Bernard Denton's showjumping mare Suzuki is doing well to be alive at 14 years of age.
Now living near Feilding, Denton last year had to rush his mare from Gisborne through the night to the Massey University veterinarians for emergency surgery for an infection which had turned gangrenous.
“The chances of surviving were very slim,” Denton recalled.
He got there in the nick of time and this weekend, Denton, a farrier, will be riding Suzuki at the Central Districts Showjumping at Foxton Racecourse.
“She lost 15kg of muscle,” he said. “It's all rebuilt. It has left a big scar but no indentation.”
Denton was panicky at the time and saw the blade going into the “butt muscle” to excavate the infection.
In humans it would be a flesh-eating form of gangrene, in cattle it is blackleg.
A definitive cause was never established because Suzuki was being treated with six antibiotics and tests couldn't be done. But everything pointed to a whitetail spider bite.
The spiders nestle in horse rugs over the winter and when put on the horse, they bite.
At the time, Denton had intended being in Australia competing on her.
Suzuki's older brother was named Britten, as in the New Zealand motorcycle, so Denton has had a whole line of horses named after motorbikes. There's a younger sister called Triumph.
Denton is unmistakable at shows in the top World Cup events. He is the only rider who wears dark glasses, because he has light-sensitive eyes, on board the 16-hands chestnut mare Suzuki.
Denton has had been in the equestrian game for 24 years - he started showjumping at about 16.
“When I left school I wanted to work with horses,” he said.
It took him to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 as the New Zealand showjumping team's farrier. He would like to be at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but as a rider. He has a handy horse coming through, 7-year-old gelding Wildcard, one of the biggest horses on the circuit at 18 hands (the average is 16.2).
Denton has been shoeing horses fulltime for the past 20 years. He likes being outdoors.
“It's closer here to all the shows. Living 800 metres from Manfeild has its advantages.
"Manawatu is such a neat area. I was born and bred in Wairoa; Feilding has all the good points of that area and none of the bad points.”
At Gisborne he found he was driving four to six hours most weekends for showjumping, 9000km a month in his six-wheeler truck and having to change vehicles every two years. Road-user charges, costing him $3600 per 10,000km or $36 for 100km, plus fuel and tyres, took their toll, hence the move to Feilding five months ago.
- © Fairfax NZ News