A former dressage and western rider, animal trainer, dog obedience award-winner and music teacher, Lynn Collecutt has many strings to her bow. An ex-Papakura local, Lynn later ran a business, similar to Clevedon Animal Farm, near Palmerston North before moving to Clevedon. For decades, she has been entertaining and educating children, and seniors, while providing a sanctuary for animals.
You have horses, dogs, ponies, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, alpacas, chickens and ducks – have we missed anything?
Just some special Sebastopol geese whose feathers are fluffy so they look like they’re having a bad hair day! We have 32 four-legged animals in total and a similar number of two-legged poultry and ducks/geese.
How beneficial are your tours and parties for children? You also have tours for seniors; how do these differ?
We are an agricultural country so learning about farm animals is important. It’s also important to show children how to be kind to animals and think about the needs of something other than themselves so they become kind and thoughtful adults.
As I’m now over 80, I’m so pleased groups of older people come for morning tea, music, fun tales and the pony show. They really enjoy themselves and the lovely view of Clevedon Valley often delights. I have lovely staff who lead horses for children and, although we don’t do pony rides for seniors, I still lead the horses around for them (even though they are mostly younger than me!) which is a real buzz!
Do the horses enjoy their work?
They love the shows too as well as receiving applause and treats. I once trained a horse to go to a chilly bin, pick out a bottle of wine and bring it back, which our guests loved! And one of our horses has been delighting visitors performing as a unicorn – he’s now carrying on with this at Country Magic in Waiau Pa.
You’ve studied as an animal trainer, with horses and dogs, correct?
I’ve completed many courses, including some with top instructors. In the 1970s, I won national dog obedience awards as well as many other competitions. I even trained a St Bernard to perform in Peter Pan in the Palmerston North Opera House. These days, I have a Shih Tzu (Arlo) who performs in our senior shows. He is quite a show-off who then cuddles up for lots of petting.
As Auckland’s population has grown, has the farm’s popularity grown also?
Weekends are normally flat out and parties booked well in advance, but there are some gaps during winter. When we started, 21 years ago, we had just a few bookings but now it’s only wet days that tend to be free.
After 23 years, you stopped teaching music, but have you ever used music to ‘soothe’ any savage beasts since?
I haven’t soothed any savage beasts as such, but I held a show in 2017 where I had my Timor pony circling and side-stepping to music. And I still often use a sing-songy voice when training – I find it’s been most useful in calming my wild Kaimanawa – and I think it keeps my own nerves under control as well.
Have any of your children or grandchildren helped on the farm? Any plans to retire?
I have children and grandchildren who have worked here but they all have their own careers now. I will retire in the next few years, but my last manageress and good friend, Gina, is starting up Country Magic over in Waiau Pa and one of my other helpers will take on the pony rides when I finish, so everything I do here will continue in one way or another.
If you could grow any plant or raise any animal, what and why?
I want a secret garden I can reach from my bedroom. A selection of parrots would be lovely too. I’ve wanted a parrot ever since I was a child and my mother took me to see Hector, the parrot from Farmers in Auckland City.
If you could be Prime Minister for one day, what would you do first and why?
I would ask everyone to do one good turn for someone else to appreciate that giving is more fun than receiving.
If you could invite three people to dinner, who would it be?
Jacinda Ardern, John Key and King Charles plus their spouses of course! Their opinions would be interesting table talk.
For more information, or to book, see www.clevedonanimalfarm.co.nz.