Exciting venture for equestrian trainer

Bec Kerr’s equestrian business has gone from strength to strength since she launched it in 2016....
Bec Kerr’s equestrian business has gone from strength to strength since she launched it in 2016. PHOTO: ALICE SCOTT
It was 7.30am last week when Southern Rural Life caught up with Bec Kerr. She had 11 girls staying in her home on a two-day pony camp and was about to make pancakes. It was organised chaos; just the way she likes it.

Miss Kerr set up Maungatua Equestrian in 2016. A vet nurse by trade, she was an avid competitor on the showjumping circuit at that time and found her 9 to 5 job was getting in the way. "Competing was a really important part of my life and it got to a point that my boss was like ‘well, you can have some Fridays off, but not every Friday!"

With help from West Taieri Pony Club she completed her Pony Club A-certificate and then ventured into a Diploma of Equitation Science mentored by Jody Hartstone at her Raglan property.

At the age of 24 she set up the equine business on a property her parents had bought as a run-off for their 900-cow dairy farm near Dunedin Airport.

Miss Kerr began with breaking in horses and fixing problem horses for others. Starting with an outdoor arena, some stables, and a tack room, it has rapidly grown over the years.

She now employs a staff member and an indoor arena was built last summer. Her services have also grown with stallion servicing and riding schools, and she hosts overnight camps for both children and adults.

Miss Kerr has her own ponies and hacks which she offers lessons on. Each of the mounts are fully booked most weeks.

One of her riding mounts is called Golden Strike, he is a German riding pony that is also her main breeding stallion and services her clients’ mares.

"He pays for his keep, and the rest of them," she said, laughing.

Stallion servicing is an important part of her business and has her on-call for about six months of the year. "It is usually always that one weekend when I think I have been in touch with all of my clients and I am safe to go away and then I will get a call from someone out of the blue that’s decided that day they want to service their mare.

"To me it’s important to move mountains to make things happen for those clients as before I had my own stallions, I know how much I appreciated that relationship with my stallion owner."

Alongside the equine business, Miss Kerr also rears calves at her parents’ dairy farm.

"We have to feed the 900-odd calves that are born on the place and we rear 200 of them as dairy replacements. August is pretty hectic and I don’t offer riding lessons during the week as it all gets a bit too much."

Miss Kerr credits the "massive support" from her parents to help get the equine business set up.

"Dad built the outdoor arena, the stables and tack shed and all the horse paddocks and pens."

Her partner Tom Dodds has a building and painting business and is slowly taking over from her dad in the handy-man department.

"He’s a very helpful guy to have around. He was outside last night playing spotlight with all of the camp kids. I can’t fault him!"

Running a business in the equestrian industry also brings its fair share of dramas and opposing views on certain aspects of horsemanship and Miss Kerr concedes she has had to dig deep to tell herself she is good at what she does.

"I am just a baby compared to other instructors who have been around for a long time. It can take one horse that you just couldn’t get through to that makes you question what you’re doing, but then I just need to remind myself of the 50-plus other horses I have had great success with."

The biggest challenge Miss Kerr has is juggling all of the balls she has in the air at any one time, but the effort is worth it, she says.

"The biggest highlight for sure is buying Golden Strike. If anyone should have a pony, it should be a German Riding Pony, he is just the coolest wee horse."

Seeing the young riders she has been tutoring for a few years develop with their own riding is also satisfying.

"A lot of them started as young 8 years old and now they are 12 or 13, they are just coming on and venturing into competing; they are on the cusp of it all which is quite exciting to be part of," she said.

By Alice Scott