Where it all began

Looking back at the history of NZ Horse & Pony magazine

The very first issue of NZ Horse & Pony magazine, May 1959
The very first issue of NZ Horse & Pony magazine, May 1959

Magazines come and magazines go, but for more than half a century, NZ Horse & Pony has been the must-have monthly read for New Zealand equestrians – not to mention developing an avid following in many other parts of the world.

From what we can work out, only a handful of magazines in New Zealand have a longer continual publishing history; the NZ Woman’s Weekly, The Listener, Sea Spray and NZ Gardener among them.

NZ Horse & Pony was born in May 1959. Its predecessor was a publication called – charmingly – Tally-Ho, which began in 1947 and was initially published quarterly but moved to a monthly in March 1953.

But six years later, Tally-Ho was faltering, and a Wellington-based publisher, ABD Clark Ltd, along with editor Mrs J Bertram, took up the challenge of providing a monthly magazine “for the amateur riders of New Zealand” and launched NZ Horse & Pony.

The magazine’s aims, as published in its very first issue, were: “To provide accurate news and lively views to all readers interested in horse or pony events both here and overseas, and to provide a regular journal in which readers can express their opinions on topics of interest to horse people.

“Our main objective… is to provide greater enjoyment for all those who ride, and to safeguard the welfare of the horse…”

The 34-page magazine had a distinctive red border on the cover, and inside was black and white with a single colour plate on the inside front cover. Its cover price was 2/6 (two shillings and sixpence) with an annual subscription rate of 30 shillings.

That first issue had a report on a visiting Australian show jumping team – the first time such a tour had been staged. The eight horses and riders competed at “leaping” competitions at shows around the country, including round-the-ring and take your own line, puissance and six-bar events, and tackled fearsome obstacles of up to 5 feet 9 inches (1.75m) high.

According to our report, the Australian horses were bigger than those usually seen here, shod with short heels and no studs, and the riders “checked their horses severely to within two or three strides of each fence… so much so that they threw their heads up, mouth open, ears back, and managed to clear the fences with head high and back hollow.”

This was at odds with what was described as the more forward, flowing style of the New Zealand riders.

That first issue also had a preview of that year’s upcoming Badminton Horse Trials in England which predicted (correctly) that Sheila Waddington and Airs and Graces would be the winner, a story about Beach Hill Shetland Pony Stud near Wellington, and an article from Suzanne Dickens about getting a pony fit for area trials.

Dressage was still in its infancy – in fact the magazine reported that at a Hamilton show, Mrs D Holden and her thoroughbred Bandmaster performed a demonstration of a Medium level test, which at that time had yet to be ridden competitively in New Zealand. Bandmaster had recently won the Burkner Medal, and was heralded as possibly the only horse to have won both the Grand National Steeplechase and the National Dressage Championship of his country.

Advertisements featured saddles for £28, women’s jodhpurs for £4, riding jackets for £13/7 shillings, and liniment “to treat lameness and swelling” for 17/6.

Fast-forward nearly 60 years, and the magazine is now glossy, full colour, regularly around 120 pages, and costs $8.50 (or $78 for a year’s subscription). Plus it is now complemented by this website, and a strong social media presence. But some things never change, and we have to say the aim of providing accurate news and lively views on the equestrian world is not too far away from today’s objectives.