Rata Mill Brown Bess

                                            The best of our best

                                                            Rider Rebecca Geddes 1992

In the autumn of 2012 I received a ring from my Japanese colleagues   who were in New Zealand for the Horse of the Year. They wanted to come to Rata Mill to do something special. In their luggage they carried some wisps of mane and tail from the best horse ever bred at Rata Mill: Brown Bess, who had died some months before at age 23.  A site was selected for a burial and inscribed rock placed over it. The Japanese tradition of burial in the place of birth was complete.


Bess (born brown) was the third Rata Mill horse born. 26 years and 150 horses later she still remains number 1. Standing at just 16 hands (15.3 on the rump) she was a horse with huge heart and exceptional jumping technique. Throughout her entire career she never stopped or ran off a jump, aside from one occasion (a run-off on the second jump of a double at her 3rd show).  This is partially due to the calibre and attitude of her riders (Rebecca Geddes and Shige Nishizuka) who coaxed her through her career. By the time she was exported to Japan at age 7 she had won both NZ 5 yr and 6yr showjumping championships with Rebecca Geddes.  After arrival in Japan she won numerous championships seldom being out of the money in any competition.


In a certain respect Bess’s full potential will never be known.  When Shige Nishezuka imported her in 1994 he had one objective in mind: for his son (just a child) to one day win the All Japan Young Rider of the Year.  Bess’s competition was restricted to 1.40 m in which she excelled. After 10 years of competition and training the combination went out and fulfilled the dream. 6 years later she was dead. She had never stopped or ran off throughout her entire career in Japan.


How would have Bess coped with Grand Prix? We will never know but I am grateful that no one tried. To break that huge heart would have been a tragedy. She gave immense pleasure to all who rode and knew her. What more can we ask.  Now: back to the beginning. 

                                        Bess (@ 2 yrs)  1989

Young and excited about our new breeding venture we followed the in-hand sporthorse shows for a number of years. Bess was seldom out of placings in the heavyweight classes. Even at this young age she attracted attention. We had a steady string of comments from onlookers. Breaking in to saddle was easy due to the intensive handling during showing. At one particular in-hand show a lady (Angela Geddes) came up and complimented us on Bess. Her daughter (Rebecca) was competing in the SJ classes. They came to the farm and bought an older horse (Gleneray) who was to become the first Rata Mill horse to be exported to Japan.


                                                           Bess as a 4-yr old

                                                I did not realise what I was riding


During the following year I still had dressage in my vision and competed Bess a couple of times. But, she was not easy. Furthermore, I was very green myself when it came to flatwork. Now and then I would set up some jumps. I did not have a lot of jumping experience and had no idea what I was riding. All I knew was if I got the stride wrong Bess would not go in deep. She would let fly from 1 ½ strides back leaving me way behind.  One day I was schooling at canter in the arena  that has a wire road fence above a 3 m embankment down onto a gravel road. I came around the corner and Bess’s eyes picked up, heading straight for the fence. Bess knew the landscape and holy shit, she was ready give it a crack. Needless to say I pulled her off. Sometime later Rebecca was training in a group with George Morris. After a couple of typical Bess’s ‘dont care what the stride is’ George said ‘That horse has got guts’.

Rebecca took over Bess at age 5, winning the NZ 5 yr and 6yr NZ show jumping championships. A year later she was off to Japan. 


                                  She was tried (unsuccessfully) as a police horse

                   She never really liked people and was 'superbitch' with other horses


         Bess with Rebecca, prize giving, NZ  5 yr Championship HOY 1993

                         Bess always had this air of arrogance, especially at prize give 

                                             Giving it all with Shige Nishezuka

                                                  She hated touching wood