Reviving the Māori equestrian spirit with Lorraine Stephenson

Reviving the Māori equestrian spirit with Lorraine Stephenson

Lorraine Stephenson has got cows on her Dannevirke farm but horses are her true passion. She is the chair of the National Māori Horse Association Aotearoa Trust, known as Te Hapori Hōiho, and she was recently invited to ride a horse into Waitangi as part of the national Waitangi Day celebrations.

The conversation captures the essence of Māori horse riding customs, celebrating their revival and exploring their integration with modern technology. 

Stephenson provides a vivid recount of her participation in the Waitangi Day ride, expressing the exhilaration of the experience. 

"There was a bit of buildup towards it... And while I was there I was contacted and invited by Ngāpui and others to... ride with them." 

This event and others like the Trek for Life event symbolise the deep connection between the Māori people, their horses, and the land. The conversation touches on the cultural significance of horses in Māori history and how television series have sparked a resurgence in riding practices. 

Stephenson remarks on the impact of these shows, saying, "My gosh, it's just, it's great... There's so many more riding and so many more whānau continuing to get their kids on to horses." 

She notes a renewed interest in horse riding among Māori communities, suggesting that while the tradition had always been present, there's been a significant resurgence. 

Furthermore, the conversation discusses how the association has embraced inclusivity and the digital age. They have removed membership fees to foster greater participation and are using Facebook to engage with the youth. 

The website remains an important tool for sustaining financial health without imposing financial burdens on members. 

"We did have a fee of $10, but at our last AGM we decided to make it free because we have 2,000 followers," Stephenson explains, emphasising the desire to remove financial constraints. 

She also shares personal stories, such as her family's multi-generational involvement with horses.

"I've always said that if I got really broke, it'll be the horse that would go last... and now one of the things that I really wanted to do was to leave a legacy of horse riders, and in my whānau now we've got four generations riding." 

Her passion for horses and their significance to her family and community life is palpable throughout the conversation. It encapsulates the revival of Māori equestrian practices, the communal bonds they strengthen, and the forward-looking approach of blending tradition with modern platforms to sustain and grow the community's cultural heritage. 

Lorraine Stephenson's insights not only shed light on the past but also illuminate the path forward for Māori equestrian traditions, with technology serving as a bridge between generations.

Listen to the full chat between Lorraine Stephenson and Dominic George above.

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