Cambridge and its surrounding rural area is often called the Equine Capital of New Zealand - and for good reason.
Some of the world's best racehorses have been bred here while many thoroughbred (gallops) and standardbred (harness racing) trainers are based in the district.
The town has produced Olympic champions such as eventer Mark Todd, and his most famous horse, Charisma. As well as those involved in the professional side, Cambridge also provides facilities for horse lovers whose interests are as varied as playing polo, show jumping, Pony Clubs and trekking or simply enjoying time with a pony or two.
Cambridge has a full-sized training track in Racecourse Rd and watching the gallops at dawn is an exhilarating experience. The Cambridge Jockey Club races at Te Rapa Racecourse, Hamilton (27kms, 31 mins drive from Cambridge) while other racetracks within easy distance include Te Awamutu (26kms, 29 mins), Matamata (42kms, 33 mins), Te Aroha (52kms, 48 mins) and Rotorua (84kms, 67 mins).
Experience the thrill of a harness sulky race. The Cambridge Raceway, Taylor St, hosts about 25 harness race meetings a year, as well as about 30 greyhound racing meetings. The Cambridge Harness Racing Club gives you the opportunity to wear silks and race with a competitive harness racing driver. f
Sir Mark Todd (winner of five Olympic medals for equestrian events over 28 years) and Andrew Nicholson (silver and bronze Olympic medalist from seven Games) are Cambridge's highest-profile equestrians but local riders are always among the contenders when New Zealand teams are selected for major world events.
The Cambridge Polo Club has two fields at grounds in Lamb Street, Leamington. It's one of four polo clubs in the Waikato, one of the strongest polo-playing regions in the country, from which players are regularly selected for New Zealand teams. The Kihikihi Polo Club (24kms, 25 mins) is one of the oldest in the country, having formed in 1892, while other clubs play at Taupiri (47kms, 45 mins) and Morrinsville (32kms, 35 mins).
Some of the world's leading horse studs are at Cambridge, including Sir Patrick Hogan's Cambridge Stud, home of the late champion sire Sir Tristram and his son, Zabeel. Progeny of Sir Tristram have won more than $65 million in prizemoney. Trelawney Stud, founded in 1930, has produced seven Melbourne Cup winners while other prominent studs include Windsor Park, Wentworth Grange, Chequers Stud, The Oaks and Linwood Park
Some local Cambridge studs allow public tours. For more information, contact Cambridge i-Site Information Centre.
The Waikato Hunt is centred at Cambridge and has about 250 members who ride two or three times a week during the hunting season (late March to mid-July). The hunt was established in 1891 and its hounds are kennelled at the hunt's Fencourt Rd property. Members hunt through private property with the agreement of landowners.
The strength of Cambridge's equine industry means the town also has a wide range of businesses to service owners and trainers, including vets, an equine hospital in Racecourse Rd, farriers, tack shops and feed merchants. You'll even find local artists who specialise in immortalising horses in paint and an equine jeweller.
Pony Tales is a boutique riding school located opposite St Peter's School on Cambridge Road. Pony Tales has been established for 10 years and is open for riding lessons every day. Pony Tales offers 1 hour introduction sessions which includes a walk around the park-like grounds. Cambridge also has a Riding for the Disabled centre behind the Gaslight Theatre, corner of Hall St and Alpha St.
Phillips Equine at Matangi can provide horses for trekking, and if you want to trek along a beach, the nearest facility is at Kawhia (90kms and 78 mins) where you can ride past a gannet colony and admire the wonders of Pirongia Forest in the distance.