Nine young people from Hamilton who have never had an opportunity to encounter horses will experience the value that a relationship with a horse can offer these school holidays.

Dr Ngapare Hopa of Ngati Wairere, who worked with the Waikato Combined Equestrian Group Incorporated (WCEG) and TOTI Trust throughout the War Horse Statue Memorial Project as a tangata whenua adviser, devised the War Horse Memorial Learn to Ride Fund concept.

The students were given lessons in how to groom the house and safety checks, before mounting up.
The students were given lessons in how to groom the house and safety checks, before mounting up.

She donated the first $1500 to the fund, which has been created to benefit Maori children in particular, who would otherwise not have an opportunity to experience horses.

The War Horse statue is a tribute to the thousands of horses — and the troopers — of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, including many from the Waikato, who served in campaigns of World War I and before.

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President of the Waikato Combined Equestrian Centre, Noeline Jeffries, held a brief history of the horse session with the students before they saddled up.
President of the Waikato Combined Equestrian Centre, Noeline Jeffries, held a brief history of the horse session with the students before they saddled up.

It was installed at Memorial Park on November 11 as part of Armistice Day commemorations.

As a legacy project to honour the war horses of New Zealand the fund's purpose is to continue to impart the story of New Zealand's war horses by providing opportunities for children and young people to participate in equestrian activities who otherwise would not be able to participate.

Students from Maeroa Primary, Frankton Primary and Fraser High school were selected, based on information provided by their teachers to take part in the day.

The students, partnered with volunteer pony trainees, completed a number of tasks over the two days, including grooming the horse, learning about the history of horses in New Zealand, and riding them.

President of the Waikato Combined Equestrian Centre, Noeline Jeffries, called it a special occasion.

Noah Williams from Frankton Primary School on his horse Poe, guided by his helper Molly. The students were led around the arena by their pony trainer
Noah Williams from Frankton Primary School on his horse Poe, guided by his helper Molly. The students were led around the arena by their pony trainer

"The benefits to children is self-esteem," Ms Jeffries said. something to care for and something to do."

She said the lessons of responsibility that the children are learning now will stay with them into adulthood.

"It gives them a sense of responsibility and a sense of self worth."

Ms Jeffries would like to see the programme continue to grow, but understands that funding may be a problem.

"We will need more horses, so we are looking to buy new horses and new safety helmets," Ms Jeffries said.

under war horse memorial fund Mihiel Morrison looked a natural as he mounted his horse Snowy. The students and their pony helpers worked in pairs to learn about the basics of caring for a horse.

Molly and Zion Jones from Frankton Primary School leading Banner out from the paddock.

The Fund is open to:
* Primary, intermediate and high school-aged children attending primary, intermediate and high schools including Kura Kaupapa.
* Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, particularly those who identify as Maori and/or Pacific peoples
* Schools located in the Waikato area.
* Schools that wish to participate in the programme must register with the fund to be eligible to apply for grants for individual students/pupils. School principals (or their designates) contact the War Horse Memorial Learn to Ride Fund to register the school's interest at learntoridenz@gmail.com.

Pony trainee helper Penny and Mihiel Morrison from Frankton Primary School groomed Snowy together. "We are looking for sponsors to fund that, and looking for sponsors to fund these children to continue the programme."

The cost per child for the course is $190 each for the two days from 1.30pm to 5.30pm.
That is currently being covered by the Learn to Ride Fund.

Chairwoman for the board managing the project, Marlene Williams, said the pilot project has got off to a great start.

"The enthusiasm and excitement from the children and schools wishing to participate in the pilot has been thrilling," Ms Williams said.

The War Memorial Learn to Ride Fund will subsidise a range of equestrian-based activities including farm rides, school holiday programmes, group riding lessons, pony club and work experiences (eg. pony trainees, stable assistants, etc.)

Beginning with holiday programmes in July 2018, it is expected that the programme will expand to include farm rides taking place in Term 3 of the 2018 school year.