Tuesday, February 15, 2011

South Island New Zealand - part 1

2 weeks in New Zealand with mostly lovely weather and working with enthusiastic and talented Para-equestrian riders was nearly a holiday! I so enjoy working in a team setting. Riding is an individual sport but for those with disabilities it involves a 'team' situation.

Coaching started off in Christchurch in a howling wind. The horses all behaved well but it is always an anxiety when the environment cannot be controlled and one is coaching riders whose balance is compromised due to injury.

After a two day clinic we moved to McLeans Island which is on the outskirts of Christchurch. This competition facility hosts 3 Day Events, Dressage and Show jumping competitions. A lovely facility.

It was the Para-equestrian Nationals run in conjunction with an AB (able-bodied) dressage competition.
The Grade 4 rider Jenny Afflick (who lives in the most southerly house in New Zealand) also rode in the Prix St. George and the Inter 1 Freestyle. She was second in both.

There are still signs of the earthquake in Christchurch.

There have been more than 4,000 after shocks so the area is still quite unstable. Friends of mine who live near one end of the major quake still do not know if they can repair their house or it has to be demolished and permission refused to rebuild on the land. It has been 'yellow stickered'.

Then my physio friend Vicky Melville, who I often work with in Japan, drove me across the South Island through Arthur's Pass. As predicted the weather turned from hot to rain. Still a glorious mixture of stark and beautiful.

This wood sculptor in Greymouth was recovering from a stroke. He told us that he was creating this as therapy. It is opposite a school and he has made books as well as this quill.

We stayed with friends on a cliff top on the west coast. This was the view from my bedroom.

Published 16 Feb at 9.07 a.m.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Along the Glenelg Highway

Leaving home and freshly mown lawns is always hard but the Western districts of Victoria were particularly beautiful. My friends who live near Cavendish have a large garden at their 'Wakefield Park' farm. It is open to the public so has to be kept 'up to the mark' all the time. There is always some  new project under way. They have standards to which I can only aspire!

A lovely feature of the garden is the grandchildrens' trees. Each one has a different variety and they
are all very interested in watching them grow and develop into lovely specimens.

The very old eucalypts  add a backdrop to the garden.

Walking around their garden at dusk after a long drive was both envirogating and inspiring. People only learn what is relevnt at the time and is of interest to them. I absolutely wanted to know the names and growing behaviours of endless roses and shrubs. Good teachers do not thwart learning. A glass of wine probably gave her patience. How lovely to drive away early the following morning enthused and relaxed.

I had seriously considered flying to Mt. Gambier, as particularly the drive home after teaching is a long haul. As I dislike flying avoiding two flights was a good option and catching up with old friends should never be postponed.

The filtered light reminded me of the stream garden at the Getty Centre in L.A.

This 'feature' was created ten years ago to celebrate 30 year of marriage.

Simple yet charming.

The Glenelg highway from Ballarat to South Australia via Hamilton is full of interest and stunning views. Gradually the Grampians come into view after an hour and a half's drive from Ballarat.

Casterton and Coleraine both nestle in valleys. It was nice to see the dams full of water without serious flooding and the ground had tinges of green. Normally, at this time of year, the grass has burnt off to a brown colour under the unrelenting sun.

From stud sheep farmers in Cavendish to Mt. Gambier where friends have a developing flock of Dorpers (disapproved of by many sheep farmers). These are sheep that originated in South Africa and were first brought to Australia in 1996. They shed their wool so do not have to be sheared or treated for fly strike. They originated from Dorset Horn rams bred over  Backheaded Persian ewes. The white Dorpers were out of white Van Roy sheep.

Each to his own!

Monday, January 10, 2011

King Island visitor

These breeding pigs are unaware of their idyllic lives. They live on yoghurt (their favourite is the chocolate flavour) and live in an acre of scrub land.

The fishermen, on the other hand, have very busy lives. These men are going out to their boat on a Friday evening with work still to be done.

Photographs do not express the senses of smell and touch. We were extremely lucky for the five days I was on the island. The weather was warm and a little humid and the winds were mild. I have taught in the past where I have had to shelter behind a horse float to teach.  The harbours were like mill ponds. No hideously enormous waves but still the intoxicating salty sea smells.

The boathouse, between the fishing boat and the lighthouse, was burnt down a couple of years ago. It has now been rebuilt (with wheelchair access) and is 'the restaurant without food'. Anyone can use the boathouse which is quite charming. Nothing nicer than an early morning cup of tea looking out on the returning fishermen or a 'bring your own' barbeque at night.

King Island is full of  ship wrecks. Still the most serious loss in Australian waters was the wreck of the Cataraqui in 1845 where over 400 lives were lost and only 9 people survived.  An accident that did not need to happen. The captain wanted to anchor for the night in a bad storm. His crew were anxious to finish the long journey from England and called him a coward. So he sailed on- to destruction on a desolate and dangerous shore.

The ship took a long time to disintegrate and brave passengers and crew tried to  hang on to parts of the ship but ended up drowning as the parts submerged.

Such an unusual sight to see this domestic goose with a 'wild thing' black baby. (to her left)

Arthur is a very well known personality on the island. At 14 he is hail and hearty on his diet of kangaroo and herbs.

King Island is wonderful to visit. When driving around everone gives a 'hello' salute with the right index finger (if the car is tricky to steer) or all the right hand fingers if not! People who do not 'salute' are either snobs or tourists. I love the richness of the simple and down to earth life mixed with internationally recognised crays, beef, kelp, cheese, cream and, of course, yoghurt. Teaching riders and horses with talent is an added bonus.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Animals in my life!

It was really lovely to have a local farmers herefords eating down my paddocks. Years ago I worked in Ontario, Canada with horses and polled herefords. I helped show the cattle. My job was to wash and blow dry their bodies and then titivate the bottom of their tails into the latest showing fashion. At the time they had to be in big white pompoms which entailed lots of back-combing. Showing was great fun and I used to lead a quiet bull (they were much easier to lead than the heifers) in the progeny classes. Whoever won the male and female Championships used to supply fried chicken and beer to all the hereford breeders.

At first Thomas was very diligent about his lifeguard job on Christmas day but then he became bored.

These alpacas were very interested in the Boxing Day party.

Lady Louise feeding the peacocks.

This young peahen is rearing 5 babies.

The two visible babies' camouflage is so good that they are hard to see. This was taken last week and I now hear that they can all fly and roost at night in the trees away from the foxes.

Published 11.15 p.m. 26 December

Friday, December 10, 2010

Neerim Show

It's only on arrival home that one realises how windy is was at the Neerim show. How quiet it is inside. It did not rain but at times it was cold. Sadly for the orginisers the entries were down but those that went enjoyed the excellent footing for their horses. Instead of the whole January agricultural show being on one day in a fairly restricted area they ran the show horse sections a month earlier than usual.

Showing should be all about having fun as well as competing well. It surprises me that so many riders confuse speed with impulsion. There were a lot of horses, galloways and ponies with nice movement that were running along rather than moving with elegance. As for the quality of the walks - most of them were abysmal! Part of showing is the 'bling', part is conformation and a huge part is the horse's way of going.This includes the quality of the paces.

 Fancy Dress winner - Puss in Boots.

 This lady was certainy having fun with her beautiful pony.

I was very fortunate to have a 'showy' pupil stewarding for me. She knows all the rules and the judges' etiquettes. I have not judged at shows for some time but little has changed. There is a little too much horse make-up being used. It tends to look ridiculous. Since when have white horses had black knees and hocks? It's a funny thing to draw attention to horse's knees. It actually makes their legs look short and the movement optically changes. Hopefully these 'showies' will video 'the look' and see for themselves.

These two children were having a wnderful time with their father.

Saturday 6.20 p.m.

Lady Louise's geese are growing up

The three babies, including one with a grey head, are still kept in the middle of the gaggle, but they have survived.

Gardening seems to be endless weeding. However, it is very satisfying to see a weed-free flowerbed.
Clearing up piles of weeds is not my favourite job.

There has been so much rain that the weeds and lawn need constant attention - very therapeutic!

I do not spend many Christmases in Australia so I am looking forward to this year in Jindivick.

Making a wreath is not quite so easy as it looks. On a dressage scale of marks my attempt is worth a 6 - rather mediocre but adequate. If the holly wilts I can easily replace it as my garden has a lovely big holly tree with green berries.

Last Sunday I judged at the friendly dressage competition at Warragul Equestrian Centre. A good
opportunity for novice riders and young horses.

Tomorrow I judge hacks, galloways, ponies and riding classes at Neerim show. One of my pupils
is going to steward for me as she cannot ride in my ring. At least she will keep me on track as there seem to be an aweful lot of classes to be judged!