Māori rider helping horses to perform at their peak

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Over 1400 riders and 1800 horses are gunning for the top prizes and titles at this year's Horse of the Year at Hawke's Bays A&P Showgrounds. But behind the scenes of NZ's pinnacle equestrian event is one young Māori rider helping horses to perform at their peak over the week long tournament.

These fine athletes are getting some well-deserved special treatment.

Tess Williams (Ngāti Porou) says, “They are wild animals that are made to do something very un-natural so they definitely get a lot of sore spots and a lot of stress related sore spots as well.”

27 year-old Tess Williams is taking on a peculiar role at this year's Horse of Year overlooking the horses and their wellbeing as an equine masseuse.

Williams says, “A few people ask whether I make the horses lie down or put them on a table. People that aren't horsey find it quite funny I think which I don't really think is funny but I can see the humour in it.”

No magic trickery involved. Tess studied equine massage therapy in Melbourne and her methods incorporate Māori based techniques. She says it's a growing and important skill set amongst the equestrian community. 

Williams says, “It's very important to have the horses feeling at their best basically as do we as riders.”

As well as volunteering, the former Lady Rider of the Year and Queensland Young Rider Champ is also pitted amongst the top classes of the tournament. She says her understanding of horses gives her an advantage.

Williams says, “My aim in this show is to be in the Top 3 in the Lady Rider of the Year which is on Thursday, and to be in the Top 6 in the Horse of the Year on Sunday, the Olympic Cup.”

The tournament concludes this Sunday, March 12th.