It's easy when you love it

Anna Gale and daughter Lucy with Jive Thyme, the horse on which Gale won the level two nationals
Anna Gale and daughter Lucy with Jive Thyme, the horse on which Gale won the level two nationals

There is no two ways about it, Anna Gale loves riding horses.

In fact, the mother of two, who lives 22km up Northbank Rd, near Renwick, loves it so much just over four years ago she decided to start riding for a living. Despite having a 2 year-old boy (George) and a six month-old girl (Lucy) with husband Andy, Anna manages to work the three or four horses she has at her property every morning, plus make the hour-long trip into town three or four days a week to work horses for her other clients.

On top of all that, she competes on several of her clients' horses and earlier this month the top achievement of her equestrian career came when she rode the Sue McCallum-owned Jive Thyme to the level two national title at the National Dressage Championships in Christchurch.

It was a success that not only proved Anna's ability as a rider, but also her natural ability to instantly gain the trust of a horse.

She had seen and ridden Jive Thyme for the first time just six weeks before at the Canterbury championships, offering to compete him when a back injury meant owner McCallum was unable to ride. With no prior history together, the pair went out and won level two reserve champion and when they followed that with the national title, Anna said it was a huge sense of satisfaction for McCallum, as well as personally.

"[Jive Thyme] needs confidence and needs to trust the rider. He is the kind of horse that if I'd got nervous, he would have got nervous and started doing other things. Pretty much if you have the confidence he goes with you.

"We hoped he'd do well. He is quite a funny horse, but he had the potential to do it . . . [when we won] my first feeling was I was just so happy for Sue. It was pretty satisfying. The NZ title is definitely [my biggest success]. Nothing is more humbling than standing there and having the national anthem played for you."

Born and brought up in the Nelson area, Anna has been riding since she was 2 -years-old. Her parents weren't "horsey people," but after several years of nagging they agreed to lease Anna her first pony aged seven "because if I didn't look after it then we could give it back."

Since then riding has been a major passion in her life. A bad fall, which damaged three vertebrae in her back, when she was working in the North Island during her mid-20s and a three year break before 2008 have been the only times she has not regularly been on a horse. During that break, Anna decided to do something completely different and worked as a heavy haulage transport driver and it was there she met her husband, Andy. She moved to Marlborough in 2008 and got back into riding soon after, but aside from a half share she has in one horse, she has not owned a horse since.

"After [my fall] I switched to dressage. I'd always done a bit of dressage, but my main discipline was eventing, but I realised with jumping and cross-country if I had another fall it could be quite serious.

"‘Since I took up riding again I decided I wouldn't [have my own horse]. It was just because I was riding other people's horses full-time and there wasn't the time or money for me to be putting into my own horses."

Juggling her job as a professional rider with two young children makes for a busy lifestyle and would not be possible without two very easy-going kids and the help of others to look after them while she rides. But for someone who loves being busy and seeing the satisfaction of her clients when their horses do well, Anna would not have it any other way.

"I don't like sitting around, I get bored. I'm lucky, one of the horse owners looks after the kids and between me and the other owners we do the horses. I just like to be busy and doing everything, I don't like sitting and watching other people do it.

"I like the pleasure it gives the owners, they enjoy watching their horses get a place or win or even just compete. Especially if a horse has come to me and it has been difficult and making progress with it and having it do well in the end, it is really really cool to see the satisfaction the owners get."

As for the future, it looks as though horses are set to be a big part of her life for years to come. She wants to continue riding for as long as possible and, if Lucy decides to follow in her mother's footsteps, Anna's involvement with horses could stretch well beyond the end of her own career.

The Marlborough Express