Wilson Sisters Riding The Success Of Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas
The Wilson sisters are coming to Claudelands Arena next month for the Riding With The Stars dressage and showjumping showcase.
Vicki and Amanda will line up in the grand prix on the opening night Friday 12 February, and along with sister Kelly are the main drawcard on Saturday 13 February. They will be doing a performance which tells the story of their first involvement with wild horses and how it inspired their television show, Keeping Up With The Kaimanawas.
"It will be a journey for the audience," said Vicki.
"It's got a little bit of everything in there – funny, sad, emotional and entertaining."
It's been a big job to write the script and plan the evening, but Vicki said it's a show she and her sisters definitely want to be part of.
"The Hansens (who are putting on the event) have always produced incredibly good shows, They have been fantastic to us and it has always been fun to be a part of it all. This is something that is exciting, different and new to New Zealand," said Vicki.
"New Zealand is lacking atmosphere and shows that get the public behind them. We need people to back the sport so it will continue to grow – I think Riding With The Stars will be completely different from anything we have seen before."
In just a few short years the Wilson sisters have made huge traction across equestrian circles – between 2012 and 2014 the slaughter rates of the Kaimanawa horses have dropped more than 60% largely due to their efforts to educate people about the wild animals. Kelly is working on book number three – the previous two having been best-sellers. Their TV show was a hit last year and on the back of it they headed to the United States to be part of the Extreme Mustang Makeover challenge.
Vicki and Amanda both had their horses vetted out of the competition but Kelly had the highest-priced selling horse at the auction, and Alexa Dodson, who travelled from New Zealand with the Wilsons, won rookie champion and finished reserve champion overall.
"They told us English trainers rarely get placed, as it is a western dominated sport," said Vicki.
While there, they trained 11 mustangs in total and covered 5000 miles in eight weeks with the horses – taking time to soak up what Vicki calls an "incredible" journey.
"We had no plan when we hit the road with our horses, and we would stop randomly and ask people if we could stay in their paddocks."
It wasn't without its craziness – like when the wild mustangs got loose in a million-acre national forest just before dark.
They head back to the US in April to do it all again, where the first stop will be Idaho to pick up their mustangs.
Vicki said the difference between the Kaimanawas and mustangs was very interesting. "American trainers say the mustangs are some of the toughest in the world – there are 50,000 in government holding yards, with sometimes hundreds in each corral. None are slaughtered and the government spends $80 million a year feeding them.
"In New Zealand the Kaimanawas are living free on the ranges and in herds, so super happy. We take them out of that and put them into the equivalent of jail cells and they shut down, so it's really important we try and give them back that freedom and happiness as soon as possible.
"For the mustangs, who are already in jail cells, our work with them is heaven. They are so appreciative of what you do for them. "Vicki said one of the best things about their success has been the feedback they get from young fans and their parents.
"They write to us about how their kids now go to the paddock and look at their horses in a different way - like a friend. If we can change the young generation to love and enjoy their ponies, then maybe we have done something good."
Looking further into the future, Vicki said both she and Amanda hope to make Olympic selection some day and they are looking to produce horses capable of campaigning at the highest levels internationally.
Article originally published in the Waitkato Times .