Episode 19: Horse Sense
On the next episode, screening June 27 at 7pm on TV
A fatal accident on the Burghley cross-country course in England set international equestrian Kate Hewlett on a journey to find new approaches to horsemanship.
Kate believed the 2004 accident, which killed an English rider, was the result of horses being unnecessarily stressed.
She says the traditional riding style forces horses to keep their heads up, tiring them as they struggle against their natural instincts.
After the accident, Kate, who was short-listed for New Zealand's Olympic equestrian team, abandoned her international career, came home to her riding school in Kerikeri and began experimenting with new ideas.
Nowadays, she and her partner, Tim Featherstone, are building a reputation for their natural horsemanship methods.
The couple, who feature on this week's Country Calendar programme, don't shoe their horses or put bits in their mouths, and they leave them without covers in the winter.
They say they're training and caring for their horses in line with the way a horse thinks and moves.
Tim trims many barefoot horses for owners in the Kerikeri area and after seven years of working with Kate he says he can't imagine a situation in which he'd ever want to shoe a horse.
Kate says barefoot horses cope better because that's the way they live in the wild. Their hooves are less likely to slip and they're less likely to become lame.
She says putting a metal bit into a horse's mouth hinders, rather than enhances, communication between horse and rider. She prefers to teach people to ride with a bitless bridle and to work closely in rhythm with their horses.
At their riding centre, Kate, Tim and a small staff hold lessons for all ages, train the local pony club, rehabilitate sick and lame horses and retrain those with bad habits.
The pair also take turns guiding treks for tourists at the Kauri Cliffs resort and host live-in school holiday riding camps.
Kate and Tim have 50 horses of their own and graze another 30 for local riders.
A delight for those visiting the riding centre is to see the herd galloping around a track for exercise.
Kate's young riders are now taking their barefoot, bitless horses into pony club events and proving how successful her methods can be.
Other sites to view
- Kate Hewlett's riding centre