Kerstin meets Lee

Kerstin’s Visit, 2008

In early 2008, we were privileged to have a visit to NZ from a Swedish Haflinger owner/breeder, Kerstin Dreborg, who while on holiday took the time out to judge at the North Island All Breeds In Hand Horse Show, and to visit with NZ Haflinger owners.  The following is the article Kerstin wrote about her trip.

Haflingers at the end of the world – New Zealand by Kerstin Dreborg

What would you do if you got an invitation to judge a haflinger show on the other side of the Earth? Well, one thing you could do is to take a big part of your savings and buy yourself a ticket! That’s what I did when I was asked if I could judge the haflinger class at the 2008 NIABIHHS (North Island All Breeds In Hand Horse Show).

New Zealand is situated as far from my home country Sweden as you can possibly get, and the flight took almost exactly 30 hours. Needless to say, I was very tired when we landed at Auckland International Airport in the morning of January 4th. There are many rules as to what you may and what you may not bring into New Zealand, so I was a little nervous about how much disinfectant I would get drowned in before I was let into the country, considering the fact that I live in the countryside, own horses etc., but sometimes luck strikes in the most unexpected way. In the customs at Auckland International Airport there’s a special employee named Kelly Anderson, who also happens to be one of New Zealand’s few haflinger owners, and I was lucky enough to meet her while I was looking for my luggage – which was lost in Sidney, by the way, I was very happy to have put not only my toothbrush, but also my judging dress, high heeled shoes and my hat in my hand luggage. Kelly let me pass the very long queue in the customs and disinfected me and my shoes in no time. Then she brought me to Pat Reid, chairman of the Haflinger Horse Association New Zealand, who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport. Pat and her husband Collin own two haflingers, Strizzi and Suzzi (mother and daughter).  Suzzi is the first haflinger born in New Zealand, imported in utero from Australia. Pat and Collin’s neighbour in Whangamata is Brigid Verry, whom I learned to know at the Internet 7 years ago, and with whom I have had many interesting conversations throughout the years. Today she has no haflingers, but it was very nice to finally meet her ”live”!

The show was held over two days in Hamilton on the North Island. The showground was full of well groomed horses in all sizes, from miniature horses to huge Clydesdales – and ladies! Ladies with hats of a size and style that at least I had never seen before. There were eight haflingers entered  in the haflinger class on Sunday. One did not turn up, so there were only seven, but seven very high class haflingers! Quite up to the standard of the haflingers in Europe. Very impressive!

After the show I realized that I had managed to give at least one ribbon to every single horse. That felt really good, as all the horses were nice representatives of the breed, and they were all very well prepared for the show. After the show I was also informed that no one less than Hannes Schweisgut, president of the WHF had expressed the same opinion on the overall quality of the New Zealand haflingers as I did. It’s nice to agree with such a “celebrity”… Champion Adult Haflinger was the four year old mare Rose d’Amour, owned by Petra Matheson. Champion Youngstock Haflinger was Colleen McGuinness’ handsome colt Ace, imported in utero from Australia. Most beautiful of them all, Overall Champion was Rose d’Amour, who thereby got the honour to represent the breed among all the other Breed Champions in the competition for Supreme Champion.

Directly after the show, I flew to the South Island, where I spent a week in the wilderness among firn trees and mountain tops. I also saw the haflingers in the South Island; Amberg, the only approved haflinger stallion in New Zealand, Rianna, Rosebud, Delta and Rianna’s foal with Amberg, little Albert. I had been given the honourable task to look at and judge all registered haflingers in New Zealand, and to choose one All New Zealand Haflinger Adult Champion and one All New Zealand Haflinger Youngstock Champion. This was arranged so because of the distances in the country, and the effort and costs that would have been huge for the breeders in the south to participate at the NIABIHHS. Also, I really wanted to see all haflingers in New Zealand, now that I had travelled all over the world and was in the country! At Vidhi’s I also got to see the first ”quarterlinger” in my life, i.e. a cross between haflinger and quarterhorse.

I then went back to the North Island, namely to Taranaki, where Colleen McGuinness and her family lives together with their horses, among others also six haflingers, Oolala, Ace, Ash, Winterthur, Lorelei and Lil Elmo. At Colleen’s I got to ride no one less than Lorelei, the mare who, together with Rianna, was the first haflinger to “set hoof” on New Zealand ground.

Outside Auckland, in the same barn as beautiful Rose d’Amour, is also the mare Restless and her colt Waldmeister. Poor little Waldmeister was ”imprisoned” at the time I visited, and was only allowed to spend the day in a small paddock, because of a knee injury. I was very happy to get the news that ”Waldi” was declared totally recovered shortly after I returned home!

I got to ride Rose d’Amour and later also Lee, and did a few other things, like hiking through beautiful waterfalls and petting an almost tame eel, before I left for Auckland International Airport again, with tears in my eyes, I must admit. The trip home took 37 hours from the airport in Auckland to the airport in Stockholm. And still I just wanted to go back immediately!

I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all the “kiwi” haflinger owners, for taking such good care of me. It was a lovely trip, to a lovely country, and I learned to know some lovely people.