Rata Mill Farm

 

                                    Queens of the mountains 

Rata Mill horse grow up knowing nothing but hills. The 2 training arenas needed to be carved out with an excavator. Over the last 1.5 million years a series of volcanic eruptions first laid down molten lava sheets then mantled this landscape with layers of ash. Raglan district is sheep and cattle country growing copious pasture with moderate climate and over 2000 mm (80 inch) of rain most years.

Rata Mill horses are treated the same as other livestock. Living outdoors all year on an all-grass diet, they are uncovered - relying on heavy coats for protection during the wet winters. Mares are mated and foal unassisted. Of the 200 mares foaling throughout the last 25 years only 3 have been lost due to foaling difficulties. Stallions run with mares all year round. Barren mares are very uncommon. Providing foals are weaned early enough to allow the mares to put on weight before the next foaling they will produce a foal every year. These mares milk the weight off their own backs.

 

 

Feet and leg problems are very uncommon in Rata Mill horses. Of the 15 broodmares (average age 15 years) only one has required feet trimming throughout their entire lives.  The feet get a little long during winter then wear back during summer. Likewise, the Rata Mill stallions kept for breeding have never had their feet trimmed.

This background, common on ‘Stations’ (very big farms), resulted in the local term ‘Stationbred’. This term relates more to breeding environment rather than the actual bloodlines. Usually Stationbreds are of mixed breed – selected and mated more on the basis of their quality as a hill country Shepherd’s hack than bloodline. NZ Stationbreds have always punched beyond their weight in the competition ring. They are regarded as tough, honest, uncomplicated horses.

Regardless of their breed Rata Mill horse could legitimately be called NZ Stationbred – due solely to the environment in which they grow up.  

                  Horses do well with plenty of room on rough pasture. 

There are no covered boxes or stables at Rata Mill. The horses spend 95% of their time out in the paddocks being run like any other livestock. When coming in for training they will stay in holding paddocks for up to week living on meadow hay and plenty of clean natural water.  Hard feed is used very sparingly to help catch horses or quieten nervous horses. Aside from this hardfeeding is uneconomic. Horses can survive indefinitely on quality meadow hay without losing condition. When weaning arrives the foals will be locked in an enclosed yard and fed hay for 5 days.  Weaning in the paddocks is too risky as foals will jump the wire fences to get back to Mum. The risk of cuts is too high.  The only other way to wean is to sneak a mare out each day and take her to the other end of the farm. . The foal misses Mum but is with his mates and usually wont jump out. With 14 foals to wean option one is best.   It is also a grand opportunity to get in with them at close quarters.