Who are your favorite horses?
Vicki: My Kaimanawa from the Stallion Challenges, Argo.
Kelly: My Showjumper Dancer, and my American Mustang Jackie.
Amanda: Showtym Viking, my 14.2 superstar, who I won Pony of the Year on and competed to World Cup level.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Vicki: When Amanda won Pony of the Year.
Kelly: My Mustang Jackie, who I trained for the 2015 Extreme Mustang Makeover.
Amanda: Winning the 2010 Pony of the Year.
How old are you?
Vicki: Born in 1987.
Kelly: In 1989.
Amanda: Born in 1992. You do the maths!
Who was your first horse?
All: Samson, a naughty little Shetland pony who we all shared.
Who inspired you when you were younger?
All: We were inspired more by our horses, and the horses we read about, than by people when we were younger. We didn’t watch any TV so did not know of any celebrities or internationally recognised riders. The horses are who taught us and they were our greatest influence.
If you could compete any horse, past or present, which would it be?
Vicki: Argo. He gives me 100% every ride and is always willing to try anything. I’m lucky enough that I can compete him in the coming seasons.
Amanda: Meredith Michaels Beerbaum’s grey horse Fibonacci.
Kelly: Snowman, the “eighty dollar champion” from the United States.
What inspired your work with the Kaimanawas?
All: A pony that Vicki had started and trained went on to win the 2012 Pony of the Year with one of our students, Tegan Newman. This attracted the attention of Kaimanawa Heritage Horses, who invited us to watch the biannual muster in the Kaimanawa ranges. We hadn't realised until then that, every muster, trucks full of horses were being sent straight to the abattoir as there was not enough demand for them all to be adopted. Despite being nice types, the Kaimanawas seemed to have a reputation of being untrainable and were shunned in the horse community. We hoped that if we could prove that these horses could be domesticated successfully, for both the competition arena and for use as pleasure mounts, the negative stereotype surrounding them would change, encouraging more people to adopt.
What was the most significant thing you learnt from working with the wild horses?
Vicki: That there is no one method to training horses. You have to be able to adapt how you train to suit the individual horse and their style of learning.
Kelly: To put yourself in the horses' hoofs. These horses are genuinely terrified initially so I tried putting myself in their position so I could better understand why they react the way they do. Once I had done this, I learnt more about knowing what their limits were, and when to push them and when to take a step back - the same way as you would give and take with a human.
Amanda: With the wild horses you are working with a clean slate, so the horse’s behaviour reflects you. Any negative behaviour the horses are showing can be pain-related, or is because of something you have done. This means you become very aware of what you are doing right and what you need to improve on as a trainer.
What are the main differences between the wild Kaimanawas, Mustangs and Brumbies you have tamed?
All: The Kaimanawas, Mustangs and Brumbies have many differences and similarities. They come in all shapes, colours (although there are no pinto, palomino, buckskin or appaloosa Kaimanawas) and sizes (generally 13.2hh to 15hh), and all of the mature horses fulfil every definition of the term ‘wild'. The differences in these horses generally lie in how their behaviour has been affected by their limited interactions with humans.
The Kaimanawas are mustered gently and considerately, by experienced helicopter pilots, into cattle yards where they are sorted and sent directly to their new homes in stock trucks. They arrive with us after a considerable amount of trauma, and with very limited or no knowledge of – or respect for – fences, domestic water sources and artificial water sources. These horses have no human influences on them until they are mustered, so their reactions are those of completely wild animals.
The Mustangs have had significantly more interaction with humans, as they are mustered and then put into holding yards for the remainder of their lifespan, living with up to 3000 other wild horses at a facility (in total about 50,000 Mustangs live in holding yards around the USA). So they respect fences and know about domestic food and artificial water sources, and see humans daily in the yards. They have also been run through races, and put into a mechanical ‘squeeze’ crush which flips them, allowing handlers to trim their feet and perform any veterinary work required (e.g. gelding). While the human interaction can be beneficial to their trainability in some ways, some of the interactions have also been negative, meaning that you are not working with a ‘blank canvas’.
The Brumbies we have worked with for the Australian Brumby Challenge seem to fall in between the Kaimanawas and the Brumbies. They have been mustered using passive trapping techniques, where they gather in a large holding yard seeking the food placed inside. They are then transported to the Victorian Brumby Sanctuary; here the stallions are gelded and the mares wean their foals, and they are then turned out in a 50-acre pasture in a herd-like environment. These horses have an understanding of fences, domestic food and artificial water sources, but have had minimal human interaction.
What is your favorite colour?
Amanda: Green and Blue.