job.

You also forget and run out of time to enjoy the thing that's most important, the horses themselves.

Luckily for me I get to have the occasional day like today and it makes all the stress seem inconsequential.

It's winter and I spent a Sunday afternoon at the beach with freinds and my favourite wild horse, the amazing Fern, wakebaording up & down the waves. Bliss. Actually I didn't do the wakeboarding I rode Fern and she towed the wakeboard with my friends taking turns surfing along behind us.  

Heaven to me is something like this, galloping down the beach on a horse in one of the most beautiful places on earth with good freinds.

This makes everything worth it.

This was Ferns first time as the tow horse and she excelled, no stress pulling the person on the board with the first try. She is the perfect horse for this job never faltering steady rythm she just casually galloping down the beach easily towing a person.

To be clear there is actually very little pulling required once the person is standing up surfing the horses basically just gallops along with almost no tension in the tow rope.

A fun afternoon like this is also a good reminder, that all the hours spent on training and producing a happy, well behaved horse is worth it. I never take shortcuts training, and it always pays off down the road, or today the beach. I had a horse that happily and confidently allowed me to combine some of my greatest loves horses, freinds and the beach.

Check out the video and see for exactly what I'm talking about

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Not so shy...

The first of July, I'm always amazed at that another month has rolled in by and we are now half way through the year. In less than a month I'll be on a plane to Mongolia, and in exactly a month I'll be doing my weigh in for the race, three days after that I'll be galloping across the start line of 1000km journey.

It seems like all I do is try organise things for the race and at the same time nothing is yet organised. But I'm sure it will all come together nicely by the time I'm ready to board that plane. I'm excited, nervous, I wish I could leave tomorrow , and yet there are so many things still to do. Fundraise for one, as part of the requirements for the race is to raise the equivalent of £1000 for charity, which I'm more than happy to do, but between teaching, riding, spending endless time organising visas and insurance, gear and sponsorship, as well as running the farm I'm quickly running out of time.

Amongst all this though I have been able to catch up with one of my favourite horses, Shy Boy, or Shy as he's known these days, is one of the stallions that arrived at my place from the 2012 muster. He was more memorable than most because he was this terrified, flighty, timid and shy stallion that peered out at you from underneath the most magnificent head of hair I've ever seen in such a young horse. 

He went to a wonderful women after I had done the initial handling, and has only continued to go from strength to strength. He's a very special boy and the type of horse that bonds extremely closely to his rider/trainer. It's wonderful to see how well loved he is, and how much time is being put him into making him a confident happy horse.

His owner thankfully is helping me get fit for the derby, and has brought Shy along on a couple of our training rides which he loves confidently trotting along beside her, through forests and farmland. It's makes me incredibly happy to see a horse from the wild go on to thrive in a new environment. It shows just how versatile these horses are. It's also another reason to remember that while most horses are very easygoing from muster, horses like Shy and Bear could so easily end up terrified or dead in the wrong hands and that it is so essential they get the right start to domestic life, and lots of time and care put into their training.


Shy trotting out on our training rides

And when he was fresh from muster


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day out at the dunes

 I was talking about how good things take time in my last post, well here is a video of my amazing Bear. Just a fun video made by a friend of our day out riding in the sand dunes.

Complete with bloopers Bear shows off his Kaimanawa sensibility and chooses to not jump but just trot over a big rock as well as have a little nap at the end, although this wasnt exactly a blooper as this lie down was intended. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Never Give Up

Good things take time, great things take even longer.

Bear has never been the easiest horse, in fact I would say he's been one of the bigger equine challenges I've ever faced. Not because he was bad, but unlike all the other wild horses he didn't adjust as easily to domestic life. He found everything to be a far more terrifying experience than the rest. It's taken just over a year to get to this point, and there's been up and downs along the way.

But today I have a horse I would trust anywhere. I took him for a ride with a friend and not only was it a long float trip, but we negotiated our way through crashing waves, over rocks, mountainous sand dunes and wide open spaces. 

I have a horse I can trust to take me anywhere, good on his feet I felt safer riding this horse on some of the steepest terrain ever, than I have riding any other horse.

There has been times I thought I'd never get anywhere, I thought I should give up and wondered if I was doing the right thing by this horse, would he ever be happy in this life?

Today I think I have a happy horse, and got to enjoy some of the best riding this country has to offer. Never give up, it's worth it in the end.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Mongol Derby

The cats our of the bag, and it's time to announce that in six weeks I will be getting on a plane for Mongolia. 





I'm going to compete in the worlds toughest and longest horse race the legendary Mongol Derby. One thousand kilometres and twenty-six different horses in the words of the organisers

"This is no guided tour, or pony trek. There is no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. That’s the whole point. It's just you, your team of horses and a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness.  And possibly a GPS.  You must change horses at every station and deliver your mounts to their destination in mint condition. But how you navigate between them is where your adventure begins...."


Of course I'm doing this for a good cause to and will be raising money for two fantastic charities along the way. One is Kiwi Care Team and the other is Cool Earth. 




This is going to be the hardest, scariest and most challenging thing I've ever done. Not only coping with different horses, and the elements, but there is no one out there to help you, to guide or to come looking for you. But  as the birthplace of domestic horses and the last place on earth that still has wild horses, it's somewhere I've always longed to go. This blog is not called the Wild Horse Project for no reason.

Helping me get fit along the way will be my two ex-wild stallions Matariki and Bear who are both broken in and going beautifully under saddle. Hopefully photos to come soon. The goal is to be able to ride 100km a day for the entire race. So before I leave I will be spending as many hours a day in the saddle as possible,  not just on one horse but spreading it out between all of them. Bear and Matariki being the closest in size and stature to the horses I'll be riding  pin Mongolia are going to be the best at getting me fit, so in a few months there will be some very fit wild horses and hopefully a fit rider too.

But I'm going to need your help as well, I need to raise money for the two charities I support so I've set up a Give a Little page where you can donate as little as a dollar and the money goes towards helping me reach my fundraising goals. 

For me this isn't just a race. It's a chance to see the homeland of horses, learn more about wild horses and their heritage. See humans and animals interact in one of the most ancient cultures and challenge myself in the most wide open and remote places left on earth.


Please visit


http://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/Mongolderby2013  


Bring on the challenge, help me and be part of the adventure!






Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ten reasons to adopt wild horses

It's been just over a year since the the last muster and the arrival of the five stallions and a fraction over three years since Matai and Fern first arrived. Sadly I had a crashed computer and no Internet to celebrate this milestone, so instead a little bit late I'm putting together a list about why people should start thinking about getting organised and adopting from next muster.

1. The Kaimanawa wild horses make great domestic horses. They adapt well to domestic life and love stables, hay, being fed, covered and protected from the elements, as well as all the luxuries involved with becoming regular horses. If given the choice all of my wild horses choose to hang out in the barn or around the house. There is no pining for the wild open spaces from this lot.

2. They are not just little brown ponies. The Kaimanawa horses now more than ever are proving to be fantastic competition mounts and are excelling in a huge variety of disciplines. Pony of the Year was won by a Kaimanawa. A gelding from the 2012 muster was competing at Horse of the Year Show this year in Show hunter. From the ones I personally have dealt with they have gone n to be pony club mounts, dressage, showjumping, and a range of other things, including eventing which I compete in on my own Fern, who is a far more talented jumper than any of my purpose bred horses.


3. They are not that little. While in the past, the horses mustered have been very small, nowadays with herd numbers reduced and less competition for food and water, the horses brought out are bigger and better developed thn ever before. Fern is 15hh and her foal, now two and a half, born just a few months after she was mustered, already is a big solid 15.2hh.
Sonny, Ferns foal as a yearling....not so small.

4. They come in a range of colours and types. Greys, bays, blacks, chestnuts with flackens manes, browns, liver chestnut the list goes on. They come in a few different types to from solid pony types to taller more old military stock looking animals.


5. There are now a lot more people like me who are willing and able to do the initial handling. You don't have to be the horse whisper to think about adopting a wild horse! Horses can go straight from muster to us, and we can produce them in a few weeks to be normal domestic horses. Halter trained, trucking, floating, hoof care and handling, covered and for the older horses breaking in, all before the reach your door.

6. They are sensible. Once used to people and having learnt the basics of being a domestic horse, Kaimanas are very sensible, stoic and calm creatures. In my experience ether are far less flighty and will calmly figure things out unlike some highly strung domestic horses. Ex wild horses are far from wild in their behaviour. They even accept going to horse shows and other new experiences far easier than most domestic horses. Used to conserving energy and surviving on ther own, they don't waste energy being stupid, and are also extremely sure footed in all sorts of conditions.


7. They are easy keepers. Used to surviving  in the wild on very little tucker, they don't need much food, or any fancy feed regimes to keep the looking fat and healthy. They will eat pretty much anything, although it does sometimes take a few weeks to get them over there suspicion of hard feed, carrots and apples. But once they know what it is there is no turning back. Kaimanawa horses are cheap to run, compared to your average Thoroughbreds, warmbloods and competition horses. They have good constitutions, stong bones and good hard feet once they have had a few initial trims.

8.There is no denying it is immensly satisfying to own a once wild horse. You are saving a life, and getting an amazing equine that can be used for anything your heart desires. It a huge sense of achievement  reaching all the little milestones along the way, even just leading, putting a cover on for the first time, or the big one of finally riding your very own wild horse. Kaimanawas also do tend to bond very closely to one person, which is reward in itself.

9. It's a relatively cheap way to get a fantastic horse. Adoption fees are very low, there is the transport fee and if your sending it to some one like me for the initial handling that cost as well, but your still looking at costs ranging from just a few hundred to only a few thousand dollars to have a well trained and lovely horse.

10. THEY NEED HOMES!!! Foals, weanlings, and young horses are a great way to start being slightly easier initially and adapting almost immediately to domestic life, if your thinking about your first wild horse. Mares too are fantastic even though they do usually come pregnant, this is just a bonus as it means you get a cute little baby in a few months. Stallions are great, and I have never had problems, but I don't recommend them for first time owners, unless you are getting someone else to start them. To many horses still go to slaughter every muster. So lets make next muster the best ever, you have a year to get ready, so get organised and think about adopting a wild horse today!



Saturday, May 18, 2013

R.I.P Oscar

Absolutely heartbroken, had to euthanize one of the sweetest and most special ponies I've ever come across.  Today little Ocsar suffered a freak paddock accident and broke his femur. Which in horses is is not fixable, made the horrible descision and end a life that was special, unique and a freind to everyone who met him, a great ambassador for his breed. 

R.I.P Oscar almost a year ago he arrived from the wild and was with us all to briefly.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Video skills

I've got a friend and she's awesome. We all have one like her, someone  who's got all the talent in the world, whether artistic, athletic or intelligent, but just doesn't realize it and doesn't back themselves. You tell them their amazing and they answer "oh I'm not that good, anyone could do it" . You want to shake them and be like " NO, no, no your really good god damnit" and you want to see them use the talents they have.  Because if anyone could do it, we all would, but we don't all have the same talents and we can't all do everything.

This friend of mine is amazing at making videos, I'm trying to get her to make some videos of the wild horses, as some footage of what they are up to these days is way overdue. I could not make videos like my friend, I simply don't have the artistic talent, or the ear for matching movies and music together like she does. Truth be told I'm a little jealous of her mad movie making skills, and wish shed use her talents more.

So to give her a bit of encouragement I'm going to share one of her videos. She made this with the most basic editing software and footage from still camera, not even a real digital video camera. She's and amazing girl and this video will hopefully show not just her talents but some of the work we did in India as well.

Please check it out.... A word of warning it's pretty graphic, don't watch it with your dinner.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=X1PpXhlrrYo&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DX1PpXhlrrYo

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy mothers day!

Just a quick Happy Mothers Day, to all the fantastic mothers out there. Also to one little wild horse who to this day is the best equine mother I know.Even though her baby is weaned and grown, towering over her, she delights in taking care of him and sharing her feed every morning.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Judgement day

It's easy to judge. It's even easier to judge from the comfort of your armchair, comfy bed or kitchen table. No one is innocent of it either.

What's not easy is judging people out in the field, in the middle of the chaos, when the lines of good and bad become pretty blurred. Behavior is not so black and white, and things aren't as simple as they seem from your computer screen.

In the last twelve months I've done a lot of traveling, I've been to corners of the world I never fathomed I'd visit, and seen how things that seem so clear cut quickly change to grey when you become more involved. The work I do through charity is something I've always dreamed of doing, and I love it. I'm lucky I was raised to be fairly un-judgemental of things, and was aware of various sides of humanity from a young age, thanks to both my parents occupations.

I truly see awful things when I travel. But I love it, I enjoy jumping in and working, The gore and horror don't bother me to much. I'd be lying to say that the work I do is purely unselfish. Because I get pleasure out of it, satisfaction, adventure and a sense of helping others,it makes me feel like a better person for doing it. I'm definitely still no saint.

But I've learned you can't judge what you don't experience, being an expert on a subject is not the same as understanding it. I've learned every one has an opinion, whether it's good, bad or the most pig headed ignorant point of view I've ever heard of.

One thing I've really learned though is how incapable we are of judging cruelty. I've have seen some of the worst suffering, the worst treatment, the cruelest forms of survival in the last twelve months and sitting at home writing this on my bed I feel less capable than ever of forming an opinion and a judgment of it.

I have seem animals suffer at the hands of humans, more than I thought possible. Seeing it and having to deal and treat it in the flesh is far different from looking at a photo and being shocked by what I've seen.

I have no doubt that there are bad and very cruel people in this world. I dont think it matters if they are brought up in poverty or abundance. Bad people will do bad things.

I also know that poverty, and lack of education is a hot house that leads to suffering and acts of cruelty among good people. I know that religion has a lot to answer for.

In one part of India I saw tiny skeletal and dehydrated ponies carrying almost their body weight in cement bags, rocks and gas bottles up mountains. These ponies worked until they died and lived a life of unimaginable misery. Once near death they are left on cliffsides for leopards and scavengers to do away with the bodies. A lot of these ponies problems could be solved with something as simple as better access to water. You want to hate the people and it's easy to from behind your computer screen

But what about the countless number of people alongside the ponies, the men who work in gangs to push huge carts of supplies up the mountain, skinny and bow legged from malnutrition, missing teeth and with out shoes going up steep rocky paths. Or the women in bright sari's with basket of rocks on their head or hips who work all day laying down rocks on the road, usually with there newborn babies lying just meters away on the ground. The conditions and life expectancy not so much better from the ponies that we westerners judge them for treating so badly.

Suddenly who's right and wrong becomes less clear.

Emaciated animals turned loose to roam the streets with broken limbs and twisted bodies is heartbreaking, and you wonder how thousands of people walk by and turn a blind eye every day. But then you see beggars, even more twisted, barely recognizable as human, dirty children and old women who fare no better that live the same fate as the animals and that line of judgment gets even more blurry.

What about the mules who work all day carrying loads of bricks In the sun, until the weight of the cart creates huge open gaping pressure sores on their backs and still they work. But when the day is done they go back to their families home, which is just stacked bricks with a sheet of metal on top, and the mule is put into a stable that is the same size of the entire family home. That is to say one room with a roof. Beneath each towering brick chimney are courtyard settlements of the stacked brick rooms and from the outside you cannot tell which is mule stable and which is family home. Animal and man live in exactly the same conditions, neither works harder than the other, the mules fair better most of the time, at least they have a room to themselves. So are these people selfless to ensure the animal they rely on lives as good as they do, or selfish for working it until its raw and bleeding?

Not so easy to judge now is it?

Cruelty in these country's is never black and white. There is never a goody and a baddy, but more a multitude of suffering and survival.

When I see comments underneath our photos posted on the internet it makes me mad and I do judge, who are these faceless people to say that "these people should be hung" or how they are "monsters" and "wish I could treat them how they treat there animals". But I do understand the reaction, the images are awful, it seems pretty easy to serve judgment on a photo, I too want to make someone pay for the misery of which some of these animals are inflicted, it makes me sick to my core to look at wounds, broken un-treatable bones and animals without hope of better life or escape. But judgement is easy, finding a solution is where the real hard work begins.


Ps below is a picture of a brick kiln family home....take away the beds and this is how's the mule lives, form your own opinion

Friday, May 3, 2013

Time flys

Time flys, this it will be almost three years since my first wild horses arrived. The stallions from last muster will have been with me a year and in another twelve months I'll hopefully have another lot of wild horses arriving from muster.

To be honest I'm left scratching my head a bit at how fast time rolls past. Some days I feel I've achieved not even a quarter of what i could acheive with these horses. Then other days I remember that there is only me, and I have to run a business, a farm and do so many other things than judt play with wild horses, and I'm happy with how much I've achieved. Every single wild horse that's come through my hands is now not wild, more importantly they are happy, well adjusted and relaxed equines, whether they live with me or have gone on to new owners.

None however has manged to do quite as much as Fern, my little grey mare from the 2010 muster. Not only was she mustered as a very mature horse at eight years old, she was pregnant, had her foal in captivity raised him to be one of the healthiest calmest and most polite youngster I've ever come across. She's been my show horse, and one of the most talented jumping horses I've ever ridden, but the more importantly she's now gone on to teach more children to grow up loving horses, and wild horses in particular.

Fern get used on the school holiday camps I run, and is one of those priceless horses who just adapt to any rider, is never naughty and quietly gets in and does whatever is asked of her with no fuss. Every rider who is lucky enough to sit on her gains confidence, whether a wee child or a shy teen, in no time she has them flying happily over jumps.

One of my biggest goals with wild horses was to show people how amazing they can be, how non wild, sensible and versatile they truly are. But most of all I wanted people to fall in love with them. Becasue if you can get people to experiance something first hand and love it, then they will want to save and preserve it themselves, in this way maybe we can save more horses each muster. One day hopefully every horse that it is possible to rehabilitate will be, and not sent to slaughter.

I'm not sure I've achieved making people fall in love with wild horses but I think Fern has.