Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

Mary's New Zealand Diary

21 October

We had a great trip down here with InterIsland Horse transport ( - the boys travelled really well in that big truck and we made excellent time to RDA Invercargill. Two days getting things together and doing trial packs etc – had a moment of panic when I thought there was no spring balance to be had in Invercargill, This is the MOST essential bit of equipment in some ways – without it it is impossible to ensure that the two packs are balanced and the smallest variation will over a period of time lead to sore backs. I did a ‘mock pack’ for the Bluff leg – Boris had about 14 Kg in each side and no real top load. I reckon that when we go out on Tuesday we will have about 24 Kg each side plus a top load containing shoeing tools , etc

The start – 9.00 am 20 October, at Bluff Point

All a bit chaotic really – a few difficulties loading the other horses onto the wagon meant that we arrived at Bluff about half an hour later than I had hoped or wished for. This was our first contact with the Waikato Institute of Technology bus which looks pretty bright, with Nord Anglia Education, Ponden Mill, and Leeds United emblazoned on its sides as well as ‘our ‘ logo. Lots of people and vehicles and not even time to to look at the view or assess where I was – by the time I had Boris’s pack set fair there was pressure from parents and helpers to get started. We got away at about 9.30 in the end – sadly I have no decent photos of the start I think since the person handling my video camera pointed it hopefully at the sky most of the time. All a bit unsettling and unsatisfactory on a personal level, but the RDA riders I think got a lot out of the day.
Not without incident – misbehaving horses., a fire engine and crew, dousing flames of a bush fire just beside us – sirens, hoses, the lot – made the kids' day but not the horses! It was a bit of a forced march along the long, flattish, straightish main road to get to town for 5.00 pm, but we made it – Borrie overwhelmed by the enormity of the big city lights,- and we all posed for the record under the clock in the centre of town.

Trucking parade – Sunday afternoon 21 October

This is an Invercargill Labour Weekend event and we were meant to be leading it, but since it goes at a stonking speed, we tucked in further back with the Bus and the RDA van. Foggy was a real star, carrying Bertie the Budgie – a children’s icon here, and marching down the high street with all the great big trucks honking, as though he had been doing it all his life. Borris a little less confident, tucked in behind Foggy and leapt every line and drain cover – eyes on stalks – Hurunui was never like this!!!

Leaving RDA on Tuesday 23 October, for a short trip closer in to town, and then on to Dacre on Wednesday, a day of about 35 Km, with a couple of schools to visit hopefully en route – this will be the first ‘proper ‘ day on the road. Booked in to visit a school in Gore on Friday and to ride with RDA on Friday at 6.00 pm.


15 October
It rained! At last!! No doubt there will be many days when I pray for it to stop, but this fall was desperately needed and the grass is growing as you watch it. Not good news for plump ponies of course and grazing time is definitely rationed! 

Fourteen days swept by, initially in a flurry of saddle fittings… Thanks to Weatherbeeta, I now have a wonderful (and remarkably light) Kimberley Poley stock saddle, made by Bates, which seems to be pretty comfy for all three of us though it had to be fitted with a wider gullet to accommodate the boys’ physiques - an enormous relief all round. 

I took Foggy up to Rob Stanley’s place at Hawarden a week ago, and introduced him to Boris and to the idea of carrying a pack saddle . He was totally unfazed by it all and took an initial turn around the block with 25 kg of sodium chloride on either side. He and Borrie make a most splendid pair – they have the same priorities (i.e. stomach 1st, 2nd and 3rd) and are well matched in stride and shape. There is a lot of verbal sparring between them but no doubt they will resolve these issues in time. The lunch time routine is hilarious – both know a great deal about picnics and have designs on every ham sandwich!

Robs new pack saddle is a real triumph on first testing. I was glad to be able to trial it under supervision, to ensure that I fitted it correctly – once I failed to tighten the breeching before a steep descent and it slipped down over Foggy’s shoulder, an error that could quickly result in a lame horse. As well as several river crossings, we negotiated what to me was a pretty mind blowing bush track – some rock scrambling for the boys. We didn’t manage the long and steep descent quite so well. The idea is that they should pick their way behind you in a sober and cautious fashion but Boris was determined to prove his worth with the pack and go at speed, whilst Foggy thought he would be much safer beside and above me on the slope . Once the personality issues are resolved,  I think life will be a little simpler!

Both boys were shod on Monday – thanks to Maneline who have supplied some sets of shoes (I have decided to stick with traditional shoes for this tough country) - and also had tetanus jabs and had their teeth checked. It would be daft to set off without having taken any precautions possible! Now I am in the midst of a trial pack: all jolly fun! 

We go down to Invercargill on Wednesday October 17th, with Inter Island Horse transporters. They are providing transport for the long stretches – many thanks to them and to Ric Wiley from Bloomsbury Stud for sorting it out.

Then we kick off at 9.00 am from under the signpost at Bluff, south of Invercargill, on the Saturday morning. We will have eight RDA ponies with us, and 20 riders with disabilities, ready to take it in turns to make the 36Km to Invercargill itself. Sadly the weather forecast is not good… 
On Sunday we lead the trucking parade through the city which sounds a barrel of fun, and on Tuesday we head on north…. 

7 October 2001
The big news is that the Waikato Institute of Technology has come in as a main sponsor. They will have a ‘bus’ on the road for the duration, promoting the ride, RDA, and their courses – and of course carrying names of sponsors. This will give me a little back up in places which will be great.
I also have the support of Backhouse, who have provided me with marvellous waterproofs…

Thanks to Rob and Mandy Stanley, from Hurunui Horse Treks, horse number two is now in place. Rob has given me the use of Boris , a home-bred Connemara by the same stallion as Foggy.  Boris has his own say on the horse’s page, but suffice to say that he shows great strength of character as well as great strength. I am enormously grateful to Rob and Mandy. They run brilliant treks – anyone seeking a ‘taste of the High Country’ whether from the UK or from New Zealand, need look no further Hurunui.

Now I am trying to find the right saddle for all three of us – many thanks to Jenny McPhee from the Saddlery Barn for all her help in this. I tried a Wintec Pro endurance saddle, but it moved back all the time – looking at various other options. 

The next step is for Foggy and me to join Boris at Rob’s in Hawarden for a ‘dry run’ from 9th October. The boys will then go down to Invercargill with InterIslander – one of the big horse transporters during the week beginning 15 October, ready to start from The Bluff at 9am on Saturday 20th. 

RDA in Invercargill will accompany us all the way from Bluff to the city, - 36 KM – which is a massive feat of organisation , involving about 20 riders and 80 helpers. Phew!


25 September, 2001

After a week in Auckland, talking with RDA folk , potential sponsors and newspapers etc, I flew down to Christchurch. It was rather extraordinary looking down on rivers and mountains that I will next see from the back of a horse... 

I'm well-pleased with Foggy, who seems in every way to be a little star. He seems unfazed by lorries, rivers or ostriches, and has a well-tuned sense of humour. A Connemara cross, he has a coat like a carpet that is coming out in handfuls: however I am very conscious that he will need all the cladding he can muster when we get down south so I am not making any big effort to help him shed it. We are trying to build up his work load fairly systematically and are off to work on some hills later this week.

Finding the second horse is proving a bit more of a problem - I have looked at a few, several of which would do the job, but none of which have had all the credentials. I have to get something sorted soon...

Other arrangements
There is a lot to do - sorting the route, talking with land owners, purchasing camping stuff etc - and the computer crashed for a bit so that was an added frisson in the week. I'm trying to get my head round New Zealand weather patterns, poisonous plants etc as well as work on media links ...

I now have support from Gallagher Electric fencing, and Vetpro ( who work with Robinson's Animal Healthcare in the UK) . Ace Car rentals have been really helpful in sorting me with a vehicle, and the Flight Centre came up trumps with a flight.  IHUG have provided me with email access - thank you, all of you!  And special thanks to Jennie and Alastair Nicol with whom Foggy, Jacko and I are all staying at present! 

RDA in Christchurch
Jenny runs RDA in Christchurch and is currently working on a project to build a huge indoor arena at the Christchurch Showground. This will be a terrific asset to RDA here and will offer many more opportunities to many people with disabilities from the city and its environs. It will be available for use by other equestrian groups as well. BUT they must raise a total of $450000 of which they have raised about half - so if you can help please contact Jenny at


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