Equestrian - Natalie Malham

Equestrian - Natalie Malham

When did you first start being interested in equestrian? Or when did you start?

Not too long ago. About three years. A lot happened in those three years though! It was the start of year 9 when I started riding.

Was there anything that inspired you to do it?

It was actually my mum. She found a riding school and joined me up for therapy riding because I had a lot mentally going on and she read up about horses being really good for therapy, and unfortunately for her I got hooked!

Do you have your own horse?

I own three of my own. I also ride up at my coaches, I work for her. I get to ride lots of different types.

What are your horse’s names?

My competitive horse is called Bobby, “which is a funny name” she laughs. My youngster who is only four is called Oliver, Ollie for short.

Have you ever entered yourself in any competitions since you started riding?

I’ve done quite a few. But my first horse I had wasn’t competitive, so I did pony club with him, but my current horse is a showjumper. We do a lot of show jumping and have done a few dressage shows, but that’s not really his favourite.

Did you watch the Olympics at all?

Yeah, it was so cool to watch.

Have you gotten any good placings in any competitions that you have done?

I won at the regional BOP Gymkhana, which is a bunch of flat classes. I came first over all in the flat classes with my old horse and that was out of around 40 riders. That was one of my best placings. Then I placed first at a dressage show in my class, so that was pretty cool! I also recently came second in my first ever 1.05m show jumping a couple weeks ago.

Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to start riding?

“I’d say just give it a go because you don’t know what you’re missing until you try it!” Yeah just keep an open mind. It is tough, but is so worth it.

Do you have any tips on where there they could start?

If people know that you don’t know what you’re doing or you are new to the sport, you can get a bit ripped off, so it is good to find someone reputable who has your best interests at heart and don’t get scammed. I’d go somewhere bigger, like a bigger riding school, with a bit of a name behind them.

Who is that?

My coach is a good example. She runs Synergy Equestrian Ltd near Waihi. She has beginner classes and runs really fun holiday programs. She is amazing and has about 25 years of experience riding in Germany, America and New Zealand.

Do you ride every day? How much do you ride?

I ride about 6 days a week; it is important that my horse gets a day off. But, pretty much every day!

Can you see riding being a part of your future?

I’m definitely trying to make it a career. That’s what I will go to Uni for, to study equine. I also have just begun coaching up at my coaches, so I have a little group of students who I love teaching and its really fun!

A person riding a horse

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

You seem really busy

I love it!

Do you have any big competitions coming up or things you’re planning on doing in the future?

I have pony club trials for the Tauranga team coming up. That’s probably the biggest thing at the moment. Then I am hopefully going to enter Christmas Classic which is in Taupo at the end of the year. Which will be my biggest show that I’ve done.

What is Christmas Classic?

I think people even come from the South Island for it. It is a huge show jumping show held at the national equestrian centre in Taupo. They’ve got every single class you can imagine, and I think around 2000 riders enter, It is absolutely massive.

Do you ever get nervous when riding in competitions?

Yeah. It is nerve-wracking when you’re in the ring because everyone is watching you. You just have to remember that you’re not trying to compare yourself to anyone else, because you are trying to ride your horse the best you can ride them because at the end of the day it’s about your partnership between you and your horse. If you can’t ride them the way they need to be ridden, It kind of crumbles apart.

Would you say that horse riding has helped your mental health?

I’d say hugely. It’s taught me to be a lot more neutral in my thinking and to not boil over too quickly because obviously you can’t do that on a horse, they pick up on every single emotion you have. I’ve learnt to just process things and that you don’t have to respond right away, you can take a minute to think and collect yourself, which is something that has been really important for me to learn. To not let myself get too carried away and just take a breath.

Stefan Nogaj- When you get on top of a horse and you go to do a jump, does that not freak you out?

Every rider works on partnership and trusting your horse. They are not a machine that you can just expect them to do what you want them too; a lot of work goes into gaining trust and harmony. Something I’ve worked on with my horse is if I have complete trust in him to go over that jump, then I can just point and shoot at him and give him all of my confidence, then he will go over it. If I have any doubts in my mind he’ll be like ‘what the heck?’. Horses can sense your emotions from 10 metres away, or something crazy like that. Horse riding is quite a mentally challenging sport, in my opinion, especially on a really sensitive horse. A lot of it is your mental state on your horse and that dictates how your ride will go.

Stefan- Have you ever done the cross country?

I’ve done a little bit of it. “It’s not my favourite because I’m scared I’m going to fall off” she laughs.

Stefan- It’s crazy. You must be holding on for dear life!

You have to put all of your trust your horse when riding.

Stefan- So trust is really the big thing for you guys in this sport?


Stefan- Do you feel like that kind of filters out from your sport into your life in general?

Yeah a lot of what I’ve learnt about your mental state when you ride has played a big part in my life, I’ve learnt to just take things in life.

Stefan- Have you ever been in a situation where your horse has stopped before a jump, not because it is afraid it can’t jump, but it has to relieve itself?

Luckily not! I had lessons the other weekend and my friends horse pooed while going over the jump.

Stefan- Now that would be funny to see!

He actually pooped into the Liverpool jump which is a jump with a tray of water underneath!

Have you ever fallen off a horse? Or injured yourself while riding?

I had a young horse at my house for a while who I was doing a bit of schooling for so she could enter the riding school and a freak accident happened and she reared and landed on my foot! My whole foot was bruised and still is bruised, and it happened in May. You do have the odd fall where the horse bucks and you go flying or you get reared on.

Stefan- Is that scary?

I hate rearing, it’s something that I’m still learning how to handle because it just freaks me out.

Stefan- Can you explain what rearing is?

Rearing is when the horse goes up on their back legs.

Stefan- Like a cowboy?


I don’t mind bucking, that’s when they kick out their back legs. I was doing a show jumping course and my horse just bucked around the whole course. It was really funny, and he farted over the jumps! He was a hot mess. I don’t like rearing though no, no, no!