General, Stories and Articles

Our New Zealand Travel

Back in the olden days, in 1966, a 16 year old jackeroo (Pardon – ringer!) by the name of Lyle Kent, was experiencing his second year at “Wycanna” near Goondiwindi, South West Queensland. Among the group of workers at the property were 4 girls from Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand, Kiwi backpackers on an Australian adventure.

Back in the not-quite-so-olden-days in 1993, at Meda Station in the West Kimberleys, we sold a saddle to a Kiwi ringer by the name of Tony Holden, from Gisborne. As sometimes happens, the conversation led to a ‘coincidental’ discovery that this young bloke was the son of one of the New Zealand women Lyle had met in the 60’s. (there’s more to come!)

Over the years our contacts with New Zealand backpackers on cattle stations had established that the Gisborne region is probably the New Zealand equivalent of Outback Australia, and this is one area where horses are used extensively for mustering cattle.

We contacted a saddler in Gisborne, and following his expression of interest in our saddles, Lyle, Helen and Jess flew to New Zealand on New Years’ Day 2007, with two
saddles on board. Barry Pearce, the Gisborne saddler, was very friendly, and proceeded to show us the saddle he makes and is used around the Gisborne area. Lyle thought, at that stage, he might as well leave our saddles in the boot of the car; they were so dramatically different! The Gisborne saddles are built on a design like an English all purpose saddle, and it hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Lyle thought our saddles would be regarded as
saddles from outer space!

Pearces Saddlery

Barry Pearce of Pearces Saddlery is carrying on a Saddlery tradition of three generations. His grandfather was a whip maker, and his father, now 81 years of age, was a saddler and harness maker, and is still actively involved with whip plaiting.

Pearces Saddlery’s main business is servicing farm shepherds who still use horses on the rugged and steep hill country stations on the East Coast, Central North Island and parts of the South Island.

“We are pleased to offer our customers the Kent range of saddles here in Gisborne on the North Island of New Zealand.”

However, Barry graciously made room for our saddles to “make a landing” in his display area, and a week of interesting developments in New Zealand followed.

Barry Pearce knew Tony Holden, the Kiwi ringer from 1993, and phoning him, Tony informed Lyle that the saddle he’d bought in Western Australia had been stolen, and he was wanting to buy another one. That was an encouraging start.

Lyle also enquired about Tony’s mother, and we learned that she lived close by. A ‘40 years on’ jackeroo-jilleroo reunion was arranged, and the memories were dusted off and brought out with associated stories and laughter. Tony’s Dad, Bruce Holden, lives in the hills near Gisborne, (most of the Gisborne area is hills!) and is a breeder and trainer of horses used for eventing, hunting and trekking. He was willing to try a Kent Saddle on a fresh horse, and when the horse responded well to the saddle, Bruce was impressed; particularly with the design and balance of the cable rigging. He immediately contacted other people, and during that week, Bruce became the greatest promoter of our saddles around Gisborne. It’s amazing to experience that country, and watch the horses, bred
especially for their sure footedness, make their way easily along the steep mountain tracks. It’s equally inspiring to see the foals following the mares in this steep terrain.

We visited Tony, who is a stock and station agent in another mountainous region, Ruatoria, North of Gisborne. He took Lyle for a drive into the mountains where horse riders muster cattle and often chase pigs. Lyle’s one word to describe the 4WD ride was, “scary!” What it’s like on horseback, at night (the preferable time for tracking and catching pigs), defies imagination! Riding skills in this mountainous terrain, (in the traditional saddles) must be incredible! Its no wonder some of the younger Maori riders regarded our saddles with disdain. We met a group of them in the town, riding down the street wearing the popular hoodies (parkas with hoods) and gumboots for footwear!

Lyle promoted the strength and reliability of our saddles wherever we went, and this proved to be a winning point. For pigging two or three pigs are often strapped on to the saddle with the rider climbing aboard as well, so saddle strength is important! Lyle’s willingness to provide additional rings and dees on the saddles, was also a plus.

Barry Pearce continues to be our selling agent in the Gisborne area, and to other parts of New Zealand, and we’ve sold a number of saddles since our visit, with continuing interest and good feedback from customers. The second week in New Zealand we spent sightseeing and there are some beautiful sights to see. Hills, hills and more hills, breathtaking coastal scenery, rushing streams, and numerous towns and villages all with unpronounceable and similar sounding names. We enjoyed it, and have promised ourselves we’ll go back!

My saddle is going well and doing
everything I wanted it to do. I’ve been trekking with it and it’s been through flooded rivers carrying pigs. I’ve got no complaints.

Bruce Holden, Giborne, NZ, Oct 2007

I found Kent saddles to be the top of the range, second to none. I don’t think I’ll ever sit in any other.

The Equaliser saddle with the cable rigging suits me; it’s light and comfortable enough to ride in all day, no problem. The cable rigged cinch system adjusts easily. It is ideal for me because I’m breaking in different sized and shaped horses weekly then riding them out pig hunting and wild cattle mustering. I had Lyle put extra heavy dee rings in front for strapping big boars to the saddle. Light weight and hard wearing, ideal for carrying pigs.

Lyle Kent is the man.

Dee Manuel, Ruatoria, NZ, 3/11/07

We spoke with Tony Holden about his Equaliser Western Drafter purchased in February 2007 following our visit to the North Island of New Zealand.

We’re encouraged by the report from this mountain man, knowing that the saddle would be tested to the max during stock work and pig catching escapades in the rugged mountain country.

Tony had carried over 400 pigs on it since that time and says that it’s standing up to the work. Tony reckons that we wouldn’t recognize the saddle, and we believe him!

Hi my name is Ziggy, I’m a New Zealand Station hack, and my Occupation is to go where dad tells me.

For my fourth birthday dad got me a new Kent Saddle. Since then we have seen a lot of country, up and down steep hills up to 50ks a day, and I love it! This Kent saddle feels great on my back; I have the freedom to move, and you should see me jump! I’m not getting so tired, and can go for hours. The old bugger seems to be happier too, as he has had knee surgery and used to mumble about his aches and pains, but with this new Kent saddle he hasn’t complained once. He seems to be glued to his new Equaliser saddle because when I play up he just sits there; I guess I won’t be dumping him any more!

My best mate’s Mum borrowed the Kent and took him for a spin around the farm. They both came back with cheesy smiles – he is getting one for his birthday. Dad said the family at Kent Saddlery were awesome. They catered for his every need and there were no problems with us being based in New Zealand. They made sure they had all the right measurement etc for the saddle to fit horse and rider, the quality of the gear is out standing. I would recommend their saddles to any horse or rider.

Michael Whyte, Masterton, NZ, 04/12/07

This is a fantastic saddle for riding my young horses when breaking in; easy on the horse and keeps the rider still and secure when things go amiss!

I’m a competitive dressage rider, competing at Open-Med level. I find this saddle puts me in the perfect position and close to the horse’s back, making all those subtle aids more effective. I do all my dressage training in this saddle!

Very well made, a quality saddle for a very reasonable price I thought, especially when compared to dressage saddles! Thanks very much Kent family.

Shelagh Nolan,
Gisborne, New Zealand, 30/08/07

Image captions:

1) Barry Pearce

2) Bruce Holden

3) Tony Holden riding in a traditional Gisborne saddle, Ruatoria, NZ

4) Ziggy

5) Michael Whyte with Ziggy