Wonky donkey lives at a Christchurch riding school

Not many people know that Sumner has a riding school tucked away at the bottom of Evans Pass.

And few would have heard that it is home to a real-life ‘Wonky Donkey’, aka Tilly.

Sumner Valley Riding School owner Lisa Hadfield has leased 2.4ha of the city-council-owned Sumnervale Reserve for the past 35 years, providing community-based services for children, teenagers and adults.

She takes pre-schoolers for walks on Tilly, hosts children’s parties, and trains young riders to compete in events like the Springston Trophy.

She’s now teaching her fourth generation of riders.

But to continue safely providing services all year round, Ms Hadfield needs an all-weather dressage arena.

The arena would provide a surface that protects the horses and ponies and their riders.

“Instead of riding on a muddy or too hard paddock, you are on a surface that will protect the horses’ legs. In the summer, the ground gets very hard like concrete and that jars their legs and causes tendon problems, and in the winter, the ground is so heavy that you mess it up – it’s slippery and dangerous and you can do tendon damage as well,” Ms Hadfield said.

She’s hoping to get an all-weather dressage arena installed by the end of the year and has the full support of Labour MP Ruth Dyson. They met this week to talk possible fundraising opportunities.

Said Ms Dyson: “The facility is really in need of improvements to the buildings and the main riding area. This would provide an all year, usable terrain, which it currently doesn’t have and obviously this would be of huge benefit to the young people who want to ride their horses all year round.” The school was a small one in an “absolutely beautiful area” and was a strong part of the Sumner community, Ms Dyson said.

The riding school is non-profit and Ms Hadfield supplements her income with two part-time jobs. A new arena will cost thousands.

“If we get the physical
help we’re okay,” Ms Hadfield said.

“I reckon we can hire the machinery and . . . to put a surface down will be between $10,000 and $20,000.”

While it is still in the early stages, Ms Dyson said she has “a few leads to chase up” but hoped to be able to help turn the project into a reality.

FAMOUS DONKEY: Lisa Hadfield (right) adjusts Tilly’s halter before taking Noah for a ride with mum Gieve Slade along for support. Tilly, who is 28, was the inspiration for the prize-winning children’s book ‘The Wonky Donkey’ by Craig Smith.