Wee Ariana was riding horses before she could walk - so this mare's a breeze

Ten seconds after Ariana Halley's photograph was taken, she fell from the horse - and got right back on.

The horse, named Jenny, was 10 years old when the photo was taken in 2003, about three years past her prime. Ariana never felt scared on Jenny. "I grew up around horses. Today we own 10 horses."

Ariana, now 13, still has this photograph on the wall of her family's lounge. Ariana learned to ride before she could even walk, starting at 10 months old. Today, she rides 100 times a year. "Sometimes I miss school to ride," Ariana says from the North Island Show Jumping Championships in Cambridge. "But Dad's okay with that."

Charlie Halley says riding horses is a tradition for everyone in Ngongotaha, not just the Halleys. "Everybody does it. All of our kids have ridden from a young age. All of our four girls have ridden since they were knee-high.


"That was a big horse she was riding that day - 13.2 hands."

All the kids fall off at various times. Falling off is part and parcel of riding a horse. When she's jumping these days, Ariana wears a helmet, vest and boots. "She's attended every rodeo since the photo. We used to do rodeos from Kaitaia to Invercargill. Plenty of people ride from the age of 3.

"One time, a doctor rang up and said 'I like what you're doing but if it was my girl I'd have a proper safety hat on' and ever since then we've had one on her.

"In that photo, Ariana isn't strapped in. Her only safety gear is riding boots. They're iron safety stirrups, which come off if they get hung."