The Middlemarch horse ploughing team were surprised and
pleased with their second-place success at the national
horse ploughing competition in Marlborough last month. From
left are Sean Leslie, Mac, David Murdoch, Susy and Kaye
Walker, all of Middlemarch. Photo by Yyonne O'Hara
Despite having only two training and two practice days,
Sean Leslie and Kaye Walker, of Middlemarch, were surprised and
pleased with their success at the New Zealand Ploughing
Association's national horse ploughing championship in
Marlborough last month.
''We are pretty happy that we got second, and we are
surprised at how well we did, considering the amount of
practice we had,'' Ms Walker said.
Ms Walker, who is a shepherd, drove the horses, while Mr
Leslie, a contractor, did the ploughing, using a Reid and
Gray single-farrow plough.
The horses, Susy and Mac, are owned by David Murdoch, of
''He is the one who conned us into it,'' Ms Walker said.
A truck driver, Mr Murdoch has four Clydesdales and has been
ploughing for about 20 years.
He won the first horse ploughing competition at the national
championships about 10 years ago.
''I think I won 20 litres of Universal oil,'' Mr Murdoch
''I couldn't enter it this year because of arthritis so I got
Sean and Kaye to do it.''
Mr Leslie has ploughed competitively in the past, but not for
a couple of years, while Ms Walker had not driven a pair of
horses for ploughing for about eight years, although she had
been around animals all her life.
Ms Walker said the competitor who originally was meant to
take part could not make it, so three weeks before the
nationals Mr Murdoch rang her to ask if she would drive the
He said Mr Leslie had already agreed to do the ploughing part
''I said: `OK', and then he rang Sean and told him that I was
really keen to drive, so he agreed,'' Ms Walker said.
''We didn't find out until later what he had done.''
They had two days at the Palmerston competition to practise
and to qualify, and two days of practice at Blenheim [before
She said it was ''an art'' driving, and keeping the horses
''There is so much to watch.''
Mr Leslie said ploughing with a team required thinking about
six or seven things at once, making adjustments as they went,
then remembering to readjust the adjustments.
''It is very easy to make mistakes,'' he said. ''It could all
go wrong in a hurry.''
There were another five teams in the national competition -
two from the North Island and three from Canterbury and
Mr Leslie said it was luck that made them successful, while
Ms Walker said it was having a couple of good horses that
worked as a team that did it.
The horse team has also been used in cavalcades, as well as
for weddings and funerals.
Mr Leslie and Ms Walker said they were considering entering
more competitions in the area.
Mr Murdoch has also taught them to harness and drive a wagon,
as it was done years ago.
Next year's national ploughing championships will be held in