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PO Box 133 Patumahoe 2344

Tori Banta & Recon

2021 Ultramox Freedom to Friendship Stallion Challenge – Professional Trainer


I’ve had horses from a child but at 14 I got a little Exmoor pony called Bobby who was quite challenging. All the things I’d learned and thought I knew were not working for him, after 6 months of a friend enthusiastically encouraging me to try Parelli Natural horsemanship I decided to hesitantly give it a go. 

The changes I saw in Bobby were enough to set me on a path of learning and development that would never have happened without him. 

At 17 I went to the Parelli Ranch in Colorado and also Florida. I spent 6 months at the ranch being immersed in the program and learning first-hand was one of the most challenging yet exciting adventures. 

When I came home in early 2011 I started teaching Parelli natural horsemanship as a 2-star instructor, at the end of 2011 I went back to Florida for a month-long course and ended up staying away for nearly 12 months. The first month I spent on the intended course and the other nearly 11 months I had the privilege of being Lauren Barwick’s assistant and Groom. In that position, I was able to learn a lot about high-level competition and the application of natural principles in that setting. I attended international competitions in the lead up to the London Paralympics 2012 as well as the games themselves with Team Canada as Lauren’s groom. 

When I came back to NZ I continued to teach PNH and was taking on more horses for training and starting as well. 

In 2013 I went out on my own and started Tori Lee Equestrian, drawing on everything I’d learned with PNH and Lauren but also other horsemen and women I’d met along the way. 

Since 2013 I’ve developed a lot of young horses, started and retrained horses as well as taught people with their own horses and run camps for kids and adults as well. 

I love what I do and get to call my job. Helping horses become partners and learn to function in the human world is a rewarding challenge as well as helping people understand their horses. Learning to work with and for them rather than doing things to them.  

Taking on a Kaimanawa was not something that was on my radar but with the encouragement of some clients who have become come friends and my awesome husband Pat I decided to take the challenge and see what the learning journey would be as I helped to tame and train a wild boy

Recons Journey 

Very little is known about my black stallion, Reconnaissance, he was mustered on day two with a small band from section 20. 

When searched on the Database of the wild Kaimanawas in the ranges he did appear on there but all there was about him was an assigned name (Arena), whose band he was with (Centurion) and where he was seen (inside section 20) and when he had been seen (May 2020) 

When he was mustered he didn’t come in with the band he had been seen with back in May 2020. Arriving at my place in Dargaville on April 27th 2021 after being Mustered only a day before. He came out of the truck reasonably slowly and thoughtfully not in a big rush or panic. 

Over the next 48hrs I noticed that he was very observant, he hung back behind the other boy that came with him but he never made any big reactions even if unsure. Once he decided to come to check me out it was with determination and purpose not scared. He ate grass from me within 24hrs and was following me at a distance within 48hrs. 

The journey has been slow and steady over the last month. Building at his speed by repeating the things he knows and is confident about and then enlarging by adding small new things as he is ready. To date I’m able to rub him all over, he sticks to me in walk close enough that I can rub him as we walk, he’s started being able to do some figure 8s at liberty, he’s learning to yield hindquarters and forehand at liberty, I can halter him and we have started leading, also adding in picking up his hooves and holding for longer amounts of time. I’m enjoying the journey and in awe of the heart, this horse is willing to share with me, when everything he knows has changed. 

I chose his name because of his observant nature and because he came from the live-fire range in the ranges. 

Although Tori & Recon were not able to compete in the challenge due to ongoing lameness issues, we remain incredibly proud of the work they achieved together.