Places to go . . . South Canterbury Equestrian Advocacy Group are protesting the declining number of tracks to ride around the region, (from left) national secretary Betty-Ann with Tucker, local chair Lorraine Goodger with Jackson and national treasurer Andrew Norrab with Squeeze. PHOTO: HELEN HOLT

by Helen Holt

Horse lovers will ride through Stafford St in December to request more bridle tracks in South Canterbury.

The National Equestrian Advocacy Group was formed six months ago to push against the decrease in places people can ride their horses. The South Canterbury group formed two months later in support of the movement.

National secretary Betty-Ann Smart said recent walk and cycleways were built to exclude horses.

“The Washdyke to Pleasant Point cycleway has exclusively left us out. They told us we have to ride on the road, but it’s far too dangerous for us to ride alongside cars.”

Mrs Smart and national treasurer Andrew Norrab said London was more accommodating to horses than New Zealand.

“You could have several horses riding through London and it wouldn’t be an issue,” they said.

“The horses are welcomed in the UK.

“In New Zealand, whenever we ride and we come across a family walking, they always find it exciting, like a real novelty.”

He could only ride on the state highways in Pareora, Mr Norrab said.

“They’re not the safest roads, but legally they’re the only place I can ride.”

The group is asking to be included in decision-making on how roads and pathways are built.

There are paper roads around the country, on which horses can legally be ridden, but are fenced off by landowners.

“There are also areas where horses can no longer ride due to bylaws, such as Caroline Bay.”

Local advocacy chairwoman Lorraine Goodger said she had to ask for permission from a local farmer for her to ride to the beach from her Studholme property.

Mrs Smart wanted to emphasise that the protest was not for show jumpers who had a whole paddock to ride around; the equestrian advocacy group was for horse riders who want to ride safely in public areas.

The national body plans to protest in Wellington on November 25, riding towards Parliament, and more than 6000 signatures have been collected on a petition, so far, and will be presented next year.

The Timaru protesters will ride from Otipua Rd, down Church St, and through Stafford St to deliver a letter of intent to Rangitata MP Jo Luxton. This will be one of many protests around the country, from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

The group members just want to be included in future decisions on roads, to get back the freedoms they once had when horses were the main mode of transport in New Zealand, Mrs Smart said.

“We have been quiet until now, while cyclists have been very vocal about getting cycleways.

“We’ve realised we need to be vocal to gain back what we once had.”