As It Happens

She didn't have a horse, so this New Zealand teen rides her cow instead

After seven years of training, a New Zealand cow named Lilac becomes her teenage owner's favourite ride.
Hannah Simpson riding her cow, Lilac. (Hannah Simpson)

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As a child, Hannah Simpson always wanted a horse. She didn't get one. But the New Zealand teenager decided she wouldn't let that stop her from riding. Instead she mounted her cow, Lilac. The rest is history. Hannah Simpson, 18, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about riding, and even jumping, bareback on her cow. 

Helen Mann: Hannah, how does one ride a cow?

Hannah Simpson: I just jumped on and rode her. It's kind of like a horse, I guess, except she's slow and it's a slightly different motion.

She can be stubborn and she can be lazy, but she can also be perfect sometimes. And I just love her.- Hannah Simpson

HM: What made you decide to start riding a cow like it was a horse in the first place?

HS: I didn't have a horse. I'd always wanted to ride. I was reading stories about little girls riding their horses on ranches in America. I think it was a dare from my younger brother to ride, so I just jumped on her and expected to get bucked off, but she just trotted forward and then stopped. I thought, 'Oh, we can do this!' She's not going to buck me off. She doesn't mind. So I just went from there. I started doing things with her, taking her for rides, and she listened to me really well.

HM: Did you use a saddle?

HS: No, I didn't. I just jumped on her bareback. I didn't have a halter or anything on her either. She was in the paddock, and I just hopped on the first time I rode her. After that, I put a halter so I could have a bit of control of her head.

HM: You said she didn't buck you off that time. Does she ever throw you off?

HS: She doesn't really like cantering too much. She's quite lazy. If I want to make her canter, I usually have to make her go up a hill or down a hill, or heading toward home. But sometimes, she'll get happy and buck first. If I can stay on that, I get a good canter, or she goes home without me.

HM: She doesn't like cantering. I've never heard 'cantering' and 'cow' in the same sentence before.

HS: I had another little ginger cow called Honey. She loved cantering, and would canter all the time. Lilac cantered with me the other day, when I got a video of me cantering on her. I was quite surprised. I thought, maybe we should try doing that again and get a video, and she actually did it again. She obviously had lots of energy that day.

HM: So what else have you been able to teach her to do?

HS: Apart from the jumping, I've taken her down to the river. She hasn't been swimming, but she's been out pretty deep. She's got big tree stumps and things. I've told her to climb up on those. She's just chilled out and doesn't really care that much. You can do all sorts of things. I've ridden her standing up on her back. And then she's generally just a house cow as well, for our own personal milk.

I've had a few negative comments, people saying 'you shouldn't do this to your cow.' But also there was a vet that commented it should be fine for the cow as long as you don't overdo it and if she's happy with it then that's fine.- Hannah Simpson

HM: As we all know, this is not normal, or typical behaviour for a cow. Was it hard to teach her to do these things?

HS: No, not really. When she was a calf, only a couple of weeks old, she would jump out of the cow shed all the time anyway. She was naturally a jumper. I remember Mom and Dad didn't like it. And she has broken a few gates, thinking that she can jump over them. But she's too big and doesn't quite make it, and lands on top. Mom and Dad weren't too happy about that.

HM: You have posted videos on your Instagram account of you riding this cow who's leaping over things. It's pretty unusual. What kind of response do you get from people when they see you riding by?

HS: People usually just glance over, like, 'Oh, she's riding a … Wait, no, she's riding a cow!' And then they usually come over, like, 'So why are you riding a cow? This is really crazy. What made you ride a cow?' They ask a few questions like that. I was riding my cow up the road. Actually, I was riding my other little cow. My younger brother, who took the photos and videos, he was riding Lilac. This lady saw us and stopped us and said, 'Oh my goodness, this is so amazing!' She was talking to me for a bit. And she said, 'We've got a wee horse at home that we need to get rid of. Would you like him?' I went back home and was like, 'Mom, can we please have a horse? I've really wanted one for ages.' She said OK. Dad wasn't so keen, so it took a while to convince him. But they both really like the horse.

HM: Cows, I would think, are not really built for jumping. Is this hard on her body, on her back or anything?

HS: I've had a few negative comments, people saying 'you shouldn't do this to your cow.' But also there was a vet that commented it should be fine for the cow as long as you don't overdo it and if she's happy with it then that's fine. And it's quite good for the cow to get out and do things.

HM: And she seems happy?

HS: Yeah she seems to enjoy it. I think if she didn't want to do something she wouldn't do it.

HM: So she's stubborn and she's lazy? You've said both. But you love her anyway.

HS: Yeah. She can be stubborn and she can be lazy, but she can also be perfect sometimes. And I just love her. She's so cool. She's really friendly and loves cuddles and scratches — and food!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Hannah Simpson.


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