By SHELLEY TOPP
A once timid thoroughbred mare who struggled to socialise with other horses will stride into a packed AMI Stadium this Saturday to ignite the Crusaders ahead of the Super rugby final.
Ace, a young mare once bullied by older horses, is now an integral member of the much-admired Crusaders Bayleys Horses.
It is a tale of friendship and redemption.
Her story has now been immortalised in a new children’s book, Ace, a Horsey Tail of Courage.
The book has been published by Bayleys Canterbury with backing from the Crusaders rugby franchise and Bullying-Free NZ to promote anti-bullying and to support Bayley’s principal charity, Make-A-Wish New Zealand.
Ace is owned by Mark Donald, who manages the Crusaders horses and is also owner of the Blue Springs Polo School and Equestrian Sports Facility in Rangiora.
‘She was a funny little thing,” he says. “The other horses didn’t like her.”
But when she buddied up with another of Mark’s mares, Holly, one of the star performers in the Crusaders Horsemen’s equine team and also an excellent eventer and polo pony, Ace learnt from her and started to gain courage.
Katy Clook, from Christchurch company Friday Creative, was asked to write the book, which launched during Bullying-Free NZ Week.
Ace made her debut with the Crusaders horses when the home side played the Waratahs on May 12.
“She was a little nervous at first,” Mark recalls. “But with the lead horse, Lulu, ridden by Giles, in front of her, Holly, ridden by Blake behind her, and the other horses, Abbie, ridden by Brent, Dusty ridden by Shane and Jill ridden by Ben, following closely, she was fine.
“Their job is to spark up the crowd. When the horses come through the castle gate out on to the field for their performance, everybody realises the game is about to start.”
It is a spine-tingling, highlight, performed to Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis, at every home-town game.
With a little help from Holly, Ace has gone from strength to strength and is
now “a superstar herself”, Mark says.
“Like Holly, she is also a very good polo pony and eventer.”
All proceeds from Ace, a Horsey Tail of Courage, which sells for $20, go to
Make-A-Wish New Zealand.
The book is proving a captivating tour de force, with Christmas orders
already coming in and interest in the Crusaders Bayleys Horses and their
riders at an all-time high.
Since the book went on sale, Mark has had hundreds of texts from people wanting to meet Ace, Holly and the other equine stars in the team.
The horses will gallop into the stadium before the Crusaders’ final hit-out for
the season is this Saturday’s final against the Johannesburg-based Lions.
Ace, a Horsey Tail of Courage can be purchased at any Bayleys Real Estate
office in Canterbury or from shop.crusaders.co.nz, or by emailing
In the Rangiora office of Bayleys, real estate agents Michelle Hayman and Dean Pugh have become Make-A-Wish super givers after donating 50 books each to North Canterbury schools.
“A lot of the staff in the Rangiora Bayleys office have also donated books to
schools and libraries because we all believe in supporting such a good
cause” Michelle says.
The books have been given by the real estate firm Rangiora Bayleys. Ace is published by Bayleys Canterbury with the backing of the Crusaders rugby franchise and Bullying-Free NZ to promote anti-bullying and to support Bayley’s principal charity, Make-A-Wish New Zealand.
To enter, email your name, address and phone number to the North Canterbury News editor Robyn Bristow at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winners will be drawn on Monday, August 13 and will be notified by telephone.