Like many young girls, when Mikayla Herbert was a child there was nothing she wanted more than a pony. Her dream came true when she was 9 and her family moved onto a farm on the outskirts of Rotorua. The 22-year-old has been riding horses ever since and discovered a real talent. Her love for animals is obvious, not only when it comes to equestrian but she also works as a vet nurse at the Te Puke Veterinary Centre. She is a national champion show jumper and next month the 22-year-old is set for the trip of a lifetime.
Every day, Rotorua show jumper Mikayla Herbert has to balance training and tending to her horses with working fulltime.
They are long days but her hard work has paid off as she has qualified to represent New Zealand at the FEI World Jumping Challenge in Ecuador next month.
Herbert said being selected felt "incredible".
"It's something I've always worked hard towards and something that has always been a long-term goal. I'm lucky enough for it to come a bit earlier than expected.
"The experience alone will be phenomenal and hopefully it will open doors for other opportunities. It's definitely a massive learning opportunity."
The highlight of her 2019 season was winning the Lady Rider of the Year during the Land Rover Horse of the Year event in Hawke's Bay. She is also the North Island speed champion.
She said the key to success in show jumping was a lot of hard work and determination as well as building a good relationship with the horse.
"You have to be humble and be able to take the losses when they come and learn from them. It's a hard sport to be consistent with because they are horses with their own brains and they can get injuries just like we can.
"You've got to have a good bond with your horse, if you don't then you have a bit of miscommunication," Herbert said.
How quickly she can bond with a horse will be put to the test in Ecuador as none of the riders use their own mounts.
"We ride another horse, so that's going to be the hard part because obviously the bond won't be there. It's just about how fast you can adapt to the horse you are given, you don't get any input into which horse you get.
"Between now and then I'm aiming to ride as many different horses as I can, just so I don't get too accustomed to one horse."
Herbert has always had a love for animals and always wanted to work with animals - another goal she has accomplished. She works full time as a vet nurse at the Te Puke Veterinary Centre meaning a lot of early mornings and late nights to fit in training.
"There's definitely days that you think 'why am I doing this?', especially when the bank balance isn't looking too flash. But what drives me is it's always what I've loved to do, I guess it's my passion.
"You have the good days that outweigh the bad, I guess that's like any sport."
It's something I've always worked hard towards and something that has always been a long-term goal. I'm lucky enough for it to come a bit earlier than expected.
That passion for riding started when she was 9.
"A good friend of mine was at primary school with me and she had ponies. I started going to her house and then pony club. To my dad's horror, I wanted a pony. Mum has a horse background and I was lucky we moved out here and was able to get one.
"I love the feeling in the ring when you're competing. The horses are like my kids, they mean a lot to me. They look after me and I look after them. There's definitely adrenaline in the ring too, nerves beforehand, adrenaline during and then in two and a bit minutes it's all over."
Competing overseas is not cheap so Herbert has added fundraising to her already busy schedule.
"It is an expensive trip, I'm doing a lot of fundraising. I'm doing clinics where needed which is just me coaching - kids and adults. I love helping people and seeing them progress. I'm also going to do a few auctions and raffles."
A Givealittle page has also been set up to help get Herbert to Ecuador; givealittle.co.nz/cause/please-help-nzs-lady-rider-of-the-year-go-global