Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Monday, July 29, 2013
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
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.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
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
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
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.
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
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
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