Saturday, 3 December 2011

100 Horses and Stella

This Horse trek is a yearly event, held at different locations in the Upper North Island of New Zealand. This year it was held in the Utakura Valley in the Hokianga Harbour. Just getting into the place was a haul and a half. The drive down into the valley was through a very twisty, steep few miles on a road not designed for man nor beast. By the time I reached the bottom and only having one horse in the float, the brakes on the Isuzu bighorn were fading. I'm thankful this time I was not hauling two horses.

I have activated the location to give those interested an idea of the country the trek was held on.

The photo is the start of the first day and my intro states 100 horse. However, that count was wrong. 120 horses started on the first day and one very special horse, a photo later on this page.

We arrived the day prior to the start just to get the feel of the area and also to get the tent pitched, pump up the air beds and settle in. Roslyn then went and helped to organisers fleece as much money from the riders as possible. This event was for charity. The ride was to benefit the Riding For The Disabled an organisation who do great work providing horse riding for disabled folks.

This photo is of the gang of four taking entrance fees and making sure the two with their backs to the camera also brought as many raffle tickets as could be squeezed out of them. Even I did not escape and was lightened of a few more dollars. It was all in a good cause. My raffle tickets did not win a prize.

My accommodation and the Boss

My neighbour's accommodation

These photos are of the areas set aside for camping. The left is the beer drinkers, and on the right the wine tasters. I drank my beer in the wine tasters area. Nah I'm joking no segregation between tastes of beverage, it was first in best dressed.

The wool shed where all gathered for meals.

The cost of entry on the trek included meals if required.
Breakfast for the first morning was a continental type breakfast with lunch provided half way through the trek consisting of fruit, filled roll, cake, biscuits, tea coffee, or water.

Dinner was a first class affair but you had to bring your own chair, plate, etc.

The food. Roast lamb, mutton and pork. Ham on the bone and lamb chops, all the veg you can think of and of course, a variety of  sweet afters, apple pie Ice,cream all manner of cake, good thigh and hip building fare.

    Before the start of any trek first one has to catch their horse. And where in the large paddock did they go, right to the top of the hill. And they call them dumb animals, or is that the animals that had to walk to the top to watch the horse amble down onto the flats and wait patiently for their owners to arrive from the top of the hill. Now who was the dumb animal.

Now for photos of the trek

This is a shot of the first day. 120 horses past me as I braved all of those hooves just to get the shot of the start, and one special horse. That photo a little later.

This photo is as the riders left the road after half a mile and headed into the hill.

This gives an idea the hills the riders are heading into. It is a shame I was unable to be on the ride not only for me but for the photos as the true nature and steepness of the area is not portrayed in its true form from looking up instead of down from off the back of Stella.

 Coming down out of the hills cross a stream which was running very low due to the drought conditions we have been experiencing. After the water crossing they crossed a road into another farm and headed into higher and steeper hills.

Another view from between the horses ears

The view from the summit was breath taking and below the view from the bottom.
 This photo was taken from the road well below, and the camera set on Macro hence the grain in the photo.

While I was waiting for the riders to get down to a lower level I thought why not stop for a coffee. The shop was closed.

Heading off back into the bush. Lucky for our riders we do not have predators. A few wild pigs, cattle, and of course those damn birds that wait until the horse is right upon them before taking flight. But we have all had that experience.

                                                           A few stones to get around

                      Heading back into the bush again. Photo from the back of Kate 
  Lunch break. That yellow building is the long drop, and how the organisers expected the horse to get into such a small building for a pit stop beats me. But the photo does not lie they are lined up waiting their turn.

The hill is some of the area the riders went through. Don't think that as there is a road showing this is what the tracks were like, it was not. The area they rode through did not have any tracks and the riders were breaking new ground as they went. From this photo you can see the area is equal bush and grass land. Once they came off this hill and along the gravel track they were back to the starting point, and a well earned rest for the horses.

Arriving home. Kate, sporting a Fabtron saddle supplied by http:// Stella's paddock mate very relaxed 14.3 hands being one of the smaller horses in the trek she enjoyed herself as did the rider.

The horse and rider of the day. The horse in the following photo lead out in the main bunch of 120 horses and returned in the first bunch home. Not only on the first day of 5 hours hard trekking but also on the second day. I feature this horse and its 6 year old rider. That's right readers, this little girl is only 6 years old and completed over terrain that knocked the stuffing out of some big strong horses.
 But the photo you are now looking at is of a rider cooling down and his horse had buggered off because he was splashing it. It would wait for him at the edge of the pond, be retrieved, and enter the pond again to go through the process again I believe the horse was playing and enjoying the game. The horse with the rider also got into the spirit of the swim.

A short interlude after the ride, and the horse being lead into the pond again. I watched the antics of this horse and rider for quite some time as they played their game.

     I'm outta here
Letting the horses cool down. Note the size of the right hand horse and it is a horse.

Mother and daughter cooling down the horse
 The swimming hole was deep enough that this big hearted horse had to swim part of the way. The rider and horse enjoyed themselves so much the process of entering, swimming, and exit on the opposite side was repeated several times. The squeals of delight emitted by the rider were equally enhanced by the body language of the horse. Both enjoyed the swim.

This young lady was heard talking to her horse when on the trek. It was told to me by my wife who was riding close to her at time when the going got tough she could be heard telling her horse You are a big horse. When it was steep and she needed encouragement she repeated. You are a mountain horse. I am a mountain rider.

This brought to a close the riding on the first day with a restful evening having a few drinks in the wool shed after a dinner that was fit for wine drinkers and beer drinkers alike.

Next years trek to raise funds for The Riding For The Disabled will be again a testing ride in colourful country some where in Northland New Zealand.

An action shot of an up hill entry into the bush. The red ribbon on the tail is to warn others the horse may kick.

It is fitting I end this this post with a photo of Stella, and not at her best. I can not say she got up to one of her antics by getting sick. The decision not to take her was made 5 minutes before leaving home to the trek.
Her skin problem was being treated daily for two weeks prior to the trek so I did give it a good try.

Stella had developed a reaction to ticks and as such had become raw in the area between her front legs and in the area the girth strap would go. So she stayed home. The good news is she seems to be on the mend so perhaps by the end of this week she will allow me to take her for a short ride. The mind boggles at what behaviour she has instore for me. I even went to the extream of buying a gel filled girth strap to soften the pressure on her.  
I have not answered the question on how to measure a horse for a saddle. The question asked on my last post. Fitting a saddle is far more involved than one would imagine. So on my next post will address that question. However for those that can not wait the horse saddle have a site that deals with saddle fitting. The link is on the top of the side bar.

If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to click on the plus 1 sign as it tells google the page has been viewed. Thanks all and I'l be back soon with more stories and photos of my adventures (misadventures) on the back of my horse and more photos from between the horses ears


  1. What an outstanding article! I can't believe you lugged around a camera all day to take such lovely photos, but I am appreciative that you did. And that's a nice touch about the small girl and her little big horse too. Thank you for sharing.

  2. That was cool. those photos looked real good and all that food made me fell hungry. what a great way to get out for a few days. That little girl and that horse were pretty hardcase. Hope you had an awsome xmas and have a safe new year.