By Christine HamiltonThe American Quarter Horse JournalFebruary 5, 2014
The New Zealand workplace of Derek and Patricia Robinson's homebred American Quarter Horses. (Journal photo by Christine Hamilton)
Texas Longhorns: That was an unexpected find at Derek and Patricia Robinson’s dairy and beef farm in the Northland hills of New Zealand’s North Island. Right there, in the front pasture, in the middle of an island in the South Pacific. It’s Pat’s herd, and they go along with her “ducks and chucks” and Jean the Pig; Pat simply enjoys having animals to care for.
It was the first of many fun surprises for a foreign visitor – like “plunger” coffee with fresh dairy cream, afternoon tea in the pasture or finding a real kauri gum tree – that were simply ordinary occurrences for the Robinsons.
The assignment was to chronicle a little of how the American Quarter Horse has found a home in New Zealand (read the February 2014 American Quarter Horse Journal cover story), and the Robinsons’ part in that. The joy was the full charm of the family, their Quarter Horses and their landscape – hopefully, the slideshow below will help show that. (Scroll down for Journal photos.)
A picture can take you on the trip of a lifetime. So go with Pat and daughter, Jan, as they pack up a thermos, cups and fruit cake to carry afternoon tea to Derek and son, Chris, and the hands out working on a culvert. Be sure to help dig “kumara,” or sweet potatoes, for the evening meal, also called “tea.” Gardens are commonplace in the island nation, and Pat’s is complete with roses, grapes, capsicans and more.
If Pat offers to let you help her feed her “chucks and ducks,” say “Yes,” and sit on the bank by the pond behind the house and scatter corn to the yammering ducks surprisingly gentle with their bills.
Say “Yes” if Derek or Chris offers early morning coffee and homemade porridge – Chris warns that Derek’s batch will bounce like a rubber tire – and enjoy their stories of rounding up wild cattle in the mountains or diving for saltwater crayfish.
And say “Yes” if Jan offers to let you ride her self-trained show horse Waiora Roc N Choc, aka “Roc.” He’s handsome, big-strided, can handle any bog and remains a gentleman even when headed for the barn.
Then ride with Jan into a “Lord of the Rings” movie setting to push Holstein bulls through pastures lined with totara tree groves and limestone boulders. Be prepared with a hat and sunscreen for yourself and an old shower cap for your camera in case the rolling clouds decide to rain a bit.
Enjoy watching the Robinsons, their dogs – Huntaways and Eye-dogs – and their Quarter Horses quietly and firmly shift bulls from one hillside pasture to another.
You’re sure to meet Camo, odd-dog-out: a German Shorthair bird dog trying gamely to learn how to herd. He belongs to Chris, who is patient with him. In the midst of trying to sort off an unruly bull, Camo might get sidetracked and point a wild turkey or peacock instead. When the bull gets away, Chris will laugh and give Camo the word to flush the bird instead. No worries, there’s time enough for the bull.
As a visitor, you might feel like Camo: a bit of a fish out of water, but welcomed in to find your way to comfortable in your own time.
“So, when are you coming back to work for free for six months?” Derek might ask, a smile sneaking out from behind his sun-driven scowl.
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