Horsing around has taken on a new twist in Golden Bay.
Horse vaulting, a popular sport in Germany, is alive and kicking at Paton Rock Beach thanks to Baerbel Hack, who runs horse activities and backpacker accommodation in the hills above.
As a young girl growing up in Germany, Hack was a horse vaulter, described as gymnastics and dance on horseback.
She has roped in a former Blenheim pacer, Rolls Royce, who did not fare so well on the track but is proving an ideal horse vaulter.
Rolls Royce walks, trots and canters in a circle on a long rope at the beach as children learn the basics of horse vaulting.
Hack said it was "great" coincidence that she married a man with a horsey last name.
She said good vaulting horses have to have the right attitude and be mellow around kids and older people.
"They have to accept a lot of things happening of them, without being bothered.
"They have to have that Golden Bay ‘oh, whatever' attitude," she said.
Hack discovered Rolls Royce's horse vaulting talents while teaching him to canter.
She worked him on a lunge rope to "get balance into him" and found that he was very calm being ridden.
He was not quite the shape of a traditional vaulting horse, which were generally slightly heavier, but due to his mellow temperament he had the ideal personality for a vaulting horse.
She uses a long whip and voice signals to put him through his paces.
Hack said no one had fallen off so far, though the children could slide off on to the sand when they wanted to. People can mount and dismount horses as they move, often with help from bystanders.
Hack teaches vaulting on the beach because the "footing is perfect" and the sand is "groomed twice a day".
When the tide is in and there's no room to practise, Hack takes her group to the local high school to practise gymnastics moves on the floor. They then transfer the moves to horseback.
She is planning for the vaulting group to put on their first demonstration at the Golden Bay integrated health centre soon. She also plans for them to perform at the A&P Show.
Pippa Struck, who has been vaulting for six months, said she appreciated vaulting was "confidence building".
Horse vaulting in Golden Bay happens on Saturdays on Patons Rock beach, when the tide is not too high, from 11.30am to 12.30pm.
- The Nelson Mail
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