On the next episode, screening 25 June 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Bruce Holden has been breeding horses for over 40 years and it’s a labour of love. He farms Ngahiwi Station in the Gisborne hills and horses carrying the Ngahiwi name have become frequent winners in the show-jumping and eventing worlds.
Bruce’s horses stand out from the crowd because he doesn’t molly-coddle them. Soon after they are born they are let loose to run free on his steep hills and they are handled as little as possible.
As a result they develop into sure-footed, confident jumpers with an independent character. They are not for the inexperienced or timid, but in the hands of capable riders, they shine.
Bruce’s groom, Holly Baines, has huge respect for both Bruce and his horses. ‘I started up here working for Bruce when I was 16 and it was a real eye-opener. I still haven’t seen horses like these anywhere else. They haven’t been pampered or yuppied around. They are spirited and their ability on the hill is phenomenal.’
Bruce encourages his young horses to develop what he calls ‘a good headpiece’.
‘I think temperament is number one. You can have the best jumper in the world, but if the headpiece is not right it’s a waste of time.
‘The steep hills make them develop their brain. They know what a bog is. They know what a creek is. It’s also great for their ligaments, their legs. They know where to put their feet.’
Bruce’s bloodline is based on the Gisborne horse – an all-rounder bred for over a century to provide the horsepower on hill country stations round Poverty Bay and the East Coast. A decade or so ago, Bruce started working with Dr Lee Morris, an expert in embryo transplants and artificial insemination, to improve his bloodlines.
He imported frozen semen from some of Europe’s highest-performing stallions for his mares. ‘We used four different stallions from VDL in Holland, and Indoctro was the top stallion of the day. His offspring were inclined to run a bit hot so I put him over my colder blooded mares.’
Bruce may be in his seventies but he has not slowed down. His girlfriend of two years, Fay Spence, manages an Auckland law library. She says he is energetic, creative and a great organizer.
‘Bruce has a great ability to plan several things simultaneously. He can have a three-ring circus going on and manage to keep it pretty much together. That takes great physical and mental energy.’
According to daughter Huia, Bruce and Fay are hardly ever home. ‘They’ll pull in in the horse truck and he’ll be here for a day or two and next minute he’s gone and if he’s in New Zealand he could be anywhere from the far North to the bottom of the South and always having an amazing adventure.’
For more about Bruce’s breeding programme, visit:www.facebook.com/Ngahiwi-Horses-548979628624475/
For more about Dr Lee Morris, visit:www.equibreed.co.nz/about-us
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