Horses, Lions, and Gannets in New Zealand

Headed out west of Auckland to the coast to do a horse ride. Arrived and three horses were there, ready to go. Adjusted the stirrup length on the English saddle (bleh!) and off we went with Antoinette, our guide. I got ‘Grace’, a ~ 16 hand tall Quarter Horse. A bomb-proof horse trained to provide trail rides to complete beginners, this horse was impossible to control. She followed nose to rear and only adjusted speed if the lead horse did (with one exception). Just trying to steer her with reins was mostly futile, she would not even be guided to the center of the trail. The one time I got her into a trot on my own came after a ridiculous amount of heavy kicks (over one minute of escalating kick strength and frequency).

We started along the black sands of Muriwai Beach along the crashing waves of the west coast. Quickly left the beach to a trail running parallel to a gravel road, into a forest, across a meadow, back into the forest, down to the beach to finish up. Despite asking if we could cantor at the start of the ride and reminding her halfway through, our guide apparently forgot and we ended up at the trailer before we could protest. We only trotted a couple times for very brief periods (5 seconds and 10 seconds).

During the ride, she also talked a lot about topics I would have avoided with strangers (religion, politics), asked questions about my riding experience that made me think she has never seen a western saddle in person and offered overly-beginner advice for Blaise (not her first ride, but first time she trotted). I ended up giving her as many pointers as our guide did, and she is a trainer by profession.

I really wish my regular instructor Chelsea could have been here. I think she could have given Blaise much better direction in the two hours and made the ride considerably more enjoyable. I am sure she would have enjoyed the areas we rode in as well. I also wish I could have gotten a horse that was geared for experienced riders, so the ride could have had some level of technical challenge for me. Last, I wish she had offered me the choice of saddle, but I really doubt the company she works for even owns one.

After riding, a quick visit to one of the only two Gannet colonies in New Zealand. Next, we stopped by Coopers Creek vineyard so I could get a bottle of Fat Cat Chardonnay and Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc.

For our next dose of nature, off to Lion Rock at North Piha beach. Due to the unstable terrain, people are no longer allowed to hike the to the top. We climbed about 2/3rds of the way up and enjoyed the view. Even at sea level, climbing that many stairs (some natural, some made), it got my heart rate up and breathing going.

Bishop Fish & Chips in Green Bay provided a tasty snack before the ride home through late day Auckland traffic.

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