Skilled rider jumps to fame

By Kristin Edge

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No hands, no saddle, no fear

SOARING: Alycia Burton riding Goldrush easily clears this 1.7-metre-high fence without a saddle or bridle.PHOTO/SUPPLIED
SOARING: Alycia Burton riding Goldrush easily clears this 1.7-metre-high fence without a saddle or bridle.PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Riding a horse with no bridle or saddle is like driving a Ferrari with no steering wheel and only foot pedals for control.

But Northland woman Alycia Burton has mastered the skill of "free riding" and is wowing millions of internet viewers around the world with her daring equine ability by flying over Olympic-sized jumps.

The 25-year-old, now based in Auckland, has leapt to fame on YouTube and is now releasing a DVD called Free Rider - The Alycia Burton Story.

Ms Burton caused a stir when she posted a photo of herself clearing a two-metre-high jump riding bareback and without a bridle.

The feat, never before accomplished in the equestrian world, created such controversy that Ms Burton released a homemade video to prove to her critics the image was real. Excellent balance combined with quick reactions, plus good core body strength, allowed the experienced rider to make the feats seem effortless. She uses her body weight and voice to control her horses.

A leather strap around the horse's neck is there if needed.

"You don't grip with your legs and you aren't holding on. This type of riding truly shows the balance and harmony between rider and horse."

She said she had a special relationship with her horse, Goldrush.

"I almost know what he is going to do before he does, we are so in synch."

She says her passion for free riding began in the backblocks of Northland near Peria when she learned how to ride bareback at the age of four.

"It's something I've been doing my whole life ... It's a normal thing for me."

Ms Burton rode to school and thought nothing of just tying a jersey around her pony's neck and galloping across a paddock. "My parents never stopped me riding and have always been supportive."

At 15, she dropped out of school, and got a job at a bank in Mangonui to fund her horse-riding dreams.

Two years ago she moved to Auckland but soon ditched the bank job to become a fulltime horse trainer.

Through hard work and a dedication to succeed she now has a long-term lease on an eight-hectare property in Karaka, the heart of horse racing and training in Auckland.

The property enables her to take horses that have been labelled "useless" back to basics, and through a re-breaking in process, turn them into trained athletes.

Next year she hopes to set a free-riding record by jumping as high as possible. There is no record but you can be sure this dedicated and determined rider will make a spectacular leap into the record books.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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