Kiwi Comparison

So I really suck at blogging.  Sorry!  I’m just not a writer.  I promise I won’t talk about horses this time (even though I haven’t been doing much else!) but instead talk about some differences between New Zealand and the US.

 

Driving

 

  • They drive on the other side of the road (in case you didn’t already know this).
  • They don’t have stop signs (or very many stop lights).  They have “Give Way” signs.  They are an upside down triangle.
  • The roads are pretty much all windy country roads.  There is some main “highways”, but they don’t have big 4 lane roads or anything like we have.
  • The birds don’t really get out of the way quickly when you drive by.  We almost had a hawk go through our windshield.
  • The bridges on most of the country roads are one lane where one side has to give way to the other side.  I finally had a confrontation at one of these this week, and it scared the crap out of me.  I was on the non-give way side but stopped anyway!
  • The intersections all have a million little street signs telling you which way and how far away the nearest towns are.  They look like something you would see in the movies.
  • In some cars, the blinkers are on the left hand side.  This causes me to turn on the windshield wipers instead of signaling (which they call indicating).  It’s probably this way in the US too, but I never noticed.

 

Word Usage

 

  • If a horse is being naughty or out of control they call it a mongrel.  I laughed hysterically the first time I heard this.
  • If a horse is rearing and won’t go forward, they call it napping.
  • They say “do you reckon?” a lot.
  • Sometimes instead of saying “you’re welcome,” they say “that’s alright.”
  • Ketchup is called tomato sauce.
  • They call 30 minutes past the hour half the hour (Ex: 6:30 is half six.).
  • McDonalds is called Mackers.
  • Cookies are called biscuits.
  • Candy is called lollies.
  • The gas station is called the petrol station. (Gas is $2.08/liter.)
  • Sometimes they call dinner “tea” which is really confusing.
  • The 4-wheeler is called a motor bike.
  • What we call trucks, they call utes (sounds like yute).
  • A horse trailer is called a float.
  • Dressers are called drawers.

 

Food

  • They don’t have Jimmy Johns or Taco Bell.
  • Tim Tams are the best cookies ever.
  • Their energy drink is called V and they have a flavor that tastes like the best juice ever.
  • They have Kit Kats that are 3 big squares that have fillings over the wafer part like caramel or cookies and cream.
  • All of their candy is pretty much different.  They do not have Take 5’s which is a tragedy.
  • They sell meat and cheese pies at the gas stations that are really good.
  • Milo is the greatest hot drink ever.  It is kind of like chocolate milk but it is made of malted barley and chocolate.  It keeps you feeling full and tastes so good!
  • They drink tea or coffee a lot.  We have a machine that just makes hot water for drinks at the yard and have tea breaks.  If I drank tea or coffee as much as everyone does here, I would never sleep.
  • They eat everything with sauce (tomato sauce, satay sauce, sausage sauce, etc.)
  • Thai food, Indian food, and Asian food are common take aways, instead of Mexican food.

 

General

 

  • The whole country really does look like Lord of the Rings.  It is just breath taking.
  • There are huge areas of the country that are owned and bought just to grow trees.  They plant different sections and cut the trees down every 30 years.  Apparently some people buy land and then use the money they make off of the trees for retirement.
  • There are cows everywhere.  They are all grass fed and get rotated around to different pastures using motorbikes and cattle dogs.
  • New Zealand produces a pretty big percentage of the world’s milk (considering there are only 4 million people on the islands).
  • Rugby and cricket are a big deal.  They also have a game called net ball that is really popular, but I’ve never seen it played.
  • They vacation to Fiji and Hawaii like we go to Mexico or a Caribbean island.
  • They downtown areas look totally different than ours.  They have super wide sidewalks, and they are completely covered by a roof that extends out of the store fronts.  If it’s raining, you don’t get wet!
  • They have a lot more cute clothes stores that are cheap.

I’m sure I’ll have to do a second edition of this because there are many things I can’t think of right now!

Competitions

We had our first competition last weekend, and it went really well!  It was just pre-training (beginner novice) and training (novice), and we brought out all the babies.  It was a nightmare!  So many horses at their first competition—there was a lot of drama!  Overall, everyone did well and walked away from the weekend with smiles.

On Thursday, we bathed and groomed all the horses for the show (13 of them total) and packed the last of the gear into the 10 horse truck.  This was on top of Donna and Sim having a full day of horses to work, and all of us had lessons!  We ended up working 15 hours and were all exhausted at the end of it.

Friday, Donna and Sim rode their “A” list horses (the upper level guys) in the morning before our 11am sharp departure time while we readied all the horses for their travels.  They all get white woof boots on their front legs for the truck.  When we arrived at the competition grounds we unloaded all the horses and set about getting their water buckets out and ready.  Unfortunately, there was only one water spout for the whole show grounds and the hose did not reach our yards, so we had to carry water for all the horses.  The stabling is quite bare bones here in New Zealand compared to the US.  They are all uncovered and made of some nailed together 2x4s.  It is quite convenient when you have so many horses because you can just duck under the yards to get to the next horse which saves some time.  The first night, we heard a loud crack and walked out with flashlights to see that one of the “special” guys had broken the top rail of his yard in two. We braided all of them on Friday night.

Saturday was a bit chaotic, but we made it through the successfully and with no turnout issues.  In the morning, we fed then “knocked off” all the horses (basically brushing, picking their feet, oiling their feet, combing their tails, and fixing their braids).  They have dressage and show jumping on the same day here and cross country the next so we leave their braids in for show jumping.  Before the horses get tacked up, we baby oil their faces, knees, and hocks, put powder in their white socks, and put patterns on their rear which consists of 3 vertical stripes along the top of their bum and sharks teeth below (I’ll post a photo this weekend for non-horsey people).  They get patterns for all 3 phases.  All horses are jumped in a breast collar and martingale.  We also don’t need to have matching leather color between the bridle and saddle which has been killing me, but it saves so much time when trying to tack up 14 horses and have them ready on time.

Cross country went well and was pretty uneventful and laid back, but it rained all day long.  Some of the babies had interesting rounds, but everyone had a good learning experience.  Donna won the young event horse division on Sim’s horse Balmoral Oakey with a 17 in dressage and one rail in show jumping and got a rug.  Alex took second on his horse George, and Donna rode Tess’s sale horse to fifth.  There was a bit of prize money for everyone!

This weekend we are going to another smaller event that runs up through novice (prelim in the US), and I get to ride in my first competition abroad on Thomas (Cruzintime).  I am so excited!! I absolutely love Thomas, and he is such a sweetheart and a love bug on the ground.  It will be a bit hectic because the head groom, Nicole, and a working student, Ann, are going to a dressage show, and Donna, Sim, Tess, Alex, and I are going to the event where we are all riding so there won’t be any extra hands.

Things at home have been going really well. I’ve had some fabulous lessons on Thomas.  In jumping, we focus all on rhythm and balance and keeping our upper bodies really tall (almost upright on XC) and elbows soft.  Donna and Sim have us count one to eight to our canter strides, and it helps SO much in keeping the rhythm and not worrying about not having the right spot.  I haven’t missed a distance yet when counting, so I highly recommend the counting!  Today, we had an XC lesson with water and a coffin, and I even jumped a weldon’s wall without freaking out!  The counting helps take the nerves away too.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Is

XC

I had the most amazing cross country lesson yesterday (on my favorite horse, Thomas)!  They have a horse trial through intermediate at the yard so they have lots of XC fences.  Donna took me, Andrea, Alex, and Nicole out to a field where a there was a stream with a 4 foot embankment with a shear face about 5 stride from it.  We first started walking up and down the side that had a bit of slope to it to get the horses thinking about their feet and to check for straightness.  Donna stressed how important straightness was even when we were just walking down the bank because later on when we were jumping skinnier fences, it would be important.  Then we moved to walking down the face of the embankment.  Alex’s horse George is young and has not schooled as much but the first 4 times we walked down the embankment, he went right down.  The fifth time he was walked up he stopped about a stride out and refused to go forward.  He kept backing up and napping (their term for rearing and getting fussy and angry), so Donna had Alex keep his leg and spur on until George walked forward quietly then he took the spur away.  This went on for about 10 minutes.  He finally walked forward until about a stride out and Donna told us that this was the last point in which he saw the fence before.  The other couple of times he just did it without thinking about it.  She wanted to see his feet moving and keeping in a forward motion and this showed that he continued to think about the fence.  She had Alex walk up and down the less steep part to break it down for George so he would understand it.  We watched and waited until we could see a change in his eye and then Alex approached the bank and went off it.  Donna explained how important it is for the horse to understand and be thinking about the fences because when they start running the upper levels, we want the horse to be thinking for himself and be able to sort out the questions as they come.

After George successfully went off the bank a few times, Donna put up a small X about 9 feet in front of the bank, and we were to trot the x and walk down the bank straight and stop at the bottom.  She talked about how our position should be going down the bank with our legs out in front of us, our upper bodies back, and our reins slipped, with the most important part being to engage our core to keep the horse straight.  After we went over the X and down the bank straight and with good positions, she put up a skinny about 1 stride from the bottom.  The first couple times we went through the combination, we were to slow down after the x and walk down the bank and let the skinny come slowly after the bank and halt before the creek.  When we stopped, we needed to look behind us and check for straightness.  My horse Thomas kept wanting to go right, so I really needed to engage my core and legs to keep him straight.  After we did that successfully we did the exercise without slowing down for the bank.  The first time we did it, Thomas thought it would be great to hit the bottom of the bank and take off for the skinny!  Donna laughed and asked me where I lost my position, and I answered everywhere.  She corrected me, and said I kept it the whole time!!  I couldn’t stop smiling!

It was such a great exercise to be forced to remember straightness and a lesson in making sure the horse understands what is being asked of him.  I know in earlier years with Chase I just gung-ho went for everything, only later learning that it is important to break things down for the horse.  Donna said one of the first things she does when schooling “problem” horses is walk up to the bank, ditch, or whatever is bothering it and it immediately stops and is confused.  These horses are missing the key learning and understanding of the concept.  It wasn’t until later that I started walking Chase up and down banks, ditches, and water and then he finally began to understand and gain more confidence on XC.  I also learned how much I need to work on my core strength and not forget that it is a key part in controlling the horse.

That lesson totally made working hard all day tacking up horses and walking through mud puddles worth it!  Alex and I were joking that by having our lessons in the afternoon around 3, we are just hitting the point where we are getting grumpy that we are working so hard outside in all the elements and then the lesson comes and we are reminded why we work so hard.  Donna and Sim both give fantastic lessons and are great about making sure you understand why we are doing everything.  I am still so thrilled I get to work with them!

I had a really great dressage lesson today (on my favorite horse again!) where we worked on straightness on a 10m circle.  Sim had me keep my hands on the buck strap on the front of the saddle to keep me thinking about using my thighs and core to keep the horse moving forward and bending properly.   She told me that I get to keep my hands on the buck strap for dressage the remainder of my stay.  Great!  Hopefully my dressage position grows leaps and bounds (and I actually learn how to sit the trot well), and I won’t have to be so worried when I go into the dressage ring!

If you were feeling down about the weather, it has rained here every day since I got here on December 28th.  Today it literally poured for half of the day!  We were soaked to the bone and just utterly filthy at the end of the day (but my feet were dry thanks to my awesome Christmas Dubarrys!).  Hopefully the weather starts to shape up.  The foreigners get tomorrow and Monday off to get settled in.  We are thinking about spending the night somewhere and doing a day trip on Monday.

Hope everyone is well in the States!! I still am upset about the Rose Bowl loss (and not being able to watch it).  I am sure it was much more painful in WI.  Miss everyone!

Isabel

Getting the Hang of It

Still having a blast and getting sore and sunburned! Donna and Sim have been bringing the horses back from their holiday. They ride about 10 horses a day each, and we have to get them all groomed (with absolutely no mud on them) and tacked for each ride and then bathed after. We paint their hooves with oil around the coronet band before and after each ride. I have become resident mane puller because they think I’m just great at it. Surprising, because I hadn’t pulled a mane in 10 years!! We pull their manes and clip their tails a little bit each day so that we don’t end up doing them all before a show. About 10-20 horses go to each show so it can get really overwhelming to get them all show ready!!

We get lessons every day which has been amazing. I have already broken some bad habits and gotten some great tips and exercises. I can’t wait to see where I am in my riding when my time is up here. I am riding a sale horse named Thomas, who has run 3*, and he is the coolest horse ever. I already want to bring him back to the States! I heard Donna tell Sim that “we suit each other quite nice” after I finished a jump exercise. I told her not to encourage me! He would be the perfect teacher, and he’s only 11. And you would never guess how cheap he is. $24,000! Granted, he hasn’t run 3* in a while, but a horse like him would easily go for $75,000 in the States. Nicole has a 4* horse that she got for ~$20,000 because he had been sitting in the pasture for 3 years. It’s like they have too many nice horses!! I’ve also ridden a young sales horse named Darcy who was quite nice as well. All of the horses in the yard are just gorgeous. Each of them would be some of the nicest horses in the States. Their sport horse breeding programs are just so much more ahead of ours.

Sim and Donna are still just great people to work for. We have morning tea around 10:30, and we just sit around and tell funny stories. Donna is pretty dry and sarcastic, which I love. I also really like the working students Tess and Alex (the boy from NZ) and at night we have been making dinner together and just talking. It’s been really fun! But today Donna and Sim decided that Tess would move in with them and Nicole because they have the same days off and the girl from Oregon, Andrea, moved up here with us. I got Tess’ bedroom though with a double bed. Wahoo!!

The house isn’t the nicest, but we can open up all the doors and windows, and it gets really breezy and nice. The view is absolutely amazing. I still can’t believe I am living here! There are picturesque hills and mountains all around us, and it is so green and lush. A herd of sheep live on the big pasture just outside our lawn. There is no cell phone or internet reception, but we do get a couple of TV channels. It’s been nice to be away from technology. The electronics still get a signal at the yard so we can use them there.

I still am so excited about this opportunity! I would highly recommend it already to anyone that wants to learn how to run a yard and learn from some of the best teachers out there. Donna is just an amazing rider, and Sim is such a great teacher. And to have lessons every day is so wonderful!! It really doesn’t feel like “slave labor” like other working student positions have been known to be. I get so much out of this deal! We only work from about 7:30-6 and some of that time is our lesson.

Made It

I made it to the farm!!  Nicole, the barn manager, picked up me, a girl from Denmark named Ann, and Patrick from Australia at the airport at 10pm on the first and then drove us to the farm.  We stayed in Donna’s house that night then woke up to head to the yard at 7am the next morning.

The yard is SO different than what you find in the US and just light years different than the upper level barns, but it works for Donna.  She wins nearly every competition she competes in, and at the upper levels, her biggest competition is herself!  The horses are out 24/7 (there actually isn’t a barn with stalls at all) in small paddocks with no shelter.  The weather is a lot more mild here—there is no snow in the winter and summer only gets up to around 80º.  They all wear rugs in turnout to keep the dry and clean.  There are a couple small buildings for feed, tack, and restrooms, but most of the stuff is kept in her large horse truck which has a camper and room for 10 horses.

The horses get fed at least 2 times a day and sometimes up to 6 times depending on if they need weight or when they are going to a competition.  Their main dish is soy pellets, which get water added to them so they get fluffy like bedding.  Some also get a sort of grain mixture, and Donna is sponsored by Platinum so the FEI horses get their multivitamin.  The young horses or ones that need to gain weight also get boiled barley, which we boil in the barn in this cylinder thing which needs to be turned every 30 minutes daily.

Donna and Sim were just getting back from Sydney today, so we didn’t need to get horses ready for them to ride.  Nicole showed me and Anne how to feed then we started moving horses around the paddocks and getting them bathed.  I got to pull her really nice 3* horse’s mane (until he freaked out over the dogs and tried to run me over)!  It will take a bit until I don’t get starry eyed at getting to work with such nice horses!  Nicole took us to the supermarket after lunch.

We also went out to get horses from the far fields to bring them to the paddocks so they can get worked.  That was a treat!  Some of them don’t have the best manners, especially when they are just being broken in.  I got sufficiently muddy, wet and tired!  Another working student Tessa came in the middle of the day and helped us for a bit.

Tomorrow two more working students are coming (from Oregon and New Zealand) so that makes 5 of us total.  We also have Sim, Donna’s partner, who is basically the manager and organizer of everything and has ridden at the 4* level as well, Patrick or Paddy, who breaks in the young horses and rides` sale horses, and Nicole who is top dog to the working students.  Hopefully we can get ourselves nice and organized so we don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen.

We left the yard around 4:45 and came home where Tess’ parents were cooking us dinner!  It was really good—roast chicken and squash, peas, and potatoes.  Nice not to have to cook after a long day of running around!

I’m very excited about tomorrow.  This seems like the perfect position for me.  We will be at horse shows starting in 2 weekends for 10 weekends in a row!  And no mucking out stalls (my least favorite barn task)!  Donna and Sim are so nice and laid back, and they know how to laugh.  Should be fun people to work for!

More Adventures

The sun just came out for the first time since I got here, so I am on the 5th floor roof of my hostel looking at a nice patch a blue sky!

Yesterday, I went on a winery tour on Waiheke Island which is a 35 minute ferry ride away from Auckland.  I sat next to a cute old couple who were just friends.  She was from the UK and came to New Zealand in 1953, and he was native to Auckland.  They had great stories to tell about their children, New Zealand, their cats, the homes he had built by hand.  It was quite a nice ride!

When we docked on Waiheke, we got on a tour bus with our guide named Kenny.  He gave us history and facts about the island on our way to the 4 wineries and 1 olive oil farm.  The first stop was at Stony winery, where we tried a red and white and had a light lunch.  The wine was quite good (to my untrained palate!), and lunch was really great with salad bread, cheese, and a spinach quiche.

The wine business is quite young on Waiheke, and the wine experts totally advised against starting any wineries there.  Little did they know it would become a place where the wine rivals the taste of the wines in France.  The island is its own microclimate which is similar to the Bordeaux region of France, hence the really great reds that come from the island.

The olive oil farm we went to was quite small.  They harvest from 1000 trees on their property and 2000 on other farms.  They hand rake all the olives from the trees when they are ripe.  The olives are about the size of a pea or a grape, not the like the ones you see in the store.  They have one machine that can process one ton of olives at a time.  I thought an olive oil tasting was quite silly, but different types taste very, very different!  We tried two more floral flavors,  two more rich bodied, and an herb spread.  They were all so great I could have drank them from the bottle!  I bought a tub of the herb spread to bring to the farm with me and found out that they ship to the states.

We tried beer at an winery/brewery next.  It was good, but not quite like Wisconsin beer!  They also had a great ginger beer, which is quite a popular beverage here (I love it!).  The last winery gave us five tastings (2 whites, 2 reds, and a rosé).  The rosé was quite a bit different than any one I had ever tasted.  She told us that it was created by starting off life as a red and ending it as a white.  The grapes are first crushed with the skins on and then left to soak on the skins for 4-6 hours then it is further process like a white wine.

I met a very nice couple from Australia.  The husband has relocated from Charleston, SC many years ago.  At lunch, a bird was sitting on the vines above the table and placed a well timed poop right on his hand!  I also met a younger guy from LA.  His family lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and he had spent a lot of time there.  How small the world is!

I came back around 6 and laid down to take a quick nap before going to get dinner.  A quick nap turned into me waking up at 11pm!  I didn’t want to ruin my internal clock anymore so I went to bed around midnight after reading more Game of Thrones (87%, it’s getting even better!).

I hung out this morning and did some laundry and read some more of my book and ventured out to the Sky Tower around 1.  It is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere, and I went up to an observation deck at 220m.  They were playing Michael Jackson on the observation floor!  The elevator had a glass door, and I definitely froze as it started to get higher!  It was cloudy all morning, so I didn’t get the best views, but it was nice to see an aerial view of Auckland and piece together where everything is.

Afterwards, I took a walk around the city and ate a good burger.  Tonight there is supposed to be a BBQ on the rooftop for New Year’s Eve, and it might actually happen now that the sun is out!

Hope you all have a good New Year’s Eve!  I’ll be celebrating the New Year 19(?) hours ahead of you !

Isabel

Pub Crawl

My hostel (Frienz) sponsors a pub crawl every Thursday night where you can win games and prizes.  It has been overcast and raining since I got here, and last night was no exception.  The guy that organizes told me in the morning that last week they got 30 or 40 people from the hostel to go, but when I went downstairs to meet up and leave, there were only 3 of us!  Everyone else was cozied up and watching movies or in their rooms.  Where is the fun backpacking spirit?!

The deal is you pay $10 and get a free drink at each other 6 bars and can participate in the games.  I walked to the first bar with the 2 British guys from my hostel.  One of them, Neil, went to university for Biochemistry, and he had never heard of calculus.  I was shocked!  He is in the process of trying to get residency here as he is fed up with how the government is handling things in Great Britain (sound familiar?!).  He said that it is way too overpopulated, the wage is not livable (average 6 pounds/hour), they let too many other people from the EU in to work so the job market is saturated, and you are either super rich or making minimum wage with almost no middle class.  Sounds a lot like another country I know!  Neil had a smiley face stuffed animal that he travels with, and he has hundreds of pictures of him in all the famous places: the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Vegas, Hong Kong skyline, Yellowstone, etc.  The pictures were pretty cool!  I haven’t busted out my Snoopy yet, but I will today!

The pub crawl organizer starting announcing for the first game and immediately the two Brits pushed me up onto the pool table!  Four girls competed to see who could put the most marshmallows in their mouth in order to win a buy one, get one free skydiving.  The marshmallows are not like the ones in the states; they are much more sugary and about half the size.  The first girl dropped out after about five, and that spurred numerous jokes from the crowd!  The second girl dropped out around fifteen.  It was down to me and another girl and the announcer made us face each other.  Of course, I immediately start laughing and the announcer wasn’t helping me stop.  We got up to about 28, and I was still cracking up which triggered the old gag reflex.  I had to put my hands up to my head like bunny ears and say chubby bunny in order to leave the game.  Valiant effort, but it wasn’t enough!  In the next bar, I had multiple people come up to me and say I should have won because I got the whole crowd laughing.  I guess I’ll be semi-famous around the hostel scene for the next day as the girl who laughed with a bunch of marshmallows in her mouth.  How honorable!

At the next bar, I met a guy from Arkansas that obnoxiously said Roll Tide every time he passed me.  He was definitely the rowdiest one in the bar, dancing and doing shots.  Represent Amurrica! I also met a really drunk Scottish kid named Scott, which I thought was hilarious.  He says it gets really old.  He confirmed that you don’t wear anything under your kilt. I met another British guy named Tom who has a 6 foot tall blonde girlfriend (who wasn’t at the bar) who he traveled with around Asia.  They thought she was a celebrity and everyone stared at her and petted her hair.  3 Maori guys drunkenly performed the Maori war dance complete with tongues sticking out, eyes bulged out, and slapping of their arms, legs, and stomach.

I went home just after we made it to the last bar at about 2 am which is 8 am Madison time.  I figured that was long enough!! Of course, everyone else in my dorm room had to wake up at a 6 and packed up all their things so sleep was not in the cards for me anyways.  I am going on a winery tour today on a neighboring island (in the rain of course) and will write more later!

New friends