Friday, March 16, 2007

Land of the Long White Cloud

OMG - NZ! I can't believe I'm in New Zealand!! In the native Maori language, New Zealand is known as Aoteraroa, which is usually translated into English as The Land of the Long White Cloud. When I landed in Auckland, in the north of the North Island, It was indeed cloudy, and windy, sprinkling, and COOL! An immediate short flight an hour southeast to Napier/Hawkes Bay, landed me where it was COOLER, and spitting rain! No whining here! I sucked in great lungfuls of the cool drier New Zealand air! I hitched a ride with a man Ron, who knew nothing of my arrival, and who was picking up Dr. Bala (veterinarian for the King of Malaysia's stables, would be head vet for the Horse of the Year Endurance ride) and his wife.

I happened to end up at the correct hotel in Napier where Steph had just arrived (she flew in a day early, and stayed in Auckland a night). The Palm City Hotel was the gathering place of a group of endurance riders who would be riding in Friday's 100 km endurance ride as part of the Kelt Capital Horse of the Year. It's a multi-disciplined horse show, and international endurance has returned for the second year. Some of the riders would be: Leonard from Belgium, with Carol, (the same two we were with in Malaysia last week); Paco from Spain, with his wife Esther; Celia from Spain and her husband Thomas (Steph and I got stuffed into their 2-bedroom hotel room because of a booking oversight). There were also four South African riders due, among New Zealand and Australian riders, 34 total.

Napier looked and felt like a sleepy little coastal town, much like coastal towns in Oregon. I heard the very green Pacific Ocean was very near, but I'd have to see it in the morning, because it was an early night for me.

And I saw the green Pacific the next morning; we drove alongside it for a while on the way to Hastings, where the Horse of the Year events were already underway at the Fairgrounds. Actually, we drove and drove, (Leonard drove, and he's used to driving on the right side of the road in Belgium, and here the Kiwis drive on the left…), and finally we realized we might be lost. We stopped to ask for directions twice, and finally ended up at the Hastings Fairgrounds an hour late. Paul Jeffrey was taking his 3 riders out for a ride on his horses; they quickly saddled up and took a spin - around and around the small warm-up grounds where we were parked because they couldn't go out on trail -the first part of which was in residential areas.

The Raven came along today, rode in the van with us, met with and talked to Paco, made friends everywhere, ate with an endurance horse, and got his own miniature horse ride.

Meanwhile, I wandered around the grounds watching all the people and horses and events. Horse of the Year - what a great concept. What a fun show! Big horses, little horses, ponies, tiny horses. Dressage, big Clydesdales pulling a wagon, (scaring many horses tied to trailers), jumping, Mounted Games (!!! What fun!!!), endurance, horses everywhere doing everything. The horses in Malaysia were on the thin side - I guess you would want that in a terribly hot and humid climate - and they were all kinds of shapes and sizes, some Arabs, lots with Thoroughbred blood. Now here in New Zealand at this show - here were some good looking horses! I sure like to ride Arabs, but my favorite are the Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods. Just dang good looking horses. Many were almost as handsome as Stormy J. Good flesh, good size, good shape. I lust after the Mustangs, love looking at the Thoroughbreds, and like riding the Arabs.

It was a beautiful, sunny, partly cloudy, cool, bit windy day. I even happily wore my fleece jacket on and off when I was in the shade! No more rain - the skies cleared and the grounds seemed to have nice footing. And oh my god, I am in New Zealand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The endurance horses all vetted in, and the riders went to their meetings while Carol and I snuck a little bit of shopping in between picture taking.

The endurance ride begins tomorrow at the quite decent hour of 7 AM, and the weather prediction is nice weather, not so hot and humid!

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