The Shakey Isles(or is that Hawaii?),Land of the long white cloud(it's actually
grey).Home of Mordor and a ring that caused some trouble a while back.A place
where everyone really does wear black all the time.A vivid image is that of
Derek Armitage wearing his green and gold Aussie jacket walking the boardwalk in
Wellington harbour surrounded by a sea of black jackets.The proverbial "sore
There is around 4 million people in NZ.That gives them around 266 000 possible
All Black sides that would be capable of beating our current Wallaby squad.But
we weren't there for rugby.Bet they wish we were now
We drove from Wellington to Whanganui.You should know that the WH in NZ is
actually pronounced PH ( as in F)depending on which part of the country you come
from,so it could actually be Whanganui or Phanganui.I don't think the locals
even know.I heard both.We stopped at Paraparaumu on the way.Now don't get too
carried away reading that twice because it is actually pronounced
patapatamoomoo.Crazy Kiwis.I mean Aussie place names make perfect sense like
Oodnadatta or Coonabarabran.Easy as.
The team met up in Whanganui at the hotel and we all went for a swim in the
pool for bonding and spent some time sunbaking on the beach.We threw beachballs
around and frizbies as well.
Oops none of that last sentence is true.If you threw a beachball on the beach it
would end up in South America and the frizbie would probably come back to you
after circling the globe on the gale force winds.So in NZ they may well call
frizbies boomarangs.I think they have heard of pools but they have never seen
one.At least not an outdoor version.The sand on the beach is black and the
driftwood should be called drift trees.Whole trees were all over the beach.Quite
amazing and the rocks on the beach were all pumice and as light as a
feather.Doubt that you would want a swim at that beach unless you had a
deathwish or a wetsuit 3 inches thick.
Ride base was around 18mins from the hotel.A pleasant drive through the
greeness that is NZ past the sheep and dairy herds.Deer farms dot the landscape
and it is incredible to see how much livestock they can squeeze onto small
blocks of land.Here we need about 2000 acres for 2 cows,a pig and a sheep and
even then we need to hand feed twice a day but in NZ there is so much feed that
100 head can spend a week on 1 acre.If you took an Australian horse to NZ they
would have a panic attack and a seizure,collapsing in a heap just from not being
able to work out where the hell to start eating and their cones and rods
couldn't process the lush green colour causing temporary blindness.Two days
later they would have a body score of a hundred and no girth would be long
Ride base was a couple of paddocks at the base of some steep hills covered in
sheep with a woolshed and some yards.A lovely sight and of course no shortage of
feed.On our arrival there were a few trucks already there and the Aussie horses
were waiting for our riders to get on board.Wonderfull to see the Kiwis look
after us so well and having horses available for testing 3 days before the ride
You don't need to hammer in a waratah (star picket) in NZ you just drop it from
5 inches above the ground and it settles around a foot in the earth.They also
use telescopic metal yards.Ooh they can be tricky lining up the holes.Apparently
they have some rather odd rules about yards over there.Voltage meters and such
that I won't bother going into now.Also no gooseys.Not a one.All trucks with a
couple of floats.Apparently the gooseys get bogged too easily.No surprise
there.Pretty sure if it isn't raining in NZ it is just about to.
They also have earthquakes.They gave us an earthquake one morning.5.1 on the
richter scale.Now I've never actually been in one before but I have come to the
conclusion that Kiwi earthquakes are soft.Soft like butter.Cmon Kiwi quakes take
a teaspoon of cement and harden up ya pansies.I didn't even notice.I think my
shoelace slipped off my boot and the end touched the ground gently but that was
about it.If we had an earthquake here it would open huge cracks in the ground
and swallow whole cities.Soft Kiwis,soft.
The Aussie invasion
Coming soon(sorry 2 finger typer.I need a break)
Here's a tip for the young player.If by chance you get asked to be a groom for
a rider on the Australian team you say yes.3 years ago a young lass took me on
my 1st 40k.Later that year she took me around my 1st 80.The year after she took
me around my 1st 160.I'd like to think that now we ride together as equals but
somehow I don't think it is the case.It was an honour for me to be able to lend
my support to Tarnia Kittel in NZ.
The team was as follows.
Sonya Ryan. groom, Jo Hamilton Branigan
Adi McIntosh. groom, Anita Lunt
Talea Hasko-Stewart. groom, Fia Hasko-Stewart
Tarnia Kittel. groom, me
Linda Tanian. groom Vanessa Crispe
Lisa Stoffel. groom Wade Burgess
Derek Armitage was our "cirque de sole" or is it "chef de quipe" and he was
assisted by his wife Glenda.A pair with much experience and they both did such a
sterling job.Thank you guys.
We had the opportunity to ride/choose horses in NZ 3 days ahead of the
ride.This was a fantastic effort by the Kiwis as I'm sure they could have all
just showed up the day before the ride as we would normally do.The quality of
horse on offer was brilliant as well.They offered us no dungers.Not a bad horse
amongst them.I would hope that next time the Kiwi's come here we can offer them
the same quality and show them the same hospitality.Something for the squad to
We watched the horses trot out and checked their logbooks.It was then that the
riders could choose a horse for a test ride.So off they went into sheep country
for a spin.
After a couple of rides over a couple of days the horses and riders were all
sorted.Sonya was on a big fancy grey Taralea Sheer Illusion,Adi mounted a very
pretty bay AA Elite,Talea a pretty faced bay Aurora Australis,Tarni a pushy grey
called Rios,Lisa a dappled dark grey called Iti and Linda who hadn't arrived yet
because of work committments was to ride a chesnut called Vigar Hussan.
I managed to wangle a test ride on Hussan and as we took off up the hill I'm
waiting for the inevitable shy.We split herds of sheep and cows all the while
I'm thinking "I know it's coming.There is no way that any arab will tolerate all
these sheep and galloping cows without stepping sideways at least once".It never
came.I was glad as the saddle I was in had the biggest knee pads ever and I
could have passed a Moa egg(extinct flightless Kiwi bird) easily with the riding
position I was in.I had not expected to mount a horse in NZ so I borrowed
Derek's jods and a helmet for the ride.I was in no danger of getting deep vein
thrombosis while wearing Dereks' jods and indeed I could have pulled many a G in
a fighter plane without fear of the blood rushing from my head.The jods were his
from Malaysia and I must say that even though I had to roll around on the ground
to actually get them on it was a buzz to be wearing jods with Australia written
down the side.Hope to wear those again.Well not Derek's but a pair of my own.
The horses were hot.They are fed quite differently to ours which may explain
why they are so hot.Honestly my jaw dropped when I saw what went in the feed
bucket but it is obviously working for them as the logbooks can attest to.They
ride pretty fast too.Steep hills up and down are taken faster than most of us
would here and the horses are so used to the conditions that you can feel the
power from their bums taking you up and they have no problems rushing down.In
fact the slipping going down hill was caused by me trying to hold him back a
bit.Once I let him do what he was used to he was as sure footed as any horse I
So it was all sorted.Riders happy with their mounts and eagerly awaiting ride
start.It is a really big thing representing your country and the butterflies
were a fluttering in our riders stomachs.The next installment Chapter 3"The
pressure cooker" will be out soon.That's where it gets exciting
"The Pressure Cooker"
Saturday night we were treated to dinner at the woolshed and a pre ride
briefing.For those of you that have never been in a woolshed you can smell
sheep.Very strong smell of sheep and the timber floorboards were well oiled with
sheep grease.(I think it's called lanoline but I like to say sheep grease).What
else would you expect to eat in NZ other than sheep and deer.I had both and made
sure that I had at least a small serve of salad even if I just wanted to eat
Derek made a short speech and so did his Kiwi counterpart Chris King.The pre
ride talk was oh so short and sweet.They basically said get on your horse and
follow the markers.Very refreshing to not feel like you need a pillow for pre
Tracks in NZ are not marked with arrows but rather roadside posts.You know like
the reflective guide posts on the side of the road.There are few trees in the
paddocks to attach an arrow to.Also they use milk containers painted fluro
orange.There are very few gatesitters and many,many gates so the riders have to
open and close the gates themselves.I can just imagine how we would whinge if we
had to stop every 2k to open a gate whilst our competition caught us up and then
hold the gate open for them whilst they wait for you to close it again.A good
system in many ways and not so good in others.
So back to the hotel for some shut eye dissapointed that I didn't get to
eyeball the opposition strippers (strappers) as they did the Haka.I think we
should make an official request for a Haka when they arrive here next time.Derek
has a Haka joke that I'm sure he'll tell you if you ask
Up early for the short drive to ridebase and time to saddle the steeds for
ride start.A daylight start at 6am which saw all riders happy as and off up the
sheep covered hill and over the top not to be seen again for around two hours.
I should explain now for those that don't know how the crewing system works on
the squad.The rider is of course responsible for all on track.Once the rider
returns the horse is handed over to the stripper who is then responsible for all
decisions thereafter.The groom strips the horse,trots the horse out,returns the
horse to the yard,feeds the horse,re saddles the horse and presents the reigns
back to the rider who is seated upon a goose down throne asking for more grapes
and wine.You must at this point remind them that it is important that they
remount their freshly stripped steed and join the throngs of competative riding
again.Strippers could also be called the riders "bitch".
So first leg was 30k.I had expected Tarni to do just under 2 hours.There was a
stripper call at 3k from base.It was a big call with from memory 18 horses
coming in together.Guess you can blame the gates for the traffic jam.
Now this is where it becomes interesting as the stripper.We didn't know our
horses much at all and from looking at the logbooks we had a reasonable idea of
how they pulsed.Rios is a very pushy,arrogant horse who really isn't much
interested in standing still or being polite.He throws you around like a rag
doll and the more you give him back the more he fights you.Off with the saddle,a
quick wipe on the neck and we went straight in at 68 after he came in at 72.It
really was a punt at that stage and by the time we got to the vet he was 64 with
a CRI of 60.So we were 1st in and 1st out.Great result.All of our horses made it
through the first vet check and really the difference in times was of no
consequence at that early stage.One of the other Kiwi juniors was only 30
seconds behind Tarni.
The second leg was again 30k although travelling a different direction.All
of our horses looked great heading out and they came in a little more spread out
this time.Little did we know that one of the fellowship was about to fall.Who
fell?You will have to tune in for the next thrilling installment and see.
The Pressure Cooker continues.
Sonya's big grey came in looking great.There was a question over it's CRI
though.She had to represent but no one was at all worried.Also Ady's mount
showed some signs of being a little uncomfortable after vetting so she was going
to give the horse a little more time to relax before going out again just to be
on the safe side.This meant that Ady's day went from competition to chasing a
Linda's horse had been very hot during the first leg and gave her quite a hard
time.She had given the horse some extra time in the hold to settle before
heading off on the 2nd leg.This began an unfortunate chain of events as once on
the 2nd leg she broke a stirrup and combined with a hot horse made it difficult
to say the least for her.There is little provision on that track for any rescue
mission and it took a long time to get a new stirrup to her.She too was aiming
now at a completion and would struggle to finish the ride before the cut off
Sonya's big grey was deemed unfit to continue at her represent being pulled on
a panel for metabolics.Now I personally had a little bit of a hard time trying
to work out what exactly happened and so did the rest of the team as well as
Sonya herself.The horse looked great,was eating and drinking but the vets
decided that the CRI was no good.A rather confusing ruling at the time and still
a mystery really.Bad luck for Sonya but she took it extremely well.A real credit
to herself and the team.So the first of the fellowship falls in NZ.Perhaps we
can now call Sonya "Boromir"
All 4 of the Kiwi horses were still going and we had only 3 team members
left.Trouble starts to brew and the worry begins.
You must take into consideration that we were there to hand back sound,healthy
horses but it was also a serious competition.We wanted a win and so did the
Kiwis.They wanted it badly.Who wants to be beaten on their home turf?No one
likes beating Australia more than the Kiwis so it was pretty tense at times and
tactics were flying around everywhere.Tarni was still at the front,Talea was not
far behind and Ady was mid field.The Kiwis were pushing hard and their focus was
definately on Tarni trying to draw her into over doing her horse.We knew that
they wanted to take her out hard and apply pressure to her mind and her horse
hoping for a mistake but she held her nerve even when she lost a shoe.She hopped
off and ran a few hills while making up time on the soft flat parts.The ground
is so soft that shoes aren't really needed in many spots of that track.The
Kiwi's were pretty sure they had Tarni beat after the shoe went flying but she
came in seconds behind the leader with a great chance of beating them to
We went in 1st to vet but Rios decided to push me around a bit just as the
heartrate was being taken.He pulsed over with a head toss and we had to go
around again.We could have walked straight in again but I certainly didn't want
to be the one who made the decision to go early and have the possibility of
vetting Tarni out so I took 4 minutes to be sure that Rios got through.He did
and Tarni was 4 minutes behind at the start of the last leg.
The 2 last legs were both 20k.Tarni was 4 minutes back now and it was very
unlikely that she would push her horse that much to catch.What she needed to do
was stay in the leaders mirrors and make him err in judgement.As Tarni left on
the last Rios took off like a horse posessed.A gallop out of the gates after the
lead horse.What a fantastic horse to still be going hard after 3 legs.
Talea was still cracking along beautifully and none of us doubted that she
would finish and finish strongly.We were now hoping that the Kiwis came unstuck
And so the ray of light!One of the Kiwi horses did not want to go out.I mean
really didn't want to go.The rider had to dismount and lead him down the road
for a km before mounting again and trying to get him going.He reluctantly headed
across the paddock on the last and we thought that Ady would probably pick her
up and get past.Talea was probably not in a position to catch the 2nd youth Kiwi
but if she finished there was always a chance that the Kiwi would fall at the
Linda had come home now and unfortunately did not have enough time to do the
last leg so she did the the only thing she could and withdrew.Not a great day
for Linda and we all felt for her.
While everything else was going on Lisa Stoffel,the quiet achiever, was still
moving along nicely on her dark dappled grey.Always looking great in vetting and
looking good for another finisher.Although not chasing for a place she was as
happy as larry and riding in NZ wearing the green and gold.What a fantastic
thing to achieve.Lisa will go a long way in this sport and should be
congatulated for her proffessionalism and dedication to the sport.
So it comes to the finish.It was a nailbiter right down to the wire.A full Kiwi
team heading to the last gate and 3 Aussies still in the hunt.Tarni chasing the
lead horse,Talea chasing the second placed Kiwi,Ady chasing the other 2.Could
you ask for a better script.
So to the finish
It sounds a terrible thing to wish a vet out on someone.Especially when they are
youths.When in the midst of a competition you tend to get into the competing
thing alot.It was a very friendly competition but both sides were hoping for vet
outs.I guess that is the nature of the sport at that level.FEI is not complete
is to win and the Trans Tasman trophy was of great importance to us.Not at the
expense of the horses but a win was what we were chasing.
The strapper call came for the leading rider.The Kiwi youth that had been doing
his best to stay ahead of Tarni.His horse came in looking exhausted but not
lame.They were strapping like crazy on that horse.Tarni came in around 5 mins
after from memory so they held their places around the same the whole leg.Tarni
was dancing on Rios as she crossed the line.Rios looked fantastic and we had
30mins to take our time with him.He pulsed down fine but we had so much time we
took no risks.A rug over him and a walk around saw him pulse down to 52 and we
went in.The Kiwis were still strapping the leader.
Rios still had plenty of life and was keen as ever to push me around and the
trot was spot on and full of energy.CRI no dramas and Tarni was through.What a
relief that was and what a celebration.
The Kiwi horse was still being strapped.It looked weary and they were obviously
having trouble with it.That is the sting in the tail.The young fellow riding the
horse had felt the pressure and pushed maybe a little too much.The horse went to
vet and was 64 and trotted ok.The only problem was that they were 29seconds late
A fact we didn't know for some time after.
The second Kiwi youth horse came in looking pretty shabby.Obviously stressed
and the rider was in tears.No one likes to see that.The horse was cramping and
having trouble moving or even standing.She was not to know where Talea was
behind her and had pushed too hard as well.After a very long strapping time the
horse pulsed ok and trotted out to everyones amazement not desperately lame.It
was equally stiff all over so I guess the vets couldn't really vet it out
lame.Unfortunately the horse fell down after leaving the vet ring and was put
straight on fluids.Not a great outcome but the horse recovered well after vet
attention.I was trying to think of a way of explaining that last one without
metioning the treatment but it is the way it happened and I guess part of the
story so there it is.A bit sad but it could happen to any of us.
Talea came in and the horse looked fab.A quick strap and a great trot out and
woohoo she was through.5th place for Talea.Excellent effort from the young
Canberran.So here we were thinking that we were 2 a piece with Ady to come.If we
had another Kiwi in trouble and Ady makes up a place we have the trophy.
We thought for a while that Ady was coming in with one of the Kiwis but it
turns out that we were wrong.We had the wrong bay when they finally came into
sight.One more Kiwi came in and pulsed out.Caused by a front end lameness.So we
were still going with a chance.
The last Kiwi came in ahead of Ady and looked tired but not lame as it crossed
the line.This was the grey that wouldn't go out on the last so she did well to
get it around.Ady came in whilst the Kiwis were strapping.
Now the Kiwis strap differently to us.No rugs no walking.In my opinion that is
where the next horse fell down.They took a lifetime strapping that horse in the
cold without a rug and with no walking at all.The horse trotted in sound but
upon the trot out was as lame as they get in the front.It didn't even make it to
the end of the run out.So c'mon Ady if you get through we take the trophy!
I think I said that to Ady which in hindsight wasn't the best thing to add to
the pressure she was already feeling.Sorry Ady
Anita had battled with that big bay all day and had done extremely well to
manage it in the vet ring as it was a difficult horse that towered over her.It
had a kick at a vet and also a cow kick at her jacket while she
ran.Unfortunately for both Anita and Ady the big guy was lame in the near hind
in the trot out.Not super bad but enough.I could see Anita kicking herself but
it was not her fault at all.Quite simply the horse was lame and no matter how
she had trotted it out the result would have been the same.
So we are thinking two all and they were both ahead of our first 2
respectively.We would still retain the trophy as you need 3 to finish in order
to win but it didn't feel the same as a win.
Aha!Then we get the news that the 1st Kiwi horse was late to vetting and Tarni
had won!Woohoo.We had 2 they only had the 1 so it was as good as a win.Way to go
Lisa came through and vetted great so a wonderfull completion to her.A well
ridden consistant ride.The ride was all over and the team was happy with
although not technically a win,a win all the same.
The difference between the 2 sides was horse management.In the vet ring,in the
tactical approach,and on track.All the Aussie horses were handed back to their
owners in good condition even if one was a little lame.
I shall return for the final wrap up and BC results.
Sorry this is getting very long.
It was important to me to fill in some details about our teams achievements.As
far as I am concerned they had the sporting hopes of a nation on their shoulders
even if only a couple of hundred people knew that they were there.To represent
your country in any sport is big.A reward for hard work and determintion and our
4 team members and 2 reserves are heroes to the sport of endurance.It is not a
gravy train representing Australia.There is no funding for the squad so all
expenses were met by the individuals right down to the uniforms.Carol Dixon
sponsors the Aussie jodphurs,a point that didn't get forgotten, so thank you
So many of the small things get forgotten or glossed over when it comes to
hearing about the squad and what they are up to overseas.Our Trans Tasman squad
were riders like you and I who chose to give back to their sport and chase a
Fia and Talea Hasko-Stewart.The mother and daughter pair that went about their
job quietly and efficiently coming up with a 5th youth place and a horse that
looked great in BC.Always a smile from Talea who I'm sure had a ball and did her
country proud.Excellent effort guys.
Linda Tanian who had a hard day at the office and a long drive back to the
airport after the ride and missed out on the celebration.Sometimes things just
go astray and there isn't much that can be done about it.Bad luck Linda.One of
Vanessa Crispe who had a hot horse to strap and helped out everyone else around
her when it was needed.I felt secure knowing that if by chance I slipped and
fell into the Whanganui river and was eaten by a crocodile Vanessa would have
been able to tell the forensic investigators what sex the croc was.A skill that
will I'm sure come in handy at a ride one day
Sonya Ryan and Jo Hamilton Branigan.I like to say Jo's name to myself with a
Prince Charles accent.Go on try it.How good was it to have a vet as a
strapper.Sonya enjoyed her mount tremendously and was positively beaming
throughout even after it went downhill.A real credit to the herself and the
Ady McIntosh and Anita Lunt.The west Aussies from flat country dealing with
the green hills of NZ.The pair of them very proffessional and always happy.There
was no grumbling at the end and they both did a wonderfull job managing a
difficult horse.Way to go girls.You should both be proud of your effort.
Lisa Stoffel and Wade Burgess.Wade is probably one of the most positive young
fellows you will ever meet and was absolutely over the moon to be in NZ.Lisa,who
should be known as BHP,(the quiet achiever) was supported by her entire
family.It was fantastic to see her finish and have the whole clan there proud as
punch.So they should be,she did a great job.What a supportive family they
are.They have the spirit of endurance in abundance.
Tarnia Kittel and Gerard Bou.(me).Tarni picked up the win and BC.She did
exactly what I knew she was capable of.She handled her nerves with poise and
control and I am so incredibly proud of that girl.What a ride.Bloody legend.
Derek and Glenda Armitage.Da bosses.They both did such a fantastic job looking
after us and organising everything.Such knowledge between them that they are
more than willing to share.I doubt we can thank you guys enough.
The Kiwis looked after us all so incredibly well.They put us up in the
hotel,gave us great horses(with no lease fee) and showed us such awesome
hospitality.They were gracious in defeat and I was impressed by the way the
riders congratulated each of the Aussies.We all felt for the lad who was late to
vetting.It must have been awfull for him.He will get alot out of that ride and
come back stronger for the experience.All of them will.
A great event,a great result.Proud to have been a part of it.
Aussie Aussie Aussie OI OI OI!
Perhaps someone can post all the names of organisers and horse lenders as I am
no good with names and I didn't write anything down.
I'm sure that something more official will show up
Please call me G