Travel Blog: Being Here Now

This is the view out the front of my deck: pastures to the ocean. I’m having a rest day, staying in the future Air BnB at Bex’s farm. She organized the first clinic here, which if you ask me, was a huge success. In this context, I define success as me having a wonderful time doing what I love best. A clinic involves all my favorite things: horses and people who care about doing the best for horses. That about sums it up.

I still have concerns about understanding the language. When I went to Europe to spend my thirtieth birthday with the Eiffel Tower, I stopped in London on the way. I could not understand a word. I had to ask people to repeat everything. Nothing quite says tourist like leaning forward with a furrowed brow while staring at a stranger’s mouth.

Please don’t show my horses this grass.

I had packed my high school French with me, but if I was failing with my own language, I knew there was no chance once I crossed the channel. All these years later the paranoia returned, coming to New Zealand, and knowing that I would need to speak to be understood, and I might be doing the leaning-forward-and-squinting thing at riders. I prayed that I didn’t sound as confusing to the riders employing me, as they did to me.

Now on to a few travel bits. For sake of convenience, I will refer to New Zealand as the Garden of Paradise. It’s just simpler.

My first hotel in the Garden of Paradise was a small independently-owned place. I signed in and was asked if I take milk. I do the leaning-forward-and-squinting thing and she repeats, “Do you take milk in your tea?” I smile, the best apology for being a tourist, and nod. She reaches under the counter, opens a small refrigerator, and hands me a small glass bottle of milk. We used to have these in grade school. She says it’s from a local dairy. Usually, I must beg for extra synthetic powdered chemicals to change the color of my coffee.

Failed attempt at over-grazing in NZ.

Clutching my cold milk, I trip over my bags until I get to my room, door wide open to let the air in. It’s simple but clean. There’s a French press and coffee for my fresh whole milk. It’s what happens in the Garden of Paradise. Along with large refillable soap containers, unlike the tiny plastic ones that I drag along with me, until I use up the soap and can recycle. But this room has a recycle bin, too. Yay.

The first day of the clinic means I get to talk about horses for hours on end, so I’m in a great mood when we all go to dinner. It’s a long table of women from the clinic. We all order wine or beer or hard cider, and wonderful dinners. Then we share all of that. It’s that happy chatter of old friends and I feel so warm; so very included. The kind of people you’d meet in the Garden of Paradise.

Photo-bombing horse now blog-bombing.

The menu looked a bit pricey but I’m on a stipend. At the end of the meal, I’m feeling wonderful, so naturally, I leave a big tip. The service was great and I want to acknowledge the generosity I’ve felt all day.

I’ve eaten out four times now, each at small independently-owned bistro sorts of places. The food has been natural and beautifully prepared. I don’t even see chain restaurants, the bane of my existence. I’ve had a small business since I was nineteen; I like supporting people more than corporations.

Around the second or third dinner, I’m informed that Kiwis don’t tip. I’m shocked. Such rudeness is horrible. Without dropping a beat, I’m told that servers in NZ are paid a living wage. About $20 an hour. Oh. I guess everyone would be able to make a living if it’s the Garden of Paradise. Dinner prices seem more than reasonable.

Yup, I find my other tribe, too.

At the end our clinic time together, the clinic participants all give me a gift. It’s a copy of The Wonky Donkey, a children’s book that they have all signed. It comes with a CD of the song, which someone is playing on their phone, so I can hear it. We are all singing along and dancing a bit. It’s possible that some dressage queens would not fully appreciate this kindness, but I am bray-starved here.  Then I had something in my eye, but not bad.

Thanks to all the Cambridge horses and riders and especially Bex, the organizer of this baptism to teaching in the Garden of Paradise. You were all perfect. I love your horses, too.

I’m nostalgic; I think of all the clinics I’ve been to over my riding life. How many times I’ve done the leaning-forward-and-squinting thing on my horse or as an auditor. German accents. French accents. Stuffy accents. At clinics now, I listen with each of my senses to understand the equine language I’ve tried the hardest to master, along with all its dialects. Communication –verbal, written or equine –has become my overwhelming passion. I always know what a privilege it is to do what I do.

Snapshot of a perfect moment in time: I’m in the Garden of Paradise and I’m the trainer with an accent. 

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 


This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Travel Blog: Being Here Now”

  1. Would your four-leggeds forgive you if you stayed in Paradise? I’d be sorely tempted – especially since accents don’t usually challenge me much!

  2. Beautiful country! Years ago, I knew someone from Tauranga (north island) and he gave a book of wonderful pictures of places in N.Z. Would love to visit there sometime.

  3. Wondeeful! Have you seen any Baggons’s. Grandolf or elves? NZ is on the bucket list, which just started after reading your blog. My mare, Tiggy was an export from The Garden of Paradise. She always had a glint in her eye!

    • We drove right by Hobbiton, but the mares here are like none I have ever seen. I know what the glint is about. If Tiggy was a kiwi… just wow.

  4. How fun! Awww I want to sit in on one of your clinics and then sit at a long table with a bunch of gabby horse gals learning to do what’s best for the horse! 🙂

  5. I’m coming down to Waimate from Kaikoura (top of the South and a 5.5hr drive) Sadly I won’t be bringing my boy with me as it’s just too much to drive 2 days to just get there and back home. So looking forward to the clinic and learning from you.
    I wonder if your trip to paradise has made you think of coming back again some time in the future and would love to have you come up to Marlborough to see even more of paradise, maybe even get out on a boat and see our resident whales and the stunning scenery that Kaikoura has even after the quake.

    • Vanessa, thank you for taking such a long drive yourself… and auditing my clinics might end up being a bit more than you expect… As for coming back… JUST INVITE ME. I’D LOVE TO.

      • This is my first ever clinic so a complete blank slate for you hahahahaha. I would love to have you come and stay and do a clinic here. I’m sure there are a lot in the upper South that would come. Just say when you would like to come back and I’m sure we can sort it! See you Friday 🙂

  6. Super that you missed the earthquakes, the tropical cyclones, the torrential thunder storms and the temps at 100’F+. Even so, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. :-).

  7. Anna,So happy for you… Being invited to do what you are passionate about in three of the countries I find most beautiful . New Zeland, Australia and Scottland. I am not sure if this is a measure of success, competence or your great gifts on parade. Just so thrilled you are giggling every nite as you try to sleep. Kim

    • Right? I’m just gonna ride this wave as far as it goes, and be thrilled by these inspiring horses and riders all the way. Thanks, Kim.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us. I LOVE to travel, my husband does not. Have to stay here to take care of my babies – but your posts are EXCEPTIONAL to the voyeur! So do you find the horses the same???? I would guess yes!

  9. When you’re looking at prices at restaurants and etc. here, just remember to deduct about 30% because your U.S. dollar is buying about .70 cents Kiwi money. You’ll find the South Island less expensive though so INDULGE and ENJOY!!!

    • There are things here too rich, and too abundant, and too very beautiful, but nothing is too expensive. Do tourists frequently leave here with kiwi tattoos??

  10. Anna, I am so happy for you to be experiencing the Garden of Paradise in just the way that you are. Last year Mike and I were able to spend a month there traveling about and meeting up with Maree McAteer. You are bringing all of that back to me and I…must…return. Those little bottles of milk are a small but defining characteristic of a welcoming culture that is set amid the most amazing landscapes. Enjoy.

  11. Thank you for sharing this beautiful report and your awesome photos, Anna. It lifts my heart on a day I needed it. I am not brave about travel so it means a lot to me to enjoy through your experiences.

  12. Sounds absolutely wonderful! When humans get together over a shared passion, communication, food and drink…just amazing. The stars align and all is well with my soul. What a fantastic thing you get to do as your life’s work. And the icing on the top – you’re helping horses with their people. You are a blessed woman Anna Blake. 🙂

    Rock on.

  13. Anna, I’m bringing my anglo arab gelding to your clinic in Auckland. If you are bray-starved shall I bring Jethro my wonky donkey too? He’s my horses’ best friend and he would love to meet you. Something tells me the other horses won’t be too thrilled though 😉

    • Oh, Tracy. I have so stood in your shoes. Wanting the company, especially for a young horse, and knowing that every other competitor would hate me… so yes. I’ll leave this to you! Looking forward to meeting you, and maybe seeing a photo of Jethro???Thanks Tracy.

  14. Haha, I shall leave Jethro here with the important job of guarding the paddock – much better than him scaring the living daylights of equines twice his size!! I’ll just promise to take them both to the beach under the cover of darkness again, he loves that. I shall bring photos though – he is terrific – and his bray is world class!

  15. Pingback: Writing, Traveling, Writing – Anna Blake: The Print Version.

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