What a ride

WENDY BETTERIDGE ARTICLE: 26 July2013

Kate Fleming is passionate about her horses, about riding them, schooling them, competing with them and about coaching others in the sport she loves. Here she is at home with Tikka.

Her long-term goal is to represent New Zealand in an Olympic team one day. She finishes university this year where she is studying Geography and Spanish. She would love to go abroad and where better than to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics? She would love to ride their horses over there and hopes to get a position, perhaps as a groom, for a competitor who will ride in the Olympics so that she can get the feel of it for the future.

Kate buys young horses, works with them and then sells them on, partly because it’s what she loves doing but also because it’s a way for her to earn money so that she can continue with her chosen sport. Here she is jumping Enbarr, a young project horse - without a bridle.

Kate lives in rural Pauatahanui. There have always been horses at home. Her mother, Khirsty was a Pony Club rider until she went to University and her younger sister, Rose, competes too. Kate’s dad, Greg, was heavily involved in soccer and her Grandad was instrumental in starting up Mana United Football Club.

When Kate was about six years old she started having lessons with Stephen Field who owned the Riding School in Moonshine Road. He gave both Kate and Rose a wonderful start. Her current coach is Geoff Culverwell who also helps her to look after her horses with regular physio sessions. Kate considers her horses to be top athletes and Geoff ensures they are physically up to the demands of the competitions. Kate and Rose belong to the Pauatahanui Pony Club which meets about once a month at Battle Hill. Kate does a lot of coaching there as well as riding, because she loves to see ‘the little kids coming along’.

Kate earns her living, to help fund this expensive sport, working for Tania Scott, her mentor, schooling her horses. She also schools horses for other people when she is asked to and, of course, gives lessons from time to time. One of her local supporters is ‘Whittakers Chocolate’ of Porirua, who have supplied her with products for fundraising over the years. This has the added bonus that it’s easy selling something that other people enjoy.

It’s not surprising that Kate has had lots of horses over the years. The last pony she had was Ohoka St Elmo who, she says, ‘got her into eventing’.

Unfortunately, Tikka injured herself after a successful campaign at the National Horse of the Year Show in 2012.

She is only just coming back to form after a year which has included surgery at Massey University Veterinary Hospital. She’s a fantastic show jumper and Kate says that Tikka has taught her much of what she knows about this discipline.

Her current horse is called Mendelsshon who is rising 12. The intention was to name him after the composer, Felix Mendelssohn, but his owner spelt his name wrongly when she registered him. However, despite this, his stable name is Felix! Mendelsshon (Felix) is an eventer. Kate has had him for a year and she says he has taught her a lot. Here she is eventing with Felix in the cross country at QEP where she was placed third in the Intermediate Class. She used a friend, Michael Thomson’s, Go Pro video camera for the occasion so that they could have a video of the course.

One of the horses Kate is riding at the moment is HK Casino (stable name Xena – and that’s another story). She had only been broken in when Kate got her on Christmas Eve 2009. She is a great all-rounder and she and Kate have won lots of titles together in dressage, showjumping, eventing and show hunter classes.

The beautiful photo (below) of Xena competing was taken by Michael. Kate loves the photos he takes of her horses because he is a rider himself and takes his photos with an appreciation of how they move.

Kate also has two racehorses who were ‘free off the race track’. One is called Mr Darcy and the other Tilly (it should probably be Elizabeth). She brings them on and develops their talents so that they learn to compete rather than only being able to race. These two got taken off the track when they were five because they were too slow but are now showing promise as showjumpers.

Despite Kate’s eventing successes, it is show jumping, not eventing, for which she has been selected to represent the NZ U21 Show Jumping team which left for Brisbane this week to compete in the Nations Cup International Event.

Kate left home on Wednesday 24 July and spent two days in Christchurch where she met up with the team to do some riding under the eye of the team Coach and the Manager. It was the first time she met the other members of the team although she did meet the Manager when she competed on Felix in the South Island 3-day Event in April.

In Christchurch the team were given their uniform and Kate got to sew the Silver Fern onto her jacket. She will wear her own riding jacket (which has to be black), her own jodhpurs and boots and helmet, all of which have been sponsored by Barry’s Place in Pauatahanui. Denise at Barry’s Place says, ‘Kate is a pretty amazing rider and will definitely go far in eventing.’

After two days in Christchurch, the team left together for Brisbane at 3.00 a.m., on Friday 26 July. Whilst in Australia the team will compete in three events, all on different borrowed horses. These are allocated to them and they will see the owner riding their horse for twenty minutes the day before the competition starts. Then they are given two hours to get used to the horse before they start competing the following day. This is repeated at the different events – each time a new horse! With Kate’s experience and the number of horses she has competed on, this shouldn’t present a problem.

No doubt, having to leave her horses in Pauatahanui is a wrench for Kate but Xena will be waiting to hear how she got on.

What a ride

 
 
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