83. Marton and Hastings – the Horse of the Year 2015

After the excitement of WOMAD and a night at the Transport Museum camp, we headed down south again to Marton (near Palmerston North) where we spent a few days in a pleasant new NZMCA park. Newly landscaped and unlike many others it had a large communal hall where besides the usual book exchange and noticeboard there was a special table dedicated to jigsaw puzzles. Almost every time I entered someone was beavering away at one. Very fresh corn at 50c a cob was available in a box replenished almost daily by the local Lions club.

Penny encountered not one but three travelling cats (one was actually in New Plymouth at the transport museum carpark) in the space of a week. “Bluey”at Marton seemed perfectly at home strolling on a lead or sitting on his caravan step. He rides in the front seat in his own basket.

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We both liked Marton with its old-fashioned charm. Turn-of-the-Century buildings line the main streets. Would you like to have a new habit made to order? Opposite the old courthouse is a most unusual barber’s shop – it is also an art gallery!

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IMG_0631IMG_0633Through the Manawatu Gorge yet again – this time on a windless day – we travelled to Hastings and our old camp at the apple orchard. Last time we were the only caravan there, this time we had to squeeze in beside 5 or 6. A little close to the beehives perhaps but they left us alone although one did hitch a ride on Penny’s head once, much to her horror.

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The rest of this post is what I have written for the RV Lifestyle magazine, with one or two additions. I was specifically asked to check out the newest horse transport motorhomes.

Hastings is always a pleasant place to visit, surrounded by apple orchards and within easy reach of wineries, bicycle trails, the coast, museums and art galleries and a chocolate factory (!). This time our visit was timed to coincide with the Horse of the Year Show (HOY), held annually for the past 17 years. Although spectator camping was available at the Show, we preferred an apple orchard POP where we’d spent a pleasant time some months ago. HOY runs for a whole week but we contented ourselves with one and a half days. Penny the foxie went into doggy day care and came home happy and freshly bathed for an extremely reasonable fee. We’d highly recommend Chesterhope Kennels in Pakowhai.

There were vans everywhere the eye could see.

DSC01078Besides hundreds of conventional caravans and motorhomes and horse transport vans of varying degrees of sophistication……. (this photo shows several ‘transport’ options)…..P1130875

….. and a large gypsy van equipped with a blacksmith’s forge ……..


….. there were ‘Vanners’ of a different kind entirely – enchanting black and white gypsy horses with feathered fetlocks and a gleam in their eye. Bred to pull gypsy caravans as well as for riding and other work, they were such a contrast to their large showjumping and dressage cousins. One wore a very ornate gold saddle, with a story behind it …

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The newest horse transport-motorhomes were indeed impressive. Luxurious interiors catered for both humans and horses. The human section featured a full sized kitchen, slide out club lounge with leather seating, bathroom, queen sized bunks etc. A door gave entry to the horses’ section at the rear, stainless steel everywhere with large racks and a workbench with its own water supply. Room for five horses at least, or perhaps a car, motorbikes, surfboards/kayaks, bicycles, motorised scooters, fishing gear… plus more large storage areas underneath. Horse ramps and human steps were fully motorised.


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There were literally hundreds of stalls surrounding the three main rings at the showgrounds, selling everything from expensive Irish riding gear to western style bling.


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A very few bucked the trend. Bay Audiology offered hearing tests and/or vacuuming of ears on the spot and were never short of customers. Food and drink stalls were well patronised. The majority of the crowd seemed to be slim pony-tailed females of all ages and particularly younger ones (there were very few boys) plus weathered older men sitting on shooting sticks or in motorised wheelchairs with wistful looks on their faces.


For those not interested in the finer points of dressage or showjumping, Saturday night featured a horsemanship extravaganza, the highlight being the Kaimanawa horses. Considering that these horses were running wild only 250 days previously, some amazing partnerships were demonstrated between them and the dedicated owner/riders who had saved them from the knacker’s yard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaimanawa_horse

Not everything was at the Showgrounds. We had visited the friendly Information Centre in town when we first arrived in Hastings, and they told us about a Taste-Of-HOY show in the Civic Square that afternoon which included dressage, trick riding, a WW1 Lighthorse enactment and other delights such as a blacksmith’s forge (his caravan is in an earlier photo).





The Hastings Art Gallery also offered a ‘Make your own unicorn hobby horse’ workshop, there was a photographic display about ‘A Horse’s Year’, and a special city night market.

The dressage exhibition in the city must have been a real eye opener for many people who had probably only seen it on TV.  A highly intelligent Portuguese lusitano stallion named Ali Baba danced and pranced while his rider in full dressage gear explained what he was doing, including a few impromptu Spanish steps just because he felt like it. He also accepted carrot nibbles from the crowd, but he had to smile first and then suck them in, much to the delight of a little girl right next to me. I’ve actually joined his Facebook page.


IMG_0709Horse and rider are in training for Olympic selection so I felt it was a great privilege that such a valuable horse should be brought into a small noisy city space. Ali Baba remained imperturbable. We were fortunate to see him again next day competing impeccably in a dressage event. 


The cross-country was interesting, the “country” including a route through the middle of the showgrounds.

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When I went back for the Saturday evening’s dressage, the arena had been freshly raked. I wondered what that first rider felt – every hoof print fully exposed. 


Impeccable …. both horses and riders.


I did finally succumb to one of the shops and bought …. a shooting stick! We’d both been lamenting the lack of small light easy-to-carry camping chairs as the ones we have with T5 are large and a little unwieldy. Hopefully it will also double as a sort of hiking stick (I refuse to call it a walking stick) and/or camera tripod on occasion.

While reducing the file size of photos before inserting them in this post I’ve managed to mislabel many of my photos as Dave’s …..  no matter. Most of them are actually mine although not two panoramas.  This is one of Dave’s best …

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