Of course anyone even slightly interested in reading, let alone buying this book will want to know who on earth this person is who talks with such authority about training horses and even riders!
I come from a farming background and started riding when I was about two-and-a-half, sitting up in front of my father on his saddle. I graduated to a pony at five years of age. For the next 10 years or so I competed in shows and gymkhanas around Canterbury, moving on to a horse when I was 17. I competed in an early Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) showjumping competition at the Royal Invercargill Show in 1954, losing my way in the jump-off in front of the Queen, a mistake I never forgot!
Showjumping was in its infancy in New Zealand at the time, and it was in my blood, for better or worse! I took showjumping courses with Coloman de Bolgar, the New Zealand Horse Society’s first instructor, and later with his successor, Lockie Richards.
I owe much of what I learnt about riding, training and setting up jumps for schooling and competition to Hungarian trainer Karl Jurenac (Kalman de Jurenak). Karl developed his philosophy of classical schooling over many years, instructing horses and riders in a number of different countries, including New Zealand in the 1970s.
In 1956, I was lucky enough to be included in the first South Island showjumping team with my horse Quest to tour the North Island. Ben Rutherford, who later went on to manage a team competing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, was our manager. We competed around the North Island, finishing at the Auckland Easter Show, where we jumped for the first time under artificial lights. I sneaked a win and a second! Ben and his wife, Monica, became my mentors and taught me how to train young horses.
I had originally been introduced to the ‘art’ of ‘handling’ or ‘breaking’ a young horse by a couple of men from Blenheim, who had come to my parents’ property, “Upton Fells”, to give an unbroken colt a ‘work over’ before he was castrated. I was shocked as I watched the action and drama unfold. The colt was lassoed, half-strangled, roped, thrown to the ground and prepared for castration. The vet had an easy job but the experience for the horse was extremely rough. I knew there must be a better way.
While I was staying with the Rutherfords at their home in North Canterbury, Monica lent me an old book called Educating the Horse by Professor Charles Lichtwark who, in the late 19th century, had travelled throughout Australia and New Zealand teaching his method of handling horses. I read it twice that night and couldn’t wait to get home to give it a go!
Farming in those days often involved horses and, on larger properties, many horses. At home we had eight packhorses and several station hacks, as well as showjumpers and ponies, and several wild, unbroken horses roaming the hills. Using Lichtwark’s sound and humane methods, I began training our wild horses and met with great success. In 1964, I wrote about my experiences in a small textbook called Horsebreaking.
Later, in the North Island, I continued handling young horses and competing in showjumping and eventing, winning one of the first New Zealand Horse Society Novice Three Day Events at Hastings in 1973. With my horse Confidential, I had achieved my ambition of taking a wild, unbroken gelding to the top of the New Zealand equestrian tree. He became an A Grade showjumper and an Open Class eventer.
Back in the South Island, I taught at Pony Club as a B Certificate instructor and examiner, had my own riding school, judged showjumping, and built courses for the New Zealand Pony Club Championships in Nelson in 1977 and the New Zealand Horse Society National One Day Event in 1978.
In the 1980s, I moved to Golden Bay and retired from the horse world. Under pressure from various people, I have now come out of retirement – despite being in my 70s – to write a complete update of my 1964 book, explaining my method of training a young horse and imparting knowledge of other aspects of equine pursuits I’ve acquired over many years.
My original book was called Horsebreaking, the term used 50 years ago to describe whatever means were being applied by whoever to tame a horse. But that is no longer appropriate, as ‘breaking’ a horse implies destroying his wonderful spirit – something I would never want to do. The methods I use to restrict a horse’s movements are humane and simple, and are often also useful for retraining and reschooling. If I can do it, so can you!
I hope many aspects of my experience will be of help to you.