Big push for tiny horses

Judy Stott is a legendary figure on the local miniature-horse events calendar, and has amassed more than 200 ribbons and championship awards.

However, these days her focus has shifted as she tries to encourage more people into the sport while juggling the set-up and organisation for many of the A&P; Show's mini-equine competitions.

The Bay of Plenty Miniature Horse Club and National Miniature Horse Society of NZ committee member and breeder says dwindling membership numbers are a big concern.

About 20 people are affiliated with the regional organisation.

She says costs may be a factor as expenses mount for people attending events around the country, with traditional schedules running from October to March.

Not one to dwell on the negatives, Stott is helping the cause by mentoring children and letting them use her horses in the ring. She has six on her lifestyle block at Paengaroa.

She enjoys watching children excel in the show ring and passing on her valuable skills and knowledge.

"It's great for the kids because it increases their self-esteem and confidence," she says. "They just bloom and learn so many different skills, like clipping out the horses, bathing them and making sure their own personal appearance is spick and span."

Star student 18-year-old Tiahna Jackson has nothing but praise for Stott, and admits she used to be a shy teenager before getting involved four years ago.

"I like the competitiveness and it's a lot of fun. You know it was pretty shameful at first because you have to get all dressed up, but you get used to it. Plus, I love the horses - they may be small but all of them have big personalities."

Stott was always into "big horses", but said as far as she was concerned a horse was a horse regardless of its size.

"I like the minis, and they really appealed to me as I got older. I don't think I could live without a horse.

"However, they can also be very naughty and you can't be fooled by their stature, you have to be the boss."

The miniature horse shows are broken into an array of categories, and it is not unusual for horses to have 40 lessons of being halter-led and put through their paces. Every horse has to be measured at the start of the season, and agility, show-jumping and showmanship are usually part of the programme.

But it's the camaraderie that keeps Stott going, even though she says it's high time she passed on the reins and got back into showing horses herself.

- Hamilton News

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