Strengthening kids' connection to their land on horseback

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Forty young people from the North Hokianga are embarking on a four-day trek, traversing the oceans, rivers and landscapes of their backyard.

Trek organiser Chas Leef says the trek aims to reconnect the young people to their natural environment and stories of their ancestors while ditching their devices and the pressures of the modern busy world

“E haere ana mātou ki te tuaru kia mohio ai ratou ki nga ingoa toka whai kai, nga awa, me nga ingoa i roto i te ngahere. Mai i konei, tenei te paamu o Waireia kii i te hitōria, mo rātou”

“We’re going take them along the shores so our kids know the names of the rocks they can get food from, the rivers and the many names in the forests. Take this farm, Waireira, it’s full of history for them to learn,” he said.

Grace Latimer made the five-hour drive from Auckland to Panguru to join in on the kaupapa, bringing along her daughter Maia. Grace says horse treks like this give her and her daughter an opportunity to bond and for her daughter to strengthen her connections with her wider whanau.

Panguru kids gear up for the four-day trek

Whanau bonding

“Ka tino ngana ka tino manawanui ia ki tenei kaupapa, ki te eke hoiho. Ano hoki, nga painga o te noho tahi ki tērā reanga o nga mātua a Chas ma, me nga tamariki mokopuna, to mātou reanga ano hoki”

“She tries and she’s so passionate about riding horses. The benefits are also getting to know her elders, and her cousins - even our generation.”

Hohepa Matthews is a father of three. He recalled as a child participating in this trek. He’s now proud to bring his children along for the ride.

“Ko te wa o nga hararei, ka haere mātou, kake hoiho me ōku tamariki. Ka haere ki te hi ika, ki te aru poaka, era mea”

“It’s the holidays so I’m able to ride horses with my kids. We also go fishing, pig hunting as well, those sorts of activities.”

It’s been a while since local school principal Mina Pomare-Peita rode a horse at length but she’s taking up the challenge of the trek with her nieces, nephews and mokopuna. She adds that the benefits of the trek go beyond just riding a horse.

Te Kura Taumata o Panguru principal Mina Pomare Peita

Window into the past

“Ko te mea nui ko ēnei rangatahi, no konei. No reira ka taea e ratou ki te kite i o rātou whenua na o ratou tūpuna i whawhai kia mau kia taea ratou ki te noho, whai oranga”

“The biggest thing is these kids are from here. So they’re able to see up close the lands that their ancestors fought for, so they’re able to remain strong here - and to survive,” she said.

Trek supporter Buster Peita says that not only do the young people get to make new memories and gain experiences, this could also be a window into the past, where the kids’ ancestors used horses as part of everyday life.

“We went through it with our parents. Horse riding became a lifestyle and I’d like to give it to each and every moko that’s involved in our whanau.”

The trek will see the young people ride from Mitimiti on the West Coast, along to neighbouring Pawarenga and will finally swim their horses across the harbour to Whangape. The ride will total approximately 20 hours over the four days.