Episode 16 - Home and Heart
On the next episode, screening 1 July 2018 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
Tania Mapp loves all animals, but the ones closest to her heart are dogs and horses.
She and her husband Peter manage a 1000-hectare sheep, beef and deer farm near Ohakune, so there’s no shortage of land to home her menagerie.
At the moment she has 15 dogs and two horses.
Of all her four-legged whanau, Wallace has been around the longest.
“I love him,” says Tania. “He’s my horse of a lifetime. We just have that really great connection. As soon as I hopped on him, I just knew. I was pretty fortunate because the opportunity to have Wallace has helped me to be the rider that I am.”
Tania is passionate about Western Riding. One of New Zealand’s top riders, she’s a regular on the competition circuit.
Western Riding is a form of dressage based on the skills needed by cowboys who work cattle. The competitors wear western outfits – cowboy hats, chaps, spurs and a generous sprinkling of sequins and tassels.
But a horse also caused an accident that changed Tania’s life. She was warming up to compete on someone else’s horse when the horse slipped and went down, smashing her head into the ground.
She suffered serious head injuries and Peter, holding her on the ground, was sure she was going to die. But, as Tania says, “You can’t kill a weed!”
Nine years on she still suffers concussion symptoms and is reconciling herself to the idea that she may never be completely cured. While recovering, Tania reassessed her values.
“A heap of bad things have come out of my accident but also some good. You realize some things in life are important and some are not.”
When Tania heard about a group called Retired Working Dog Adoption, she saw her chance to give back some of the love she had received from animals.
RWDA finds new homes for farm dogs that have become too old to work a full day, have to retire due to injury, or are just not temperamentally suited to farm work.
It was started by Natalie Smith, a vet nurse, who rescued a dog that was going to be put down.
Seeing a need, she started a Facebook page that connects farmers needing to retire a dog with people prepared to offer a new home. In its short life, RWDA has found new homes for hundreds of dogs.
As a farmer, Tania has the skills and experience to assess a working dog’s abilities, potential and needs and advise RWDA on the most suitable home, which might be a lifestyle block with a few sheep, or a suburban home with a bed by the fire. She also assesses potential owners to see if they would be a good fit with the dog.
“We were really lucky when Tania came on board,” Natalie says, “She is our only fosterer who is a farmer.”
Tania says her involvement with RWDA is just “sharing the love”.
“Having my accident and realizing how fragile your life actually is, it made me realise there are things I wanted to do and I didn’t want to put them off till I was older or retired, or had more money or more time.”
“So now I can share my love and enjoyment of working with dogs and horses. I can take these dogs that are on a one-way trip to the vet clinic, bring them home, love them, care for them and help them.
“Someone else, they get that dog and they love that dog. I’ve been part of that journey and I can totally change how that trip to the vet ends.”
Tania finds that very rewarding. “Circle of love – you put it out there, it’ll come around and come back to you.”
Read more about Retired Working Dog Adoption NZ here.
Visit the Retired Working Dogs Facebook page here.
Find out more about western riding in New Zealand here.
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