Horse expert flying high
A "high school dropout" has become a documentary star and an internet sensation for her one-of-a-kind horse-riding technique.
Alycia Burton has gained fans all over the world with her "free riding" videos in which she rides and jumps her horse, Classic GoldRush, bareback and without a bridle.
A video of the pair soaring over hurdles up to 1.7 metres high has been viewed by more than two million people since it was uploaded to YouTube a year ago.
The footage also appears on a DVD about Ms Burton which has just been released by Auckland company Origin Media.
"It's got some very extreme footage - we're jumping four-wheel drives and really big jumps," she says.
Ms Burton grew up in the Far North but moved to the Auckland region in 2010 and to Karaka 18 months ago.
She's completely self-taught in free riding, which she describes as a method centred on trust between horse and rider.
"I never could get lessons or anything - we didn't really have the money for that - so I'd just play around on my horses," she says.
"I'd get off the school bus, jump on my horse and kick him and see where he went and that's where it started."
The DVD, Alycia Burton: Free Rider, follows her journey from a 15-year-old school leaver to successful businesswoman.
It features interviews with other equestrians as well as tutorials so viewers can learn her techniques themselves.
Ms Burton says any horse and any rider can be trained in the free-riding method.
She should know - she's successfully trained a number of unwanted and "damaged" equines through her company, Classic Performance Horses.
Many of those were former racehorses destined for the meatworks. But she's quick to stress that the training can take varying amounts of time.
She and Classic GoldRush were jumping tall obstacles just a year after they started working together but his was a special case, she says.
"He grew up on really steep hill country so he was muscled, he was fit ... you don't just do that to every horse."
Ms Burton says she hopes viewers of the DVD are inspired to follow their hearts.
"When you're a kid you've got all these hopes and dreams. As you get older people begin to put doubts and negativity into your visions and soon you start to follow everyone else and do what they do," she says.
"No-one believed me or supported me when I first started doing what I was doing. They told me I was too young, I didn't have the right horses, I didn't have any money... but I just stuck to myself and stuck to my guns."
Go to freeridingnz.com for more information.
- © Fairfax NZ News