Chance Encounter Creates Successful Venture
After spotting a Clydesdale at the 1995 Oxford A&P Show, Margo Vliet Vlieland turned to her husband Alan and told him, “I want one of those horses with the fluffy feet for my next horse.”
This chance encounter prompted the pair to learn all they could about Clydesdales, and they then purchased an 18-month-old Clydesdale colt. Twenty-eight years later, Alan and Margo have bred 11 of their own Clydesdales, including several champions.
After emigrating from Holland in 1993, the couple were attracted to the open spaces of North Canterbury and purchased 4.5 hectares of land in West Eyreton a year later.
“We came from a built-up area in the Netherlands and the idea of having more space really appealed to us which is why we moved to New Zealand, says Alan.
The couple purchased four Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) shares when the cooperative started selling shares in 1998. Alan describes the shares as “our insurance for the hay crop.”
“It was a bit of a gamble buying shares at the start of the scheme, but it was a way to guarantee a good supply of hay for the horses.
“It has paid off for us because we have that security and stability that comes from knowing that you have the water there and we can produce much more hay as a result.”
When one of their horses had problems with its teeth, Alan and Margo called upon the services of a local horse dentist which in turn piqued Alan’s interest in equine dentistry. In 2003, he travelled to Virginia for a four-month training course and upon his return, Alan started his own equine dentistry business.
“I did both the dentistry work and my job as an Air New Zealand engineer for a while and then in 2006, I became a full-time horse dentist.”
Alan treats all types of horses with most clients living in the Canterbury area; however, he occasionally travels as far south as Oamaru and as far north as Blenheim to treat horses.
Margo and Alan enjoy the gentle nature of Clydesdales and find that each of their horses has their own unique personality.
“We have a lot of affection for them and as we don’t have children of our own, they almost become like part of your family. That’s a big change from the past when Clydesdales were seen as work horses before the days of tractors.
“Clydesdales are generally quieter than other breeds of horses and they usually live into their twenties. It is not unusual for a Clydesdale to live to 25 years old.”
The pair have experienced success on the show circuit over the years and were delighted when their five-year-old stallion Goldenlane George won the Supreme Champion Clydesdale and New Zealand Clydesdale Championship for 2023 at the recent Northern A&P Show in Rangiora.
“It was a really exciting moment for us when we heard the winner being announced. You see all your hard work paying off in that moment.”