About the @nzmares adventure

I feel so lucky to have these two very different and very special mares in my life, so I started an account on Instagram to share our fun.

How it all began...

Just like so many open-faced girls with long tangled hair and knobbly knees, I fell in love with horses at ten. A cowboy neighbour let me ride his paint mare Santana - and then gave me her foal! At 11 I was the proud owner of an adorable paint filly, dazed by my incredible luck.

One day when she was three and I was 14 I was brushing her as she stood free in the sun, and wondered what would happen if I just ... slid on her?

No ropes, no bridle – she turned to sniff my foot like "isn't that supposed to be on the ground?" and that was that. Horses were an indelible part of my identity. I grew, and moved to a loyal chestnut gelding, and then a powerful thoroughbred.

We rode bareback, jumped fences and galloped along the coast chasing wild horses. We swam rivers, camped with our horses, went to pony club and competed in eventing.

Fast forward through university, career, travel, marriage, motherhood and divorce – my mare was laced through my life, until she passed away at 26 on my brother’s farm, my hand on her soft cheek as the last flare of life flashed in her eyes.

With new beginnings come new possibilities – finally my new partner and I bought a small piece of land, and right away I began looking for my dream horse.

Juno joined me as an 18 month old filly

I found her just 20 minutes from home – a black, registered quarterhorse filly. Juno's registered name is Raise Di Bar, by Lightning McQueen with New Zealand stallions Grand Di Bar and Deeliberate Hobby as grandsires. She has loads of Three Bars (an early thoroughbred sire) in her line with Doc Bars, Lightning Bars, Sugar Bars and Bar Flit in her lines as well as King, Leo and Impressive. She’s tested 5 panel negative.

Years, miles, and many challenges later, this is Juno.

Amy Buncanga Photography

Juno is so brave, so willing – and wholeheartedly believes that we are a team. I feel so privileged when this powerful girl softly ducks her head into my arms and closes her eyes, or when we gallop along wild beaches miles from anywhere, her ears pricked, me laughing aloud.

We began her ridden life together and there was a definite moment, at a horsemanship clinic, where I looked around the circle of people each with their horse and thought ‘here we are all in our pairs’ and she stared at me… I felt her thinking with surprise ‘You are MY human!’ and she put her nose on my arm, then my neck, breathing me in with her eyes fixed on mine… the feeling was so strong I was completely overwhelmed by her intensity and struggled to hold her gaze. I glanced across the group at my friend Kristina and we shared a look, both of us with tears streaming down our faces. The acceptance of an exceptional horse is no small gift!

Juno has challenged me more than any horse ever has. In the early days she was so dangerous to handle. She pinned her ears, refused to lead, once bit me, another time lashed out both heels at my head with a scream of anger. Our journey together has been a journey to trust and respect on both sides, and now I can lie with her when she rests, sit by her legs while she grazes around me, or slide on her at liberty in the field.

She’s also got the best work ethic you could imagine. She wiggles the gate with her lips to ask me to let her out, and if I do, she canters to the trailer and loads on ready to go. On trails she never pauses but powers along in a huge stride for her size. If we canter she never needs urging and won’t stop until I ask. She LOVES to jump and will run off course to add in an extra jump. There is no doubt that she loves what we do.

Photography by SJ

She’s been my partner in countless trail rides around New Zealand and has an indomitable spirit and strong curiosity which make her an amazing trail horse. She is super loyal, earnest, and so fun.

Juno is a very special girl and I know we have so much more to learn together – I hope we have many, many years to enjoy being a team with a true heart connection.

Trijntje was born at home in 2016

My other mare is Trijntje, who I bred, delivering her early one dark morning to take her first breath on my lap. Trinny has a Friesian sire, Trienko, and her grandsire and great-grandsire are Beart411 and Jasper366 so she has world champion heritage. Her mother is a classic New Zealand thoroughbred with lines from Danehill, with Northern Dancer, Nearco and Native Dancer on both sides.

Amy Buncanga Photography

My plan was to breed a Friesian Sporthorse with a great brain, trainability and athleticism; and I definitely got my wish! Trinny is a dignified character with a friendly whinny to greet me and a nosiness that means she follows me everywhere. She is kind, willing, and also has very clear ideas on what she believes is right. I think it is a great blend of self respect and sweetness, and she is a true joy to be around.

I was determined to start Trinny myself, using the technique of childish innocence that I used on my first horse, along with the tools of natural horsemanship. I began riding her in summer and she was incredibly easy to train. Within the first few weeks we had all the cues in place and were able to gallop alone on the beach, canter carrying a flag, lead Juno at the beach, swim in the sea, ride in a halter or a bridle, bareback or saddle. We have been to horsemanship clinics, cowboy challenge practice days, jump lessons and done long solo trail rides.

Julia Murch Photography

My challenge with Trinny is to remember how exceptional she is, because she makes everything so easy. She will stand sharing breath for ten minutes quite happily, and I can lie down and rest with her while she sleeps. She really is one of the kindest creatures I have ever known and I believe that we will be able to do so many things together because she has complete faith in the goodness of humans. I love that I know her story from before she was born, and don’t need to guess at what has happened in her past.

Trinny is so soft and responsive, and really enjoys exploring, just like Juno. I especially love when the lupins in the dunes behind the beach blossom and she leans in to smell their scent as we pass each bush. She’s a sweet hearted girl and we are just at the very beginning of all we will do together.

Thanks for reading – I hope you will join us in adventures at @nzmares xx